Saraki Cautions against Retard in Oil Sector Reforms

  • Seeks speedy actions on petroleum bills before 2019 elections

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The Senate President Bukola Saraki has warned against a retrogression of reforms in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry initiated by the country’s parliament through bills such as the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and other supplementary bills created from the unpacking of the omnibus Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Speaking at a public lecture organised by the Institute of Oil and Gas Research and Hydrocarbon Studies, weekend in Abuja, Saraki, who was represented by the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream, Senator Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River South), said it had taken the country about 18 years to pass the PIB. He asked that relevant stakeholders must ensure the process was completed.

The senate president failed to clearly state the current status of the PIGB, but maintained the national assembly harmonised and passed it in March, thus indicating it was awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent even though the presidency recently claimed the bill was not with Buhari.

Saraki, however said it was time Nigeria eschew retrogressive tendencies and revolutionise her oil industry. He also called for speedy actions on the other aspects of the PIB – Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB); Petroleum Industry Administration Bill (PIAB) and Petroleum Industry Host Communities Bill (PIHCB) before the end of the current legislative era.

“We must eschew retrogressive tendencies on the road to achieving our set objectives. PIB is really 18 years in the making if you count that its first introduction into the National Assembly was in the year 2000, clearly it is about time to revolutionise this sector and bring it into the modern age. It is about time we modernise the oil and gas sector in Nigeria and pull it into the modern age,” he said.

On the other bills, Saraki noted: “Before the winding down of the legislative cycle at the coming elections, I am hoping for expedient efforts across respective arms of government as we move to sustainably reposition and reinvigorate the petroleum industry for optimal service and content delivery.”

When asked about the whereabouts of the PIGB, he further explained: “What we know is that we have passed the PIGB in the Senate and House of Representatives, the rest is administrative. We have done our work, it goes over to the civil servants, we finished our work in March and that is it.

“We are working together on this particular phase of legislation; right from the beginning we carried everybody along. The bill originated from the Senate and we made sure we consulted the executive and even the IOCs and of course others. We have all worked together on this and I don’t see any problems.”

“We have finished second readings on the three (other) bills and in two weeks’ time, there will be public hearings on them and we are encouraging everybody to participate in it.

“This is not about politics, this is about our country and I think that all the parties are interested in getting this done. Because of the lack of the passage of the PIB, we are losing $20 to $30 billion every year in terms of FDIs and so this is very important thing.

“Again, the knock-on effect in terms of jobs creation is massive. We are losing jobs every day we stay without the PIB and of course you know the issue of youth unemployment in the country. All hands must be on deck regardless of whether you have elections or not. For me, if the election is tomorrow and I am given the opportunity to go and pass the PIB, I will do it because that is the whole essence of coming to the National Assembly,” the senate president noted.

Saraki stated that the eighth senate was emphatic in its desire to get the PIGB passed into law, adding that the other three must also be written to favour Nigeria and its people.

“PIGB was passed by the Senate and House of Reps in March this year, our role in the legislature is to lay a solid foundation by making laws of good governance for the citizenry, we are therefore striving to make laws that will guarantee effective running of the oil and gas industry, attract key investments, create jobs, halt corruption and reduce bureaucracy whilst increasing efficiency in the sector.

“These laws must also cater for host communities, they must ensure adequate use and accountability of the revenues emanating there from, complete with the right checks and balances in the industry.

“The finite nature of oil and the need to ensure that we are on the good side of posterity in terms of positive usage and development underscore the urgency with which the senate and indeed the National Assembly is seeking these reforms. Needless to say, it must be reforms that are in tandem with the yearnings and aspirations of all our people.

“This is why at my meetings with the IOCs and oil producers trade associations earlier this month, I touched on the crucial process we are currently engaging and the need for transparency and sincerity in the interest of Nigeria and all the people of Nigeria,” said Saraki.