By Ediri Ejoh
The Organised Private Sector, OPS, under the umbrella of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has called on operators in the petroleum downstream sector to intensify effort to see that their interests are well-captured in the new Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which is still awaiting passage by the National Assembly.
The Petroleum Downstream Group of LCCI through the Chairman, Mr. Emma Osagie, called for a preview of the draft to identify what investors stood to gain once the PIB is passed.
Also speaking at the event, the President of the Chamber, Mr. Goodie Ibru, who spoke at the Group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Symposium held in Lagos, said that the petroleum industry is significant to the country’s economy and as such regulations that concern the industry must be in sync with the international standards.
Ibru warned that “this is coming at a very opportune time when the Bill has not yet been passed and there is still time for the downstream sector to lobby for their interests and that of the people, because they are closer to the people. The right thing must be done by all the stakeholders in order to continue attracting foreign investors. Any disruption in the industry is also likely to ground the economy”.
A Professor of Law, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe who also spoke at the event, said that reform is impossible without a legislation that empowers, encourages and sustains desired activities that will create an investor friendly environment.
She said, “It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to create a viable and vibrant investment environment and the only way to achieve that is for everyone to contribute to the process especially during the drafting.
Omorogbe argued that the new PIB did not hold much promises for the downstream sector, and as such, will not stimulate investment if eventually passed.
She said “More clarity and certainty are needed because that is what will give the required assurance to investors. To promote growth as well as efficiency and private sector participation, those in the downstream sector should be more involved in the draft process.”
She argued that Nigeria will never be a developed country as long as there is a dysfunctional downstream sector, and therefore, urged the downstream sector to strategise so that at the end of the day the outcome would be to their advantage.
Speaking also at the event, Mr. Kayode Sote, one of the discussants and Principal Partners, Lube Services Associates, stressed the need for stability in both the upstream and downstream sectors, saying that while the downstream represented the welfare of the people, the upstream is predominantly concerned with exploration.
“We need a balanced downstream to complement the upstream, the long queues at the filling stations today can be checked with a balanced downstream,” he said.
Sote said that the rule of law remained sacrosanct and that if the PIB is passed into law it would be to the benefit of the whole country. According to him, the PIB has already been politicized, which is not good. “The problem is not in passing the PIB but the will of the government to show sincerity in the process.”
He said it was important for government to also step aside and allow experienced experts in refinery operations to come to build and run Nigerian refineries.
Sote said there was the need to take urgent steps in building new refineries where government can participate only as equity owners and not as major operators in order to boost local production.