Mr. Tam Brisibe is the erstwhile chairman of the House of Representatives Petroleum Committee. Following the House’s return from recess, all standing committees were dissolved and have still not been reconstituted. On the sidelines of the 2009 Nigerian Content Consultative Forum, he spoke with Hector Igbikiowubo, Editor of Sweet crude on his plans to pass the Nigerian Content Bill as well as the Petroleum Industry Bill before end of December 2009. He also addressed a wide range of related issues.
What is your impression of the conference?
Like the gm of the Nigerian content division said, we have been going from year to year and you can see that there is increased participation of more Nigerian companies operating in the industry. This kind of conference serves to bring about practical Nigerian companies that can deliver and when they showcase themselves, it makes it easier for them to become known to the operating companies.
There are complaints by the companies participating here, that they cannot get enough jobs to keep their workers employed and that even the jobs they get are bottom feeder jobs. Can you speak to this concern?
I think that is the purpose of the Nigerian Content BillÂ right now the industry is operated based on directives. But when the Nigerian Content Bill becomes law, there are targets and guidelines for various things in the industry. Once we have capacity for certain things in Nigeria, that capacity must be utilised before an oil company can go outside of Nigeria to get a contractor.
How soon do you expect this bill to become law?
We should be through with it in the national assembly by December this year and we will send it to the President for his assent.
Can you also speak to concerns about racketeering going on with regard to contracts award, especially as it concern one particular company getting jobs all the time?
That, I wouldn’t be able to say anything about, because as you know I am not in the industry as an operator so I wouldn’t be able to know what is happening. But if such a thing is brought to the attention of the House of Representatives Petroleum Committee of which I am a member, then we can act on it but we have not heard any complaints of such things.
Coincidentally your committee is also superintending the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. Can you bring us up to speed on what is happening to that bill?
I am sure you are aware that we had a joint public hearing on the PIB just before we went on recess. We have resumed now but at the moment, at the committee level we are having discussions on the various clauses of the bill. Hopefully, we would get through that as soon as we can.
There are serious concerns on the part of the multinationals and the oil communities, indeed stakeholders generally about the contents of the PIB as presently constituted. We’ve raised some of these issues with Dr. Lukman (minister of petroleum resources) and he tells us that these concerns have been taken into consideration. Can you give us any insight into the sort of consideration government may have given to stakeholders concerns?
What I can say at this point is that during the public hearing these concerns were raised by the various stakeholders and the tax regime is one of such concerns which they feel is a bit cumbersome. These issues have been raised at the committee level and certainly we would take a look at what they are complaining about. But at the end of the day, it’s Nigeria’s interest that will be paramount. We cannot kill the oil industry and we will not approve anything that we negatively impact the oil industry but at the same time we must protect Nigeria.
There is some urgency as we speak. We understand that the multinational oil operators have stopped investments for the next five years. As a matter of fact, decision on most of the projects that have to do with the joint venture operations and some of the production sharing contracts development have been put off till 2014 or thereabout. Isn’t there concern on your part that is, the legislature that the longer decision on this bill is kept in abeyance with regard to early passage, the worst off the industry will be?
I can assure you speaking for the national assembly that any delay in the passage of the bill is not the fault of the national assembly. You must be aware that we only got this bill three months ago. As far as the national assembly is concerned, it is one of the bills that we have actually acted on quite expeditiously. I told you earlier that we had a public hearing just before we went on recess.
We are back now and we are working on it. I will not want to give a definite time line as far as that is concerned. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we are through with the PIB by this quarter that is, before December. We are trying to ensure that we do that as well because of the fears that you are raising. We would want to get it off our desk and back to the President for his signature so that the industry can move forward. This industry needs this bill and the country needs the industry. So we on our part definitely would not tarry.
Can you give the Nigerian public some assurances that the concerns raised by the host communities will be taken into consideration by the national assembly?
Definitely, there is no doubt about that. Without the host communities being satisfied, we cannot have an oil industry. We’ve just come out of a situation where after a number of years of insecurity in the Niger Delta the President has been able to move the position forward by having some measure of peace and getting militants to agree to move out from the creeks. If the interest of the host communities is not taken into cognizance, we would definitely not be moving forward. Definitely their interest would be considered.
Would the national assembly extend equity participation to the communities in the new law?
That I cannot say at this moment. I can only tell you my own personal opinion and that is, certainly, something must be given to the host communitiesÂ whether it is royalty, whether it is equity, whatever it is we are going to name it, something must be given to them.
Would this affect payment of 13% derivation?
Derivation is a different thing. Derivation is from whatever revenues that goes into the federation account. That is already in the constitution and it states that 13 per cent minimum should be paid to whichever part of the country that produces a natural resource. Oil is not the only natural resource that we have in Nigeria. Let us not always tie derivation with oil. We are talking about host communities, we are talking about communities that are hosting the oil industry and that is a different thing from the proceeds of oil.
Can you advise on the way forward for the amnesty programme to succeed?
A major but simple thing and that is sincerity. Once federal government is sincere about the discussions it has had with militants, it will solve the problem.