By Emmanuel Addeh
A former Secretary and Legal Adviser to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, has disclosed that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), is being delayed by vested interests within and outside the country.
Omorogbe, who appeared on Arise Television yesterday, declared that the journey of the bill which commenced about 20 years ago had been tortuous because many of the decision makers were putting their interests above that of the country.
Omorogbe, who is a serving professor at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal studies (NIALS), argued that the rest of the world was leaving Nigeria behind and noted that the country’s oil asset is losing its value with increasing attention to renewable sources of energy.
The President of the Senate, Mr. Ahmad Lawan, also said on Tuesday that there were forces against the bill, declaring that “the demons will be defeated this year.
“The PIB is like a demon. People, both within and outside the country, are ready to work against it as they have been doing for the past 14 years, but the 9th Senate and by extension, 9th National Assembly, will defeat the demon with the current bill before both chambers.”
But Omorogbe maintained that although Lawan did not mention names, he was perhaps talking about vested interests, including even within the national assembly.
“There are huge vested interests and it’s these vested interests that have militated against the passage of the bill for a long time. We have been on this for about 20 year, from when the first oil and gas sector implementation committee (OGSIC) was created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the time.
“We worked on the oil and gas policy. We continued until 2006, then when the late President, Umar Yar’adua came in, the OGSIC was reconstituted. It was given the mandate to push the reform. I was part of the 2008 OGSIC.
“When I got in and I found out that there were huge interests and a lot of the interests were internal interests at that time militating against its passage. The senate president did not tell us what the demons are or what their names are or where they are located, but my strong guess is that it is the same interest concentrated in Nigeria.
“Some are external that are working against the passage of the deal. We are still waiting for the passage, forgetting that that the passage of that law is the beginning of reforms not the end,” Omorogbe said.
She argued that the bill is doable, but “if there are clauses there that we cannot live with, we can try to amend these clauses or work with them in some way.
“But to have an industry that is so important to us, being operated under obsolete laws that cannot assist the people of Nigeria is just untenable. These interests are not for Nigeria, otherwise the bill would have been passed by now.
“This is because the ultimate intent of reform is that the benefits should go to Nigerians and not to private pockets or any organisation. It is to cut out wastage, cut out opaque practices and to ensure we actually benefit. A lot of the interests are personal and they are institutional interest and that is the main problem,” she noted.
Omorogbe advocated for the passing of the law as a whole rather than in parts, saying that many implementation challenges would arise if it is passed in bits and pieces.