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PIB: Eight Years In Limbo

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President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki

President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki

When President
Umaru Yar’adua, of blessed memory, assumed office in 2007, the unending crisis rocking the nation’s oil sector, could be said to be at its peak.
He was welcome into office by a turmoil occasioned by mass protest over an overnight and unwarranted increase in the pump prices of petroleum products, inherited from his predecessor, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.
As expected of a leader who has the feelings of the people at heart, Yar’Adua, reverted the new pump price to normal, rendering the land mine on his administration impotent, and the masses, ended the protest.
But, he also had the problem of the then Niger Delta militancy (the freedom fighters as they chose to be called), confronting him. There is no gain saying the fact that the colossal destruction caused by the activities of the Niger Delta militants on the nation’s oil and gas infrastructure in the region, brought Nigeria’s economy on its knees.
Again, as expected of a peaceful and caring leader, Yar’Adua intrdocued his famous Amnesty Initiative.  Consequent upon this, the staccato sounds of the militants’ guns and the booms of their bombs stopped thereby giving way for peace.
Apparently, after giving a deep thought on the oil sector, considering the fact that it is the lifewire of the nation’s economy, Yar’Adua initiated the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as a master plan towards bringing sanity in the sector.
The PIB which Yar’Adua presented to the National Assembly as Executive Bill in 2008 stirred up wide jubilation amongst natives of oil-bearing communities because it promised them 20 per cent of equity in oil production.  The bill equally promised other goodies to other stakeholders.
However, like a pregnant woman happily welcome into the labour room, eight years after, neither the voice of the child nor that of the mother has been heard as the National Assembly members are yet to agree on issues concerning the PIB. The euphoria that greeted the idea of PIB has given way to anxiety, suspicion and fear.
Is it that the PIB idea is bad and contradicts all expectations of the National Assembly?  Such that the lawmakers cannot find any useful thing in the bill? Is it that the alleged cartel that determines what happens in the Nigerian oil sector is not happy and has decided to frustrate and kill the people’s bill? What exactly is the matter with this bill which in many analysists’ views holds a lot of promises to the people?
When Nigerians waited till the end of the sixth National Assembly (2007-2011) and did not see the bill transform into an Act of the Parliament, the impression then was that, because of the high level of importance attached to the bill and the need for the law makers to do thorough work on the bill, it could not be concluded.
But when the then Senate President, David Mark was concluding activities of the 7th National Assembly in 2015 and hurriedly ‘passed through’ his basket full of bills, concerned Nigerians were disappointed that the PIB was not one of the many bills that graduated to Acts of Parliament.
A group, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) expressed dismay over the failure of the National Assembly to pass the bill, attributing it to politics.
Executive Director of the group, Godwin Ojo, had during a press conference in Lagos accused some of the lawmakers of falling prey to the influence of the oil multinationals  who fear that the PIB would rob them of so much unabridged fortune they have been having as far as the nation’s oil industry is concerned.
To Ojo, “some of them became the mouth piece of Shell and other oil companies that threatened to pull out of Nigeria’s oil and gas operations if the PIB was passed.
“They not only betrayed the wishes of the people but succumbed to cheap blackmail of the oil companies that the PIB would render the oil and gas industry unviable”.
It would be recalled that apart from the one submitted by President Yar’Adua, which did not attract the attention of the lawmakers, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan re-introduced the bill to the National Assembly in 2012, which could also not attract the attention of the parliament.
The National Co-ordinator, Niger Delta Youth Coalition (NDYC). Prince Emmanuel Ogba, regretted the attitude of members of the National Assembly to the bill, saying their standing on the way of such a bill shows that the interest of the people was not the main business of those up there, and urged the present  senate, led by Bukola Saraki, to make a difference.
Ogba expressed the view that giving 10 per cent of the equity to the host communities would go a long way in bringing peace both for the community and the oil multinationals.  This according to him, would provide the conducive atmosphere for better oil operation that would benefit the host, the oil companies and the government.
The youth leader blamed the Federal Government for shortchanging the oil-bearing communities by not providing social amenities as road, water, schools, health infrastructure etc.
“You see, because the oil companies are the ones the community people always see physically, they transfer  their grievances to the companies for not providing the infrastructure while  in the actual sense of it these should not be the responsibilities of the companies.
In his own reaction, the publisher of News Africa Magazine, Mr Moffat Ekoriko, described the PIB as a National disgrace in that the sixth and seventh National Assemblies could not give Nigerians any explanation as to why they were not able to pass the bill.
“If we are to believe what we got from the grapevine, two factors were responsible for trauncating the bill.  Inducement by the multinational oil companies and ethnic interest. Ethic, in the sense that most provisions of the bill were seen as being more favourable to host communities”, he said.
Ekoriko, in an interview with The Tide, said the oil multinationals were uncomfortable with the aspect of the bill which gives 10 per cent equlity to the host communities and the incentive for deep offshore.
“If we are to believe those rumours, it then calls to question the sense of patriotism of the Sixth and Seventh Assemblies”, he said.
The News Africa publisher advised President Muhammadu Buhari to invest his political capital in getting the bill passed, noting that since APC controls both Houses of the National Assembly, there is no reason why a president who is so fair as Buhari cannot wield his party into line.
Another alternative, he said, is to break up the bill so that the non-contentious aspects can pass.  He suggested that Buhari should consider leaving the 10 per cent equity to host communities and the incentives for the deep offshore operations and pass the other less contentious aspects of the bill.
“Over the years, the government has been failing the oil communities. They collect tax and always fail to provide amenities.  What the oil firms should do is to provide ‘jara’, but ‘jara’  can’t substitute the real thing”, he said stressing  that oil companies cannot translate into government of the Niger Delta such that you expect them to provide water, road, healthcare and wondered what should be the responsibilities of the government.
Ekoriko also blamed the interventionist agencies as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for lack of clear focus on what to provide.
“While NDDC goes into skills acquisition agriculture, primary healthcare what should go to LGAs and state government, it becomes Jack-of-all-trade and master of none”, he explained.
He said what the region needs is infrastructure as rail line connecting Niger Delta, good road network to make the economy of the region to take off and challenged the Niger Delta Ministry and other relevant agencies to be focused on their statutory responsibilities.
The PIB which should serve the interest of well-meaning Nigerians and stakeholders in the oil sector is one that would fairly address their peculiar needs and fears since it is by so doing that all stakeholders would work as partners in progress.
This spirit will bring to an end the so much acrimony where communities see the oil firms as those short changing them.
The Federal Government which defined and enjoys 60 per cent equity in the joint venture, should be alive to its expected responsibilities to the host communities.
Nigeria desires a PIB that would take definite stand on the issues of gas flaring , oil spill clean-up, local or Nigerian content particularly on expatriate quota, contract awards and also bring an end to the enigma of casualisation in the  oil industry.
Those who are so worried about the ubiqiutous influence of the oil multinationals should also know that as stakeholders, the multinational oil companies would not fold their arms on an issue that affects their business interest in Nigeria.
But what one expects is that members of the National Assembly, particularly those from the Niger Delta region should stand up in the interest of Nigeria and not allow themselves to be bought over by other forces protecting their own interest since they are voted to serve their people.
If a thorough job aimed at providing an effective PIB, fair to stakeholders, is done the fear is that there might be a PIB that would be watered down such that it would lose its essence.
The initiator of PIB, Yar’Adua, was a Niger Delta friendly President, same way Goodluck Jonathan was a Northern friendly President and did more for the north.  Buhari should declare his position on PIB.

