The Senate’s decision to award just three per cent to oil-bearing communities may not be the only controversial clause in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as a closer check has shown that the Upper Chamber also provided that petroleum products can only be imported by refinery owners in Nigeria.
While the bill expectedly removed price controls on petroleum products in Section 205, the Senate version of the bill has a clause that constrains market competition by restricting the importation of products to only players with local refining capacity.
This clearly counters the provision of 205(1), “Subject to the provisions of this Section, from the effective date, wholesale and retail prices of petroleum products shall be based on unrestricted free-market pricing conditions.”
The inserted Section 317 (8) in the Senate bill states, “(1) The Authority shall apply the Backward Integration Policy in the downstream petroleum sector to encourage investment in local refining.
“(2) To support this, licence to import any product shortfalls shall be assigned only to companies with active local refining licences.
“(3) Import volume to be allocated between participants based on their respective production in the preceding quarter.
“(4) Such import to be done under NNPC Limited Direct Sale/Direct Purchase (DSDP) scheme.
“(5) To safeguard the health of Nigerians, imported petroleum products shall conform to the Afri-5 specification (50ppm sulphur) as per the ECOWAS declaration of February, 2020 on adoption of the Afri-Fuels Roadmap”.
The decision by the Senate to impose restrictions on what is supposed to be a deregulated downstream sector of the petroleum industry raised eyebrows among experts who called for the provisions to be expunged.
When contacted, yesterday, energy expert and former President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (Nigerian Council), Engr. Joseph Nwakwue, expressed concern that the provisions will create a duopoly in a price deregulated environment thereby destroying the Nigerian downstream industry as we know it today.
According to him, “It restricts importation of all petroleum products, including PMS, diesel, aviation fuel, lubricants, and base oil – products which are already deregulated, to only players with local refining capacity.
“In the near term, only the NNPC and Dangote will have domestic refining capacity for PMS for instance, so, they will be the only importers. This takes the industry back and could not have been the intention of the bill.
“Moving from a state-owned monopoly in a price regulated market to a duopoly in a price deregulated market is not what Nigeria needs now as it takes the industry backward and exposes Nigerians to exploitation and further hardship. This, in my humble view, is not reformatory”.
He pointed out that “rather than seek to protect refiners, we should rather seek to protect the consumers by liberalizing and expanding petroleum product supply sources. That is the only way prices will be ‘market-determined’ and consumers made to pay fair value for the products they buy.
“The viability of local refining is not determined or enhanced by locking out competition, it is rather achieved through price deregulation which has been done in Section 205.
“This clause gives statutory unfair advantage to private players rather than through market competition.
“Indeed, the law and the authorities have an obligation to protect the market (other players including Nigerian entrepreneurs) and the consumers rather than to encourage monopoly/duopoly by locking out competition.
“This clause does not create a level playing field for all players in the sector, and can, indeed, destroy existing Nigerian businesses that engage in importation of other petroleum products like diesel, LPG, Aviation fuel etc. with attendant loss of jobs and more economic misery for Nigeria and Nigerians”, he added.
Nwankwue pointed out that governments all over the world “do not create and encourage monopolies or duopolies and that is why anti-trust laws are enacted and enforced to protect industries and consumers.
“Nigeria should not be doing the reverse. A case can always be made about protectionist policies for nascent or pioneer industries, but this is not the case with a long-established, once-thriving Nigerian downstream.
“This clause needs to be expunged from the PIB. The downstream regulator – Authority should be left to develop regulations that are fair, inclusive and transparent for petroleum product importation that ensures open and diverse market supply and hence competition, only then would the objectives of the bill be achieved.
“It is worth repeating that as price control is being removed, supply must be competitive, inclusive, transparent and seen to encourage efficiency. Then, and only then will Nigerians and Nigerian win”, he added.
Also in his remarks, energy expert, Ademola Adigun, said the provision was clearly put in place to favour certain players in the industry.
According to him, “It is a clause designed to give an advantage to Dangote. It’s not a fair clause based on current realities and is capable of creating an oligopoly in the market.
“It’s very unfair and seems inserted to please a certain group”, he added.
Also, a document detailing industry players’ position on the PIB stated this about the section, “A licensing regime for importation be included in Section 174 and the conditions for licensing be open and transparent, ensuring free-market competition and a level playing field for all parties. This will enhance market efficiencies”.
The Senate and the House of Representatives had, last Thursday, set-up conference committees to harmonise both versions of the PIB.
The committees are expected to meet, today.
The harmonized version is also expected to be passed by both chambers before the National Assembly proceeds on its annual break on Thursday.
UBEC, RSUBEB Begin Digital School Construction In Rivers
As part of government’s efforts to realize its dream of making the nation’s educational system a global digital community, the Federal Government, through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board (RSUBEB), have commenced the construction of a modern digital Smart Basic School in the state, with 14-month completion schedule.
The school, which is a pilot modern basic education facility, is designed by UBEC in collaboration with RSUBEB to entrench digitization of ICT-driven basic education system across the 36 states and FCT, Abuja.
Speaking with journalists at a brief handover ceremony of the proposed smart school site to UBEC by RSUBEB at the Community Primary School, Uzuoba in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state, over the weekend, the National Consultant, UBEC Smart School Project, Prof Masud Abdulkarim, said the school was designed to incorporate digital technology into the basic education system in the country, which he said, has been in practice in advanced countries for years.
