Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG & Kunle KALEJAYE
COMRADE Peter Esele, the President-General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, was a member of the Special Technical Committee by Federal Government to draft the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, now before the National Assembly. In this interview with Sweetcrude, Comrade Esele, a former President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, said what the committee submitted is not what is before the National Assembly. Excerpts:
Since your committee submitted the draft PIB to the Presidency and its eventual presentation to the National Assembly for passage into law, there has been one controversy after another. What is your take on this?
We submitted our report, the one that is with the National Assembly right now, I have some issues with that one. I think it makes the Minister of Petroleum too powerful and I think the National Assembly will deal with that one. First, we submitted a draft to the federal government, from our draft to what got to the National Assembly is a different ball game.
So, you are saying what you submitted to the government is not what is now before the National Assembly?
In clear terms, I don’t think we gave as much power to the Minister of Petroleum in what we drafted.
Did you not consult during your assignment?
Wide consultation was done, it was widely discussed, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, appeared before us, likewise Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and the IOCs.
What I keep asking myself is that, what does the OICs want that was not discussed, because at the end of the day, what we are up to is how we optimize this industry to the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians, that is the goal. Irrespective of how you feel, that is why I so much love democracy. No matter what we have done, whether it is good or bad that we have done, it goes to the National Assembly.
So if you feel that there are areas that we did not cover, because the bill is not yet a law, then you can go to the National Assembly to correct, you can add, subtract before it becomes law. It can go through a lot of several processes before the President can assent to it. So, I always tell people that there is no need to start to spite hell, all you just need to do if you have your position is to take it up, take it to the National Assembly and when the public hearing comes up, you can add, subtract and then we move on.
But for us as a committee that served in that committee, all we wanted is the best for the country. No member of that committee has monopoly of knowledge and we are not laying claim that we are the most intelligent or sophisticated Nigerians, no.
If you also know some areas that you think that there is a lacuna in that bill, go to the National Assembly. Talking for myself, all I want is what is best for that industry. So, we need to do anything and everything possible to ensure that what is right is done.
If our population continues to grow at the rate of 5 per cent per annum, probably our crude oil will not last in the next 100 years. We are not finding new ones right now, there is no exploration going on now, 100 years may even be too far, may in another 50 years.
We have not learnt to diversify and so, if you are not diversifying, you have a very big problem when these resources are gone. We are not building capacity, education is going down and every other thing is going down, so we have a huge problem.
When you were submitting the report, did you expect the reactions following it?
Of course I do. I have lived long here in Nigeria to know that nothing we do here that is not subject to politics. No matter how good your idea is, there is politics, and I envisaged this will likely going to happen. But the degree at which it is happening is also what is a little bit is surprising to me .
There is report that the International Oil Companies, IOCs, are claiming that the bill is lopsided, what is your response to them?
I have earlier heard that it favors IOCs, but now IOCs are crying more that the bill will constrain the current investments. First thing is, you ask yourself, we are looking at the physical side, they say the physical side is lop-sided in the sense that government gets revenue of about 70 per cent or between 70 and 80 percent of revenue.
First you go to other parts of the world and ask how much do IOCs in those parts of the world get? How many percent do they get? It is just because we live in country where we don’t really streamline things, we have production sharing contract. You know a lot of these contracts are not made public. If you also go and look at production sharing contract, you find out that until the IOCs recoup, their investments in the oil well, you can’t talk, government cannot start talking of its revenue.
Why? A whole lot of these things, when it was also in favor of the IOCs, nobody was saying anything. In Production sharing contract, they will tell you, now I am doing this well and I expect one Billion Dollars. Not until I finish recouping my one Billion Dollars, you do not talk about profit sharing. Do not forget we don’t have any mechanism to also check whether they actually spent the one Billion Dollars or whether it was less than one Billion Dollars that was expended.