By Jimitota Onoyume
IT was a gathering of labour leaders, civil society groups among other stakeholders, at the ancient city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to x-ray the new national oil and gas policy of the Federal Government, FG.
The workshop facilitated by Dr Brown Loius Ogbeifun, Chief Executive Officer, African Initiative for Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility Leadership, AITARL, with funding from Foster, during the two-day brainstorming, critically appraised the new national policy on oil and gas.
Setting the stage for the discussion in his welcome address, Dr Ogbeifun, a former president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, enjoined participants to focus on solution, “this should not be another time for lamentations. We have had enough of lamentations. This time, let us focus on solutions, how we can achieve results as a nation.”
Other papers delivered were: Helicopter view of the National Gas Policy, issues and prospects with emphasis on gas revolution and gas flare reduction; The role of CSOs in monitoring and evaluation of oil and gas governance process, by Faith Nwadishi and Father Edward Obi.
Participants later broke into two groups to discuss the various presentations on oil and gas and come up with solutions.
The participants drawn mainly from Delta, Lagos, Edo, Abuja, Rivers, Imo, and Abia states were unanimous in calling on the Federal Government to strengthen the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, if the new reform in the oil sector would achieve result.
“DPR is not strengthened. Go and see what the capital expenditure has been for the sector since 2014. If DPR for instance is to monitor Shell and Chevron, who takes them to the oil fields?” Ogbeifun asked.
Other speakers also tasked DPR to do a comprehensive recovery system to enhance transparency. “DPR is not doing enough. PSC is not monitored the way it should. Imagine for instance Shell has still not recovered cost on investment on Bonga. Does DPR have the initial investment of Shell on PSC? These are some of the areas to advocate on”, some said. They also called for a timeline for cost recovery by international oil companies, IOCs, on investment, adding that this would step up transparency in the oil and gas sector.
Ogbiefun further warned that it would be unfortunate if the 8th Assembly winds up without passing the PIB into law ,” it will not be good.”
Participants also lamented the frequent change in the leadership of NNPC, saying it was part of the problem in the oil and gas sector. Ogebifun reinforced this in his presentation, stressing that the changes of the leadership in NNPC and the Minister of Petroleum also led to other changes in the sector and the result at the end were inconsistent policies.
Participants said there was need for government to make sure the new gas policy had legal backings for investors to be sure of where they were putting their funds.
Ending gas flaring
On his part, Chairman, Joint Committee of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria, NUPENG and PENGASSAN on the PIB, Chika Unuegbu, said critical stakeholders in the oil and gas sector should be allowed to make meaningful contributions to the oil and gas policy of the government before it is passed into law.
“There is a draft regulation before Mr. President for his signature as Minister of Petroleum. People had expected that the regulation should have been subjected to public thoughts, views of stakeholders, host communities, all need to make their comments around the regulation, International Oil Companies, IOCs need to make their comments on the regulation so that the President does not go and sign a regulation that will fail from day one. So, I think this is where the government got it wrong and it looks like the government is being rickrolled to a destination. We think they are keen about achieving it but effectiveness is key to us.”
Unuegbu also expressed doubt if the 2020 target date to end gas flaring was realistic, adding: “2020 is not a realistic date. My fear is that political activities start and as soon as this starts in our country, everything is on a standstill. This programme is driven by the Ministry of Petroleum with the president as the minister. So, there is no way we can remove him from the politics.”