- Legislature to go ahead with deliberation, passage of existing version
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, monday said the federal lawmakers would no longer wait for the executive arm of government (presidency) to send to it a fresh version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for deliberation and passage, adding that it would now go ahead to consider and pass the existing version of the bill it has in its possession.
Dogara also said over the years, the country’s petroleum sector had operated in favour of its elite to the detriment of other citizens.
He stated that the House was determined to change this with reform laws like the PIB.
The speaker said these at the occasion of the National Assembly stakeholders’ summit on petroleum industry reform in Abuja.
The summit was organised by the House Committee on Petroleum.
“I have at least three different occasions publicly requested the executive to as a matter of urgency send an executive bill on its intended reforms in the petroleum sector.
“We had hoped to avoid the situation in the past two assemblies (6th and 7th) where the PIB was sent to the National Assembly very late in its tenure thereby guaranteeing failure to pass the bills.
“In the absence of an executive bill on the matter, two private member’s bills have now been introduced. We urge participants to familiarise themselves with these bills and make necessary inputs at the public hearing stage of the bills,” said Dogara.
He spoke at the summit, saying: “We also hope that this summit will craft its own version of the PIB for the attention of the National Assembly, taking into consideration all the existing drafts and also the pending bills.
“In this regard, therefore, I wish to correct the erroneous impression in the media that there is a pending executive bill on PIB on the floor of the National Assembly,” the speaker added.
He explained that the country’s oil sector has over the years performed badly and the House was going to put in place laws to make it work for all citizens of the country.
“Over the years, Nigeria has performed worse than sub-Saharan Africa as a whole and worse than other regions of the developing world, in terms of human development indicators, to the extent that it is regarded as a foster child for ‘how not to run a petroleum industry.’
“The intention of the House of Representatives is to revisit the process of petroleum industry reform, and work towards the successful enactment of laws that will regulate the Nigerian petroleum industry in accordance with the rule of law, good governance, and due process, for the sustainable development of Nigerians and the total advancement of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he stated.
According to him, “It is our conviction that the reform of the petroleum industry is a vital necessity if Nigeria is to realise its God-given potential.
“While not downplaying the critical and inescapable need for diversification, for a country that depends largely on revenues from petroleum industry, there is no alternative to reform.”
He said in his charge to members of the committee: “You have been invited to play a pivotal role in this important national stakeholders summit on petroleum industry reform in Nigeria.
“It is hoped that this summit will be a forum for frank and open discussions on the state of Nigeria’s petroleum industry, and the way to ensure successful legislative reform through the passage of bills that provide the optimal legal framework, in alignment with principles of good governance and transparency.
“It was the most celebrated English Judge of the 20th century and master of Rolls, Lord Denning, who said ‘You cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand’. In the same vein, one cannot place something heavy on a weak base and expect it to stand.”
According to Dogara: “For many years, we have placed our petroleum industry on laws that are not in tune with today’s realities and completely out of sync with international standards and best practices. We have hoped against all hope that the systemic failure in the sector will somehow be fixed by extant laws which are grossly inadequate.
“Our hopes did not materialise and there can be no holding back in our quest to sanitise the petroleum sector through effective, efficient and effectual legislation.
“There is no gain saying that laws set the proper foundation for a functional society. So, a defective or inadequate legislation is akin to building a house on a shaky foundation with the expectation that it will stand nonetheless.
“We cannot afford to continue with such faulty expectations. The present leadership and members of the 8th National Assembly are poised to enact good laws that will enable the petroleum sector to stand.
“We have a commitment to bequeathing to Nigerians, very robust laws that will seamlessly impact on the people in the most positive ways. We have resolved to remain proactive and to pass new laws for petroleum reforms. We are poised to completely overhaul and transform the Nigerian petroleum industry, particularly, the institutional framework which is believed to be the key to any meaningful reform in the sector.
“On this note, I urge you to consider this vital occasion as an invitation to you all on behalf of the House of Representatives and indeed Nigerians, to join in the forging of a functional petroleum industry legislation that will take Nigeria into the future of our dream.
“At the inception of the eighth assembly, I intimated my colleagues of the need to chart for ourselves, a carefully thought-out agenda to guide us in our legislative mandate if we were to remain focused and efficient.
“My conviction derived from my belief that we have a lot to offer, as lawmakers, to get this country on the path of progress and development. I also made it clear that our focus in this quest would be on consolidating on the achievements of the seventh assembly.
“It is instructive to reiterate that the agenda of the present administration is to bring change to Nigerians. For us, change means work – a lot of which had been done by the legislature in the past. We believe a lot more can be done to take our parliament and the nation even further in the spirit of the change agenda. After all meaningful change is never about what you abandon but what you embrace. It is never about what you are turning from but what you are turning to. The challenge before us is what to embrace or turn to in this all important sector,” Dogara stated.
The Speaker said there had been several failed attempts to reform the oil sector, but that this will come out good.
“We are not unaware of the several failed attempts at redeeming the petroleum industry by our predecessors. The Petroleum Industry Bill has been down a long, tortuous, and chequered road.
“Most of us have been co-travelers on the journey to pass the bill into law, and have the requisite experience to avoid any pitfalls ahead, hence this resolve to seek proper consultations with you and build confidence amongst us,” he stated.
He added: “The need to make consensus and lend a voice to long suppressed agitation in the drafting and consideration of petroleum industry bills informed our decision to organise this stakeholders summit.
“We are optimistic that this approach will provide the crucial platform to enable us cross pollinate ideas and ventilate our positions on certain contentious issues, regardless how vexed they may be. You can rest assured that our work at the National Assembly is to do your good intention.”