The passage of the first lap of the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), last Thursday by the Senate has been described as an exciting development by some stakeholders who spoke on the issue, yesterday, in Port Harcourt.
Youth of oil-rich Niger Delta region said the passage has proved that the present Senate, unlike the previous ones, consider the interest of Nigerians.
Speaking under the umbrella of the Niger Delta Youth Coalition (NDYC), the youth said, “though the action of the Upper Chambers has been long awaited”, but added that this will speed up chains of positive actions by players in the petroleum industry.
National Co-ordinator, NDYC, Prince Emmanuel Ogba, commended the Dr Bukola Saraki-led Senate for its action, and appealed to the House of Representatives to compliment the Senate by also passing the bill, just as he urged the National Assembly to speed up the passage of the next aspects of the bill.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE), Patrick Chiekwe, said the passage of the bill would give legal impetus to issues of environmental degradation caused by oil spill.
Chiekwe lauded the Senate, and noted that the delay in the passage of the bill had negatively affected the socio-economic life of the people in oil producing communities.
The executive director said oil producing communities which had suffered so much as a result of pollution and marginalization in the petroleum sector were eager to see the passage of other aspects of the bill, particularly the lap that would address the issue of 10 per cent equity share for oil producing communities.
Speaking in similar manner, a public affairs analyst, Mr. Bon Obilor said, “at least, we can see some positive changes. We can see progress and signs that those in the National Assembly are feeling the pulse of the people”.
He said the delay in the passage of the bill has held back so much investments, which investors had moved to other African nations.
“Petroleum is the life-wire of the nation; so, one had expected that such a legal framework would have been treated as a mark of urgency and priority. But unfortunately, it had to be delayed for over a decade because of misguided interest”, he said, and commended the Bukola-led Senate for making a change.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was finally passed last Thursday, during plenary by the Senate, 12 years after its introduction as the ‘Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The passage followed the final consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate’s Joint Committee on Petroleum, Upstream, Downstream and Gas
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) in the Eight Senate, to establish a legal framework for the creation of a more efficient, transparent, competitive and internationalized petroleum industry.
The PIGB also seeks to create a conducive business environment for the operations of the petroleum industry and overhaul the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The passage of the bill remains a landmark achievement of the Eight Senate as the lawmakers broke the jinx that many believed had beset the National Assembly’s efforts to reform the oil industry.
The bill has been a very controversial one with allegations of the resolve of some stakeholders who felt the bill, when signed into law, will negatively affect their corrupt businesses, fighting headlong against its passage.
The Seventh Senate under the leadership of Senator David Mark, almost recorded successful passage of the bill, but controversies over multiple or different versions of the bill marred the progress and scuttled ascent of former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to the bill.
According to industry analysts, Nigeria has, over the past eight years, lost over $120 billion in withheld or diverted investment due to the inability to pass the PIGB.
President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, congratulated the senators for resisting all forces that worked against the bill for years, and finally passed it.
His words: “Senate’s action today culminates some 12 long years of legislative attempts to reform the petroleum sector. Now, we are a step closer to bringing better governance and transparency to Nigeria’s most important economic sector.
“Now, there is no question that the political will exists to reform the petroleum industry. The passage of the PIGB will go a long way to restore investor confidence in a sector that has great potential to be more efficient and competitive on the world petroleum market,” he said.
Saraki noted that when the PIGB is finally enforced, Nigerians would enjoy more impact of the oil resources.
“The importance and impact of this bill can never be overstated. Nigerians are ever closer to reaping the full benefits of our nation’s natural wealth.
“This means there will be greater revenue for government to invest in economic diversification, job creation, hospitals, schools and roads,” he said
It would be recalled that the House of Representatives recently completed the second reading of the PIGB, with its leadership indicating their intent to move the bill through the legislative process as efficiently as they can.
Chris Oluoh & Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja