The refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has brought the issue of reforms in the oil sector of the economy into sharp focus. Coming at a time expectations were high that, after almost two decades of being stuck in the National Assembly the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was close to significant, albeit incremental fruition, the decision of the President was an anti-climax that has set the industry and, indeed, the entire economy into fresh uncertainties.
While the justification for the denial of presidential assent could be plausible and germane, the implications are diverse and could be far-reaching. This, therefore, triggers the need for deep reflections, introspection and fresh perspectives on the fate of both the reforms contemplated by the PIGB and, indeed, the entire oil and gas industry. The ensuing debate around this development could, however, not have come at a better time. Given the impending general elections and the inevitable opportunities they provide to rethink, reconsider and offer options for national development, the current situation with the PIGB cannot be allowed to slip away or be mired in the waters of politics without extracting subliminal values there from.
It is in this regard that OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative seeks to convene a national DEVELOPMENT DIALOGUE SERIES (DDS) with a focus on oil sector reforms. This is planned as a one-day event to hold in Lagos on Wednesday, September 26 and will bring together political players, especially those seeking presidential office in 2019, political parties, actors in the oil sector, civil society, the media and other critical sectors of society to exchange ideas on way forward for the PIGB and the oil industry generally. While this is not intended as a campaign platform per se, aspirants and parties are offered a veritable opportunity by this event to give their perspectives on the PIGB just as players in the industry will be able to share their concerns and expectations of the political class going forward.
It is important to stress that this is a non-partisan activity and its outcome will be a true reflection of what is canvassed by different players in a cross-fertilization of ideas for national development with regards to Nigeria’s economic mainstay – oil. The Development Dialogue Series (DDS) is a modest contribution of Order Paper Advocacy Initiative to shift focus and deepen conversations around key development themes in the ongoing transition process.
The Senate had, in a record breaking mood on the 25th of May, 2017, gave a glimmer of hope for the reforms of the oil sector with key amendments in a bill passed by the chamber.
Both chambers then approved a harmonized version on the 31st of March 2018 but due to some fundamental issues identified by the legal department of the National Assembly, the bill experienced a mild set back before it was transmitted to the President on the 25th of April.
The PIGB seeks to create efficient and effective governing institutions with a clear and separate role for the petroleum industry, establish a framework for the creation of economically oriented and profit driven petroleum entities that ensure value addition and internationalization of the petroleum industry.
The legislature equally sought to target transparency and accountability in the administration of petroleum resources in Nigeria, promoting conducive business environment as well as become an answer to the prayers of unemployed youths across the country.
More importantly, painstaking details into the bill inform that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be dumped while introducing three commercial entities: The Nigeria Petroleum Liability Management Company, the Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company Limited and the National Petroleum Company.
The NNPC has been identified to be a haven for sharp corruption practices with ad hoc committees created to investigate the several issues in the commission.
Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Inspectorate and Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPRA) would also give way for a new regulatory called the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC).
An investigative unit was created to keep surveillance on oil and gas installations for illegal activities and will have power to work with the police to make arrests.
Possible reservation of the President, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum, is that the bill aims at whittling down his power and thereby restraining him from making policies on empowering the petroleum agencies or key authorization like discretionary award of oil and gas licenses and permits.
Now that the 2019 elections draw near, several presidential aspirants have come out with ocean filled promises for Nigerians should in case they emerge, but what specifically would be their plans for the coming year in the oil sector?
Meanwhile, a statement by Oke Epia, Executive Director of OAI, said presidential aspirants billed to attend the first DDS, scheduled to hold at Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, include the governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, a former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Prof (Mrs.) Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies, all of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Others are Mr. Tope Fasua of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ARNP), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Prof (Mrs.) Remi Sonaiya and Adeshina Fagbenro-Byron of KOWA party, Dr. Yunusa Tanko of the National Conscience Party (NCP); and Comrade Jaye Gaskia of the Sustainable National Party (SNP). Also expected are Dr. Baba Datti-Ahmed (PDP); Omoyele Sowore of the Africa Action Congress (AAC) and Prof. Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Peoples Party (YPP).