Seplat Boss: Delay in Passage of PIB Has Frstrated Investments in Oil and Gas Sector

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Sylvester Idowu 

The Managing Director of Seplat Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Austin Avuru, at the weekend observed that delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) frustrated decisions in the industry in the last 15 years.

He, however, promised that the company would not lobby to stop the passage of the full version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Avuru said Seplat as an oil company would easily fit into the legislation once it is eventually passed in full into law, saying it was not losing any sleep over the passage of the complete bill.

He spoke following insinuations that some oil multinationals were behind the delay in the passage of the full version of the PIB.
Speaking with journalists shortly after the closing ceremony of Seplat’s ‘Eye Can See’ programme held at Orerokpe, Delta State, Avuru noted that the delay in the passage of the bill significantly frustrated investment decisions in the industry, adding that the passage of the entire components of the bill would take away uncertainty which the absence of the bill had created for past 15 years in the oil and gas industry.

According to him, the delay has thrown the industry into a crisis situation because everybody, particularly the multinationals operating in the deep offshore and who have to make multibillion dollar investments, are in an uncertain business climate.
“The biggest issues about the PIB over the past 15 years is not what should contain in the bill or what shouldn’t be there but the suspense in which the process of passing the law over the past 15 years have created.

“If you propose a bill that would regulate the industry for past 15 years and it takes so long to be passed, it is really a big challenge that is capable of driving investors away.”
He said the industry is practically on standstill because of the uncertainty created by the possibility of the new legislation that have been so delayed adding that everybody is skeptical to make heavy investments because “you can’t be certain until that piece of legislation becomes law.”

He, however, blamed the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the delay in the passage of the bill, saying the administration was not honest and sincere about reforming the industry.
“The previous government didn’t show any true honesty in ensuring the legislation is passed into law so if this current administration can pass all the three or four components into law and take away the uncertainty that the absence of the law has caused, it would be something that everybody should be happy about.”

He furthermore said Seplat as an oil company would easily fit into the legislation once it is eventually passed in full saying that it was no losing any sleep over the passage of the complete PIB.

“As an organisation we operate within the ambit of the law. We are not praying or struggling or lobbying for the law not to come out. Whatever legislation is enacted to guide the industry, Seplat would fit into it within the ambit of the law.
“You know we are listed in London Stock Exchange Market so we are not just operating within the confines of Nigeria laws, we are also international so whatever that comes out from the PIB we would fit into it.

He maintained that the only challenge the PIB has caused the oil companies including Seplat is the suspense and uncertainty the delay had caused, adding that all they need is a level-playing ground to transact their business without any encumbrances.

“Take away all the uncertainty that the absence of the law had created and give us an enabling environment to operate within the confines of the law where we operate. Let those who operate within the law be the ones to grow, we don’t believe in Government helping us to grow, let the government give us a level playing field and we believe if we do our business to international standards we would survive as a company.

“We don’t need government to patronise us with a bill that is pro-industry. All we need is level playing and conducive environment to operate, we are a company and we believe we can survive within the ambit of the law,” he added.

Speaking on the directive by the federal government for the multinationals to relocate their headquarters to their area of operation, the Seplat Managing Director said the oil firm has long moved its operations to Sapele, Delta State long before the directive, saying that the company has been in the forefront of promoting the Nigerian Local Content law.

“We have been trying our best, we don’t have to read every line of the Act before we can act on it. I chaired the committee that designed the content of the local content Act. The origin first local content document I was the author. I believe on the concept so we at Seplat we don’t have to read it line by line before implementing it.

“We moved our operations to Sapele before the mantra to relocate oil companies to their area of operations. From day one when we took over operation from Shell, we set up our outfit in Sapele, we didn’t wait for anybody to direct us and you can see the huge impact we have made in these area.

“So everything from hiring to contractors and vendors that work for us are part of our communities so we believe strongly on the local content Act without waiting for anybody to tell us what to do. We believe that’s the way to go.

“We believe every oil and gas companies should involve the local people because you can’t

head way with your operations when the people from the host communities are not benefiting.

He said that Seplat was investing heavily to reduce gas flaring in its area of operations adding; “We believe gas should be monetize and that’s why we are investing heavily to stop flaring it”.