N’Assembly complex, Abuja
By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
The National Assembly is said to be under intense pressure to effect further amendments on the version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) submitted by its Committee on the bill.
This was sequel to complaints by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke that the Petroleum Minister will have little or no power, if the committee’s version of the bill is passed into law.
Currently, there are three versions of the oil reforms bill before the National assembly, the version submitted by the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on the PIB, the one adjusted by Alison-Madueke and the original bill submitted by the Petroleum Ministry in 2008.
A source hinted at the weekend that there is a wide gap between what the Minister wanted and what the committee recommended adding that the consideration of the Joint Committee report was suspended because the Senate deemed it wise to first resolve the issues at stake.
Speaking on “Implications of the Delay in the Passage of the PIB” at the annual conference of the National Association of Energy Correspondents, which held in Lagos, Maeba said his committee had observed that the original bill submitted to the two chambers of the National Assembly conferred too much powers on the Petroleum Minister and provided for multiplicity of institutions”.
According to him, these were not in the interest of the oil and gas industry.
For instance, he said a clause in the bill provided that the petroleum minister has the power to revoke an oil block licence and re-allocate it to any company the minister may deem a good company.
He said: “Starting from clause 1, we discovered that there was imminent danger when so much power was allocated to a minister of petroleum. Some of the powers was the power to revoke oil blocks and re-award it to any company, if in the opinion of the minister, is a good company. We do not know what the minister will see as a good company. We said something should be done to address this situation. We agreed that the PIB must create stronger institutions that are stronger than anybody running them”.
According to him, the committee made major recommendation, which included, the establishment of the National Petroleum Commission (NPC) with a Board of Directors with the minister as the Chairman and the Director General who must be an industry professional as the Chief Executive.
He said in order to reduce government expenditure, the committee recommended the deleting of National Petroleum Directorate to avoid conflict of interest of powers and functions between the Minister and the Directorate.
According to him, the committee also recommended that functions of the National Petroleum Research Centre be vested in the NPI and NNPC.
The role and functions of the National Frontiers Exploration Service were vested in a department under the NPI.
The committee also recommended the scrapping of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund to pave way for deregulation of the downstream sector.
But rekindling hope of imminent passage of the PIB, Alison –Madueke said to unlock the enormous potentials of the Nigerian Domestic Gas Sector and attract investments ahead of the PIB, President Goodluck Jonathan had directed a structured accelerated implementation of the Gas Master Plan.
In this regard, she said the ministry has implemented the most aggressive reforms of the comer frame work for gas in Nigeria to address the observed inadequacies in the erstwhile commercial terms that stunted investments.
She, however, noted that these major initiatives all fall within the principles and concepts enshrined in the PIB, adding that with continued collaboration between the National Assembly and the Oil and Gas industry, a PIB that will meet the long –term aspiration of Nigerians and the economic interest of all investor would be passed into law.
“Passage of the PIB will certainly unlock investments currently being held back by perceived uncertainties and there is a major link between the PIB and the Nigerian Content Act implementation and the lessons we are learning from our current efforts will certainly come in handy in the development of the post PIB structures and models”, she said.