THE recent passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance and Institutional Reforms Bill (PIGB) by the Senate is a good first step in the effort to reposition Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. Although the PIGB is just one of the five bills proposed to achieve the strategic objectives of freeing the oil industry from the cesspool of corruption and boosting investment opportunities in the sector, it is significant that it lays out the structure, framework and defined roles of different entities within the behemoth Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
However, if the National Assembly must meet the lofty objectives of the PIB, which has been in its two chambers for nine years now, it must proceed with clarity of purpose and sense of responsibility to speed up the passage of the four other components of the PIB, especially the Host Community Funding bill which, unarguably, is the pith and marrow of the PIB. Sadly, it is this aspect of the bill that is closest to the hearts of the Niger Delta people and the resolution of the restiveness in the region that is generating controversy and angst in some parts of the country.
While we heartily welcome the pas- sage of the PIGB and call on the Presidency to give the proposed legislation its assent to make it a law, we want to remind the legislators to place national service above personal or ethnic considerations and ensure speedy passage of the other bills. There are key aspects of the PIGB that, if implemented, will remove our oil industry from its present stranglehold of not only graft, but lack of clarity of roles, self-regulation, conflicts and unnecessary overlaps.
If, and when, the bill recently passed by the Senate becomes law, it will see to the unbundling of the NNPC to two major commercial entities limited by shares the National Oil Company (NOC), and the National Assets Management Company. Besides, the PIGB, as passed, intends to create a single strong industry regulator, streamline the coordination role of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, create efficient and effective governing institutions with clear and separate roles for the petroleum indus- try, in addition to promoting transparency in the administration of petroleum resources of the country and creating a conducive business environment for industry operators. On paper, these are good objectives which, if translated into
reality, could make the NNPC and the nation’s oil and gas industry attractive to investors.
We believe that a restructuring of the NNPC is long overdue. The corporation, as currently run, is often answerable to no one but itself. In this situation, enhanced focus on the country’s strategic interests and effective cost management are not achieved, hence, corruption thrives. This has been evident in recent years as NNPC regularly hugged the headlines for unwholesome reasons.
Under the provisions of the new PIGB , we want to believe that agencies such as the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMD), which came into being in 2011, and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund(PTDF), will be run more efficiently.
It is the hope of many oil industry stakeholders that the PIGB will provide the much-needed institutional and governance structure that will promote accountability and transparency that are in short supply in the sector. The oil and gas industry is such a huge and vital sector of our economy. The continuous delay in the passage into law of such a crucial piece of legislation will hamper investments and keep the country in a state of uncertainty. Other oil producing nations in Africa such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea are deepening opportunities in the sector, Nigeria should not be an exception.
It bears repeating that any effort to reposition the oil and gas industry in the country without articulating the concerns of the oil producing communities will not achieve the ultimate objective(s). We, therefore, urge both chambers of the National Assembly to harmonise their versions of the bill before it is passed into law.