President Goodluck Jonathan
The latest draft of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) put together by a presidential task force would be sent to President Goodluck Jonathan within weeks, Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Austen Oniwon has said.
The GMD’s comments yesterday were the latest in a string of pronouncements by top government officials predicting imminent passage of the controversial oil reforms bill with none of the previous deadlines met.
President Jonathan had in a broadcast last month promised to liaise with the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the bill in order to ensure transparency in the oil and gas sector.
Specifically, the president had given the assurance that the latest draft bill would be completed in June and sent to the National Assembly. But some industry stakeholders who spoke to THISDAY at the weekend doubted the feasibility of the new draft bill reaching the National Assembly this month, when it was yet to be submitted to the Federal Executive Council for ratification.
The PIB had gone through several drafts in recent years but lawmakers, the Federal Government and the international oil companies could not reach a compromise on the fiscal regime provided in the previous bill because of the fear that it will not favour them.
But allaying those fears in a telephone conversation yesterday, Acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, at the NNPC, Mr. Fidel Pepple, said the re-worked bill would be sent to the president before the end of this month for onward presentation to the National Assembly.
“I can confirm that the new draft bill will reach the president before the end of June. We are very confident about that and he will thereafter present it to the national assembly,” Pepple assured.
Activities in the oil and gas had been at very low ebb because the much expected transformation in the sector that was premised on the PIB is yet to take place. Sources at the petroleum ministry said new investments are not coming in, while various oil and gas projects have suffered setbacks.
“Virtually everything in the oil and gas industry is now at a standstill as we speak, investment, development of new and old projects, all of that, because of the non passage of the PIB,” the source lamented.
Chairman, House Committee on Upstream Sector, Hon. Ajibola Muriana, recently raised the alarm over current lull in investment activity in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry due to continued delay in the passage of the PIB. He however noted that areas of contention were about to be resolved, assuring that the House would ensure expeditious passage of the bill once it is presented to it.
“We all know the implications of the bill not passed into law. However, we are told that those areas of contention are about to be resolved. So I can assure you that the bill once presented to us, definitely, within the next two weeks or one month, we will do justice to it,” he said.