HOW much longer would the journey of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB that began in 2000 last? The bill deals with concerns about transparent management of the oil and gas sector. The non-passage of the bill has put investments in the industry on hold. Aims of the bill include –
- Enhancing the exploitation of oil and gas in Nigeria
- Commercialising government’s interests in the industry
- Deregulating and liberalising the downstream petroleum sector
- Optimising gas supplies to the domestic gas market (especially for electricity generation and industries)
- Reforming the fiscal regime
- Promoting openness and transparency in the industry
- Encouraging the development of Nigerian content
Noble as the objectives are, key issues for the oil majors are government’s control of the industry with the role the bill created for the Minister of Petroleum Resources and possibilities of new taxes. The most strident oppositions however are local.
The bill has polarised the National Assembly hence its long neglect. There appears to be more concerns with how provisions for a fund for the host community would affect resources that would remain in the common purse. It would have been expected that with all the devastation of oil and gas explorations in host communities, the National Assembly would have supported the proposed host community fund that would be utilised in provision of economic and social infrastructure in exploration areas.
The National Assembly is more fixated on how States used special allocations for oil producing areas. The interest is cloudy. Instead of dealing with the imperatives of the funds, their mismanagement is considered a reason for opposing the bill. We should punish mismanagement of the funds without punishing host communities who are not the fund managers. Benefits of the bill which include government’s divestments, more transparency in the industry’s operations, and the protection of the environment should be bigger considerations than the immediate benefits of more money for govern-ments
Oil and gas is so central to the operations of the economy that the over-dependence on it should not be the main issue in deciding the future of the industry. We expect managers of the economy would diversify, using resources from oil and gas. Governments have fallen into the easier option of waiting for shares of oil revenues for their activities.
Those opposed to the passage of the PIB are neglecting the impacts of delay in its passage on the industry. Investors have remained tentative in the 15 years of the bill’s journey, stalling new investments. We ask the contending parties to place the interests of the country in context and pass the bill. Delays in its passage are hurting the economy.