Abimbola Akosile and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to grant speedy assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, which has been harmonised by the two houses in the national assembly and transmitted to him.
If he can do this, stakeholders note, then he would have built a lasting legacy, promoted transparency and accountability in the oil industry, boosted the drive for institutionalisation instead of individualism, and written his name in gold forever in the countryâ€™s history.
The call was made by Civil Society Organisations, under the aegis of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) at a recent media roundtable organised in Abuja in collaboration with Dr. Michael Uzoigwe and Mr. Anthony Ihianle of the Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER II), a project of the UK department for International Development (DfID).
The group, which were backed by members of the media, noted that the Bill awaiting Presidential Assent would strengthen governance and promote strong and independent regulation of the sector, as one of the electioneering campaigns of the present administration ahead the 2019 general election.
The forum, which drew experts and consultants including former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi; Technical Advisor to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Dr. Dauda Garuba, and keynote presenter and legal practitioner, Mr. Chiagozie Hilary-Nwokonko, agreed that if President Buhari can assent to the vital bill within the tenure of the current administration, he would have written his name in gold and left a lasting legacy for the development of Nigeria, especially in the extractive sector.
The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, in his welcome remarks at the forum, stated that â€œthe Petroleum Industry Bill is an attempt to bring under one law, 16 different legislations to clarify the rules, procedures and institutions that will entrenched good governance, transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector and ensure favourable fiscal terms that will yield maximum government take and increase revenues from the sector.
Rafsanjani lamented the delay by the Presidency in assenting to the bill which has been transmitted to it by the legislature, adding that the current administration has promised during the electioneering campaign in 2015 to pass the bill into law if voted into power. But, barely one year to go and as a pre-election year with the INEC time-table released and governance could be shut down.
In an executive summary, Rafsanjani noted that â€œThe Bill awaiting presidential assent is the culmination of almost two decades of work by various stakeholders in the Nigerian petroleum industry, but especially the Executive and Legislative branches of the Nigerian government.
â€œThe Bill seeks to reform the governance of the Nigerian petroleum industry by bringing it up to date with best international practices and thereby enhancing its competitiveness in a global industry.
â€œThe Bill embodies inter alia the principles of transparency, accountability, the avoidance of conflicts of interest and undue political interference in the regulation of the Nigerian petroleum industry and the commercial operations of State-owned entities. These are objectives that the federal government espouses.â€
The Executive Director, CISLAC, represented by Programme Manager (Environment and Conservation of Nature) CISLAC, Mr. Kolawole Banwo, while speaking further, disclosed that the Bill would achieve the highlighted goals by giving the Minister of Petroleum Resources a policy making role.
According to him, â€œBroad regulation of the industry is vested in the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission which will be led by a Board appointed by the President, subject to Senate approval. NNPC will be transformed into several companies incorporated under the Companies Allied Matters Act.â€
Banwo, added further that, â€œthe PIGB will unbundle the NNPC, increase investment across the value chain in the sector that will stimulate increase in exploration and production to facilitate fresh discoveries and reserves; proper diversification, job creation and local content and participation in the sector with better environmental management and health and safety practices, and, above all, increase revenues from improved government takes.
He added that failure to pass the bill in 2015 as an electoral promise led to the constitution of a federal inter-agency team to review the Bill.
â€œThe teamâ€™s report was submitted in 2010. The Senate and the House of Representatives submitted different Bills. Since then till date, the passage of the Bill into law has remained elusiveâ€, he added.