Mr. Peter Esele,
President-General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele, spoke to Linda Eroke on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the need to open up the industry for the benefits of Nigerians
PIB Committee’s Report
We submitted our report, the one that is with the National Assembly right now, I have some issues with that one. I think it makes the Minister of Petroleum too powerful and I think the National Assembly will deal with that one. First we submitted a draft to the Federal Government, from our draft to what got to the National Assembly is a different ball game altogether.
In clear terms, I don’t think we gave as much power to the Minister of Petroleum in what we drafted.
Wide consultation was done, it was widely discussed, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) appeared before us, likewise Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the IOC. What I keep asking myself is that what does the OIC want that was not discussed because at the end of the day what we are up to is how we optimise this industry to the benefit of Nigerians, that is the goal; irrespective of how you feel. That is why I so much love democracy; no matter what we have done whether it is good or bad that we have done, it goes to the National Assembly.
So if you feel that there are areas that we did not cover, because the bill is not yet a law, then you can go to the National Assembly to correct it, you can add, subtract before it becomes law. It can go through a lot of several processes before the President can assent to it. So, I always tell people that there is no need to start to spite hell, all you just need to do if you have your position is to take it up, take it to the National Assembly and when the public hearing comes up, you can add, subtract and then we move on.
But us as committee members that served in that committee all we wanted is the best for the country. No member of that committee has monopoly of knowledge and we are not laying claim that we are the most intelligent or sophisticated Nigerians, no.
If you also know some areas that you think that there is a lacuna in that bill, go to the National Assembly. Talking for myself, all I want is what is best for that industry. So, we need to do anything and everything possible to ensure that what is right is done.
If our population continues to grow at the rate of 5 per cent per annum, probably our crude oil will not last in the next 100 years. We are not finding new ones right now, there is no exploration going on now; 100 years may even be too far, maybe in another 50 years.
We have not learnt to diversify and so, if you are not diversifying, you have a very big problem when these resources are gone. We are not building capacity, education is going down and every other thing is going down, so we have a huge problem.
I have lived long here in Nigeria to know that there is nothing we do here that is not subject to politics. No matter how good your idea is, there is politics, and I envisaged this was likely going to happen. But the degree at which it is happening is also what is a little bit surprising to me.
I have earlier heard that it favours IOC, but now IOCs are crying more that the bill will constrain the current investment. First thing is, you ask yourself, we are looking at the physical side, they say the physical side is lop-sided in the sense that government gets revenue of about 70 per cent or between 70 and 80 per cent of revenue.
First you go to other parts of the world and ask how much do IOCs in those parts of the world get? How many per cent do they get? It is just because we live in a country where we do not really streamline things, we have production sharing contract. You know a lot of these contracts are not made public. If you also go and look at production sharing contract, you find out that until the IOCs recoup their investments in the oil well, you cannot talk; government cannot start talking of its revenue. Why?
A whole lot of these things, when it was also in favor of the IOCs, nobody was saying anything. In production sharing contract, they will tell you, now I am doing this well and I expect one billion dollars. Not until I finish recouping my one billion dollars, you do not talk about profit sharing. Do not forget we don’t have any mechanism to also check whether they actually spent the one billion dollars or whether it was less than a billion dollars that was expended.
So when I see everybody complaining, I begin to think we did a good job. I may not be happy with too much power given to the minister of petroleum, but when everybody starts complaining, the local companies are complaining, the IOCs are complaining, I am fine. The law is not supposed to favour everybody. What the law is after is how to maximise the industry to benefit Nigeria and Nigerians. If the IOCs feel that they have a problem with it, they can still go to the National Assembly.
But my hope and prayer is that the National Assembly does what is best for everybody. What would be good for the country, what will also enhance investment for people to come and invest is the most important thing. I think we should open our Oil and Gas industry. It is concentrated in the western axis now; let us also invite other players from other parts of the world.
I think one other thing that we all need to do is for everybody to stand up to their responsibility. I will tell you now that my time in the PIB committee, I did not get paid, whether in terms of accommodation or sitting allowance, everything was paid for by TUC. Now the TUC has also played its part by sending me to the place. So, the members of the committee have also played their own role. So it is now left for government to play its role.
So, if there is going to be a standstill, the first agency or first agent of the state that will suffer, is government. You know once there is a financial crisis, once people cannot get their salary, that can also put government in a bad shape and that can also mean the future of the party in power is also not guaranteed. So, there are a whole lot of things around it. That is why I said everybody should stand up, House of Representatives and Senate, and deal with this bill in a dispassionate manner. They should do their public hearing. We must never forget that the goal is ‘what is good for Nigeria first”.
IOCs can complain; they are businessmen; they want to make more profit. If you are a businessman, if it is possible for you to make 100 per cent, you will go for it. So, if it is possible for the IOCs to have the entire well, they are ready to do that. They are business men so you must know from where they are thinking from,’ make more money’. For the local companies, we also want to encourage them, but you also know where they are thinking from; make more money. So what the government needs to do is, let them make some money and let Nigeria and Nigerians make more money.