INDEED, the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari is still an unfinished business, as the dissenting views continues to trail the enactment.

Though it is said that “law is law” and must be complied with, a just and fair society always strives to carry the interests of all critical stakeholders along in enacting its laws.

This principle was not properly respected in the process of bringing the PIA into law. It spent 13 years in the National Assembly, and yet when it eventually became law, it was a product of a cynical conspiracy by those who enjoy the benefit of the majority in Nigeria’s National Assembly against others representing the interests of the oil-producing communities.

They ignored the fact that the marginalisation of the oil-producing communities was responsible for countless agitations, militancy, disruptions of oil production and sabotage of the industry’s infrastructure. Once they achieved their objective, President Buhari rushed to assent the Bill, thus leaving the ball in the court of the people of the Niger Delta to play as they wish. Those wearing the shoe are left to continue to feel the pinch. Peace of the graveyard is no peace at all.

The three per cent operational costs of the oil companies dedicated to the host communities appears unjust against the backdrop of the hazardous environmental impact of the oil exploration and production on the Niger Delta oil-producing communities. To further compound the dimensions of the injustice, the communities hosting the non-hazardous oil infrastructure outside the Niger Delta region have been included as beneficiaries of the paltry three percent funding. The last has, certainly, not been heard of this.

The additional dimension of the unjust enactment is the allocation of 30 per cent of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s profits to oil exploration in the frontier basins (Benue, Sokoto, Niger/Bida, Chad and other basins). It is not yet clear what the absolute amount would be but at 30 percent a new commercialised NNPC under the PIA would raise huge resources in favour of the frontier basins.

When the reality dawns on all, there may be a stampede to go back and have another look at the PIA, to redress some areas that may end up upstaging what otherwise would have been a good investment law for the petroleum industry.

Questions are being asked as to whether the huge outlay for the frontier basins is justifiable after several years of resource deployment to these basins without any encouraging results, a situation which had made the venture a mere adventure. So why throwing good money at bad investment?

If the inland basins exploration has credible investment case we expect government, and in this case the PIA, to focus on creating the enabling environment to attract private investors, the key value proposition of the PIA.

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