 

Chris Oluoh

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Prosecute Culprits In N14bn Hidden PHCN Fund, Stakeholders Call

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Stakeholders have called for the prosecution of culprits fingered in the N14 billion hidden fund of defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in banks.
Human rights activist and president, One Nigeria Empowerment Initiative Inc (ONEII), Comrade Onwumere, while speaking with newsmen,  urged Federal Government to prosecute the people responsible for keeping such amount in banks at the detriment of improving the sector.
Onwumere noted that proper investment of such money could go a long way to bring the expected turnaround in the industry.
He described the act as criminal against the improvement of the energy sector in the country.
According to him, proper and regular supply of electricity would help reduce crime rates because many who were pushed into criminal activities following their inability to find useful means to earn decent living would channel their strengths into good lucrative jobs or businesses.
Similarly, Comrade Najeem Abubakar described the people who hide such money as anti-progress.
“Hiding any money meant for development of public facilities is wrong, as such they should be dealt with because they are enemies of the state.
“Nigeria is never a lawless country. The officers that hid such billions of Naira in the bank are criminals, they should be prosecuted and brought to book because it is and infringement on the people’s right by stealing their tax money, money which ought to be used for the general public.
“Availability of electricity at regular bases will help to create more jobs for the people. All those who are forced to take part in crimes or go into okada riding because of idleness can take into barbing saloon, tailoring or other means of making money when there will be improved electricity,” he stated.
In the same vein, he advised government to utilise the money to  improve electricity supply to the country and provide more prepaid meters for consumers.
He also called on EFCC to investigate the corrupt act in order to fish out those behind the act to serve as a deterrent.

