By Omon-Julius Onabu
Nigeria’s oil and gas industry has lost huge investments due to the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has said.
The governor however, expressed optimism that investments in the country’s oil and gas sector would be increased substantially, once the PIB was duly passed by national legislature.
Okowa made the assertion yesterday when the Co-Chairman, National Assembly Joint Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Hon. Mohammed Monguno and members of the committee paid him a courtesy call, at Government House in Asaba.
However, he said that the people of the oil-rich region of Niger Delta were excited about news of the renewed efforts by the National Assembly at passing the PIB.
Okowa, who is Chairman, South-South Governors’ Forum, said that he was delighted about the inclusion of Host Communities Fund in the PIB, pointing out that the provision of the specific fund would make the people part-owners of the ventures and encourage oil host communities to protect oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta.
Okowa said, “You have come obviously for a very important assignment, something that we have not been able to achieve as a country in the last 14 years.
“We are glad as people from the Niger Delta to hear both leaderships of the National Assembly speak about their commitment towards passing the PIB.
“If you do achieve it, your name will be definitely written in gold because, for too long, we have been talking about this Bill and we are already endangering the oil industry.
“People are agitated towards the direction of the PIB and when there is anticipation and action is not clearly taken, it leads to the loss of investment opportunities because people are worried about the direction of the industry.
“There is no doubt that oil exploration has kept our economy (afloat) but over time it has caused so much pain to our people; and this bill is geared towards addressing some of those pains.
“People have lost their lives, lost their source of livelihood and the pain continues to increase on daily basis; but we thank God that the dark days are over and there is an amnesty programme even though it is not being run as it was proposed by the Yar’Adua administration.
“I am glad that there is this commitment on the part of the leadership of the National Assembly and we will be proud of you if you are able to achieve the passage this time around.
“We hope that with the provision of the Host Communities Fund, it will impact in their lives and help them to live a sustainable life.”
Speaking earlier, Monguno, who is the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, said that the committee’s delegation was in Delta State in furtherance of the legislative processes leading to the passage of the PIB.
The National Assembly was working in close concert with the executive arm of the Federal Government and other stakeholders to ensure the passage of the PIB, he assured.
“We have promised Nigerians that by the end of April we will pass this all-important bill”, Monguno stated, adding, “We are committed this time around to pass the bill for the good of Nigeria.
“There is need for us as a country to reform the oil and gas sector, especially as the world is moving away from fossil fuel to renewable energy and it is important we take advantage of the opportunities available.”