By Udora Orizu
The House of Representatives at the resumption of plenary Tuesday after over an hour of debate, passed for second reading the new Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB), transmitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2020.
The legislation entitled ‘A Bill for an act to provide legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the development of host community and for related matters, (HB.1061)’, amongst others is proposing the establishment of Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission to be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations.
The Bill seeks the commercialisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to become Nigerian National Petroleum Company to be incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act by the Minister of Petroleum.
It further seeks to scrap the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and replace them with a new agency to be known as Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDRA), which shall be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of midstream and upstream petroleum operations in the industry.
Leading the debate on its general principles, the Leader of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, called on the lawmakers to support the passage of the Bill.
Ado-Doguwa said: ”Permit me to take the house down memory lane. This was a bill that began in the 6th assembly. Unfortunately, this bill has not been able to see the light of day. Whatever controversies surrounding the bill, the bill is now before us. It is my hope that members will look at this bill and ensure it’s passed.”
Also, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, contributing in support of the Bill, said the Bill’s passage is long overdue.
Elumelu said: ”I rise to support this PIB. The bill is long over due. The essence is to remove some uncertainties. The essence is to institutionalize the ease of doing business. If passed, the bill will institutionalize good governance and ease of doing business. It will attract investors if passed fast. Our four refineries are bad. That’s why we import from Niger when we are supposed to be giving to Niger. We should be giving Niger and not us importing from Niger. We need to pass this PIB as soon as possible.”
On his part, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, opined that the Bill, if passed, will cure the fact that Nigeria imports petroleum products from Niger Republic.
He said: ”I am for it. If Nigeria has four refineries that are not functioning, if the PIB will cure it, I am for it. If the opportunity we had in the 70s, 80s will come back, I am for it. If we pass the Electoral Bill and also PIB, I will say that we have done a wonderful job. We should pay every attention to this bill. We should make sure that all the landmines that will come along the way should be jettisoned.”
Again, while Hon. Babajimi Benson in his contribution urged his colleagues to pass the Bill with the speed of light, another lawmaker, Hon. Nkem Abonta, said PIB will enhance further law.
He said: ”PIB is one of the oldest bills I met in the National Assembly. We are aware that this bill is having the survival of Nigeria. This bill will enhance further law.”