By Michael Eboh

THE Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB,  as well as the remaining segments of the broken down Petroleum Industry Bill are at risk of suffering the same fate that had befallen it over the last 18 years, due to forthcoming elections.

The PIGB was first introduced at the National Assembly in year 2000, in the Fourth Assembly. Since then, the bill had never been passed, suffering one form of delay or the other, mainly due to political and economic interests.

The National Assembly, had in March, successfully passed the PIGB, which was introduced in the current 8th Assembly by the legislators. The Bill is currently awaiting the assent of the President for it to eventually become law.

However, the Bills remaining to be passed include the Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and the Petroleum Host Community Bill.

These Bills are currently at the public hearing stage, after going through the first and second readings at the Senate. After the public hearing, the bills are expected to undergo Third Hearing. The Bills are also expected to  undergo similar processes in the House of Representatives. After that, the bills would be harmonised by a committee that would be set up by both chambers of the National Assembly,  after which the harmonised bills would be passed by both chambers. It would then be sent to the President, who after careful consideration of the bills, would be expected to assent to or reject them.

However, with the 2019 elections around the corner, stakeholders are skeptical about the passage of the remaining bills before the tenure of the current National Assembly runs out. The stakeholders are concerned that the legislatures would be occupied with seeking re-election than the passage of the bills.

It had also been touted that President Muhammadu Buhari may refuse to assent to the PIGB and the other bills after their passage, due largely to his political differences with the leadership of the National Assembly.

Wise counsel

Commenting on the issue, Chairman, Council of the Institute of Oil and Gas Research and Hydrocarbon Studies, IOGRHS, Professor Akin Akindoyeni, cautioned against allowing politics to interfere with the assent of the PIGB and passage of the remaining petroleum industry bills.

Akindoyeni, said the passage of the remaining petroleum industry bills is critical, as it is needed to right the wrongs witnessed in the Nigerian petroleum industry over the years.

According to him, speedy passage of the bill would send a strong signal that the country is ready to take a bold step in going a bit further to making the Nigerian petroleum industry a world class industry.

“We believe if the bill is passed into law, it is a start, and we believe we can still go a lot farther. We hope the provisions in the new bill would be enacted,” he stated.

Explaining his expectations from the Bill, Akindoyeni said, “What we would have expected the government and the legislature to adopt is to yield more equity to local people, the landowners where these minerals are being exploited; to improve their life, their environment and to make alternatives available to them.

“The exploitation of oil and gas in their environment had made it difficult for them to earn better income or have better living standards.”

Also speaking, Professor Charity Emaviwe, Deputy Chairman of the Institute of Oil and Gas Research and Hydrocarbon Studies, also advised that timely passage of the bill would address most of the challenges confronting the petroleum industry.

We will pass the bills – Senate

However, the Senate insists that the forthcoming electioneering and politicking ahead of the 2019 elections would not disrupt the passage of the remaining portions of the Petroleum Industry bill.

Speaking at an Oil and Gas Public Lecture Series in Abuja, organized by the Institute of Oil and Gas Research and Hydrocarbon Studies, IOGRHS, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly would not allow politics interfere with the passage of these critical bills which would help in the development of the Nigerian economy.

Saraki, who was represented at the meeting by the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum, Upstream, Senator Gershom Bassey, said the country is losing up to $30 billion annually in terms of foreign capital, due to the absence of a clear legal framework for the petroleum industry.

He said, “We are going to start public hearing on the three bills in two weeks time. We are encouraging everybody to attend the hearing and make input so that they can be carried into the law.”

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