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US Plans To Reduce Gasoline Prices

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The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices
Selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly
·If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil
·The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices in America that have hit a seven-year high this year.
However, selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly, traders and analysts say.
A sale from the SPR could be one of “tools in the arsenal”—as U.S. President Joe Biden said this weekend – which the Administration could use to relieve the burden on households who have been paying in recent months the highest prices at the pump since 2014.
Yet, the U.S. may be able to release up to a tenth of the current stockpile in the SPR, traders have told Bloomberg. That wouldn’t be enough to bring down gasoline prices as much as the Administration possibly hopes, they warn.
Moreover, most of a potential sale could consist of sour crude grades, which currently are not the favorite of refiners because they need more natural gas—whose prices are much higher now—to process those sour grades into fuels.
SPR Release On The Table After OPEC+ Snub
“The SPR is certainly on the table as an option. The president will have more to say about that,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Friday when asked what America can do now to reduce gasoline prices.
President Biden is considering a release from the SPR as a possible move to reduce gasoline prices in the United States, after OPEC+ ignored on Thursday calls for putting extra barrels on the market, Secretary Granholm told Bloomberg last Friday.
The President could announce measures to address high gasoline prices as soon as this week, Granholm told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.
“Hopefully there will be an announcement or so this week,” Granholm told MSNBC, referring to the President’s possible moves.
“He’s certainly looking at what options he has in the limited range of tools a president might have to address the cost of gasoline at the pump, because it is a global market,” the energy secretary added.
Gasoline Prices Highest Since September 2014
Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline prices continued to climb despite the end of driving season two months ago.
In the week to November 8, “The price at the pump continued its slow climb, rising two cents on the week, with the national average for a gallon of gas hitting $3.42,” AAA said on Monday. That’s the highest since September 2014.
“The latest decision by OPEC and its oil-producing allies to maintain their planned gradual increase in output will not help lessen supply constraints, so any relief will most likely have to come from the demand side,” according to AAA.
Shorter days with the end of the daylight saving time could decrease demand for gasoline in coming weeks, AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said.
SPR Sale Will Likely Be Up To Three Days Of U.S. Petroleum Consumption
If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil, after accounting for mandatory sales pre-approved by Congress and the minimum volumes needed at the storage sites, a source at one of the world’s top oil trading houses told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.
As of November 5, the SPR held 609.4 million barrels of crude oil, of which 252.5 million sweet crude and 356.9 million sour crude.
A release of up to 60 million barrels in theory would cover around three days worth of total U.S. petroleum consumption, which was 20.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the pre-pandemic 2019, per EIA data.
According to analysts, an SPR sale wouldn’t do much to reduce prices at the pump and relieve the burden on households amid inflationary pressure for all other goods.
“Other Tools In The Arsenal”
President Biden hinted during the weekend of “other tools in the arsenal” to tame rallying gasoline prices.
“There are other tools in the arsenal that we have to deal — and I’m dealing with other countries; at an appropriate time, I will talk about it — that we can get more energy in the — in the pipeline, figuratively and literally speaking,” President Biden said, referring to the oil market after OPEC+ snubbed the U.S. Administration’s call for extra supply.
On Monday, eleven Democratic Senators wrote a letter to President Biden “to express our support for your efforts to help families and businesses across the nation who are struggling to cope with soaring gasoline prices.”
“Continued U.S. exports and overseas supply collusion could be devastating to many in our states, contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses,” the Senators, including Elizabeth Warren, said.
“In light of these pressing concerns, we ask that you consider all tools available at your disposal to lower U.S. gasoline prices. This includes a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a ban on crude oil exports. We hope you will consider these tools and others to make gasoline more affordable for all Americans,” the Senators wrote.
Faced with the highest gasoline prices in seven years and one of the worst fears of every American president—high prices at the pump, the U.S. Administration with the long-term clean energy agenda is now scrambling to provide immediate relief to people’s gasoline and energy bills.

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FG Increases Prices Of Electricity Meters

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The Federal Government has raised the cost of both single-phase and three-phase electricity meters.
In a circular dated November 11, 2021, issued by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, price of a single-phase meter has been increased from the current cost of N44,896.17 to a revised price of N58,661.69.
It also increased the price of a three-phase meter from the current cost of N82,855.19 to a revised rate of N109,684.36.
The memo with reference number NERC/REG/MAP/GEN/751/2, entitled ‘Review of the unit price of end-use meters under the Meter Asset Provider and National Mass Metering Regulations’; managing directors, all electricity distribution companies and all meter asset providers are to effect the increment from November 15, 2021.

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