By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE proposed Petroleum Â Â Â Industry Bill (PIB), has continued to receivedÂ knocks from stakeholders and other concerned individuals and groups with workers in the upstream sector of the petroleum industry faulting among others, the absence of specific provisions on expatriate quota and local manpower training.
Under the umbrella of the Producersâ€™ Forum arm of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), the workers also faulted perceived multiple and excessive taxation policy imbedded in the proposed PIB.
In a statement byÂ Comrades Victor Olley and Peter O. Akpenka, Chairman and Secretary respectively, for the forum, said: â€œThe Forum is concerned about the absence of specific provisions on expatriate quota and local manpower training.
The issue of unfair Expatriate quota application in this industry is not the case of lack of sufficient extant laws to protect local manpower, but simply lack of sufficient political will to implement the law. By existing laws, an expatriate should be an expert with skills that local manpower does not posses, such expatriates are supposed to be engaged in the short term basis to provide such skills while serving as mentor/trainer to local manpower under studies seconded for a defined time frame.
â€œUnfortunately, Government looked the other way while this country was exploited by all manner of unqualified expatriate staff deployed to fleece this country, with resultant abuse of this provision with its attendant impact on employment and capital flight. â€œNo country in the world leaves its borders to all manner of foreigners while her citizens wallow in utter joblessness and penury. This Forum expected that the PIB would find ways to ensure that the right experts are deployed and that the process is made more transparent.
â€œThe Forum recommends that all request for expatriate staff must meet the primary objectives of the need for foreign expert staff, and as such all experts must meet the local professional body expectations who will verify the expertise level of the expatriate staff locally and through their foreign professional body affiliates.
As such professional bodies such as Nigerian Society of Engineers, Society of Petroleum Engineers etc must certify these expatriate as experts indeed before they are offered emigrant status as is done in other countries.
The Forum also recommends that a clause should be added to give the DG of the National Petroleum Directorate in concert with the associated professional body powers to approve any expatriateÂ to be employed to work in the downstream, mid stream and upstream sector before a concurrence from the Ministry of Internal Affairs/Immigrations or the relevant government agency can be sort.Â There is also an urgent need to make data on expatriates in the industry mandatorily accessible and transparent.â€
On multiple taxation, the forum said: â€œThe new bill we believe is also intended to increase the amount of investment in the industry, especially in the upstream sector. However, the provisions in the Bill as it currently stands run counter to this ideal especially in the gas sector which is an emerging industry.
The multiple taxation of the Integrated Joint Venture ( IJV) companies is certainly a discouragement to doing business. The current provisions provide little margin on returns on investment, and certainly will kill the business through dearth and withdrawal of investment. This will impact on our members through job losses, as a result of reduced levels of economic returns.
The argument that the proposed level of taxation is comparable to what obtains elsewhere seem to fly in the face of logic; such argument does not factor in our peculiar business Climate, the associated risks to investments as well as the frequent policy changes.
All of these add up to make our country unattractive. To be competitive and make our land haven for true investors, we need to make conscious efforts to make it more lucrative to counter balance our inherent peculiarities. The PIB as proposed will only benefit this country on the short term; we may lose to our competitors on the long run.The Forum recommends that the National Assembly should therefore review the sections that deal with taxation and the overall fiscal framework and ensure it is balanced. to encourage domestic and foreign investment.
in a bid to secure our economic future in this industry and as a nation. Our tax regimes should be competitive with other nations with considerations for our peculiar operational conditions.