Abdulkarim stated that the desire of the Federal Government was to ensure that Nigerian children were not left out in the digital space, saying that the school would have great impact on the youth and give them equal opportunity to compete globally in the technology world.
He described the school as the first of its kind in the history of the country, adding that the school would have four categories that would take care of the nursery, handicapped, primary as well as junior secondary students with a maximum of 35 persons per class of two streams.
Abdulkarim noted that with the strategy, no fewer than 700 children would be enrolled into the school.
According to him, the school would afford the children the opportunity to become robotic engineers, artificial intelligence (AI) engineers and ICT engineers, and added that as future leaders, they need to be equipped and encouraged.
The UBEC consultant commended the state government for the provision of the school for the construction of the smart school, and described the site as the most suitable across the 23 states so far visited.
“Let me thank the RSUBEB for the site, in fact, it is the best and most suitable site among the 23 states we have so far visited. Because it has an existing school structure with a fence to protect our equipment and infrastructure. Moreso, the project will impact on the schools around because they will benefit from our Wi-Fi”, he stated.
Abdulkarim called on the host community to jealously guard the project as a growing child, till its maturity to adult stage, saying that they were important stakeholders in the project.
Also speaking on behalf of the Chairman of Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board (RSUBEB), Ven Fyneface Akah, a commissioner in the board, Chief Faith Amaso, called for synergy between the contractors and host community in other to remove every impediment that may affect the delivery of the project on schedule.
Akah opined that the project, when completed, would improve basic education in the state, and expressed happiness over the commencement of the project in the state.
Rivers United Beat Young Africans Of Tanzania 1-0
Rivers United Football Club of Port Harcourt, yesterday, at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Football Stadium, trounced the Young Africans Football Club of Tanzania 1-0 in a return leg match of the ongoing Confederation of African Football Club Champions League competition.
The stadium, which was filled to capacity, witnessed a trilling encounter, which saw the crowd craving for more.
It would be recalled that Rivers United had defeated the Young Africans of Tanzania 1-0 in the first leg of the championship at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, last Sunday.
Reacting to the feat, the Chairman of Degema Local Government Area, Hon. Michael John Williams, expressed joy over the victory of the Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt against the Young Africans of Tanzania in the ongoing Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
The match, which ended 1-0 in favour of the Rivers United FC, took place at the Adokiye Amiesimaka International Stadium in Rivers State, yesterday.
Top government officials in the state, including Rivers Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo; LG council chairmen and commissioners, amongst other sports enthusiasts, graced the event.
Speaking on the outcome of the match, Williams stated that the Rivers United players exhibited the Rivers team spirit, which culminated in their victory.
The political heavyweight in Degema LGA, noted that nothing would be impossible for Rivers people to achieve when they work together in unison and firm determination.
He added that the massive support and huge investment in the sports sector by the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, also motivated the Rivers team, who worked hard to secure a back-to-back victory.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
NJC Okays Six Chief Judges, 30 Others For Appointment
The National Judicial Council (NJC), has recommended the appointment of chief judges and 30 others as judicial officers to beef up judicial functions in some states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At its 95th meeting held on September 15 and 16, 2021, the council considered the list of candidates presented by its Interview Committee, and recommended the 36 successful candidates to their respective state governors for appointment as heads of courts and other judicial officers in Nigeria.
They are Hon. Justice Richard O. Olorunfemi as chief judge, Kogi State, Hon. Justice Joe Itsebaga Acha for Edo, Hon. Justice Akintoroye Williams Akin for Ondo, Hon. Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf for FCT, Hon. Justice Ekaette Francesca Fabian-Obot for Akwa Ibom, and Hon. Justice J. O. Adeyeye for Ekiti State.
Others are Hon. Kadi Baba Gana Mahdi as Grand Kadi, Yobe; Umaru Ahmad Liman as Grand Kadi, Bauchi; Hon. Justice Osagede Osado Emmanuel as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Nasarawa; Hon. Justice Mashud Akintunde Akinfemi Abass as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Oyo State; and Siyaka Momoh Jimoh Usman as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Kogi State.
Three judges are recommended for High Court of Gombe, and they are Zainab Abdulkadir Rasheed, Abdussalam Muhammad, and Daurabo Suleiman Sikka.
Akwa Ibom has Effiong Asukwo Effiong; Bauchi has Nana Fatima Jibril; while Kaduna High Court has Abdulkarim Mahmud.
The three candidates recommended for Katsina State are Kabir Shuaibu, Ibrahim Ishaku Mashi, and Ibrahim Abubakar Mande, while Prof Alero Akeredolu was recommended for Ondo State.
Four successful candidates for Oyo State are Olusola Adebisi Adetujoye, Folabimpe Beatrice Segun Olakojo, Prof Taiwo Elijah Adewale, and Kareem Adeyimika Adedokun.
Kogi State has three candidates, and they are Abubakar Sule Ibrahim, Abdullah Sulyman, as well as Aminu Ali Eri.
Two Kadis for Sharia Court of Appeal are Adamu Kuna Jibril and Ahmed Baba Bala, while the four for Bauchi are Musa Sani Abubakar, Mahdi Manga, Khamis Al-Hamidallah Muhammad and Sani Musa with Ondo State having one in the person of Orimisan James Okorisa and Oyo Customary Court of Appeal having Ajadi Olubukola Omolayo.
A statement by the NJC Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, and released in Abuja, yesterday, said that all the recommended candidates are expected to be sworn-in after approval by President Muhammadu Buhari, and their respective state governors, and confirmation by the respective state Houses of Assembly.
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