Participants at a two-day stakeholders’ forum on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in Lagos are looking forward to a fresh and balanced law with stronger institutional framework that would grant independence to regulatory agencies in the country’s petroleum industry.
Former Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Lee Maeba, welcomed the pivotal role by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to take ownership of the proposed law by organizing the forum, saying this would help stakeholders, particularly industry experts make submissions that would help address the inadequacies noticed in the draft PIB and enrich its final contents.
“The role of NEITI in taking ownership of the PIB through the forum is commendable”, Mr. Maeba said. “However, what the average Nigerian is looking forward to is for a PIB that will guarantee the independence of the regulatory agencies by creating a legislation that will insulate the oil and gas sector from undue political interference; allow fair competition; promotes efficiency and enhanced fiscal regime that will ensure improved revenue intakes by government as well as promote positive returns on investments.”
The former lawmaker, who identified some gaps in the draft PIB currently before the National Assembly for deliberation and approval, said he was seriously concerned that the provisions in the proposed PIB have not adequately addressed these issues.
“Personally, I do not see the rational for making a law that puts the Minister responsible for nomination, supervision and control of virtually all the heads of department as well as institutions to be created by the PIB as presently packaged. This is a major gap that must be corrected. It is obvious that this will not promote the key objective of the PIB, which is to promote transparency and accountability in the management of our natural resources,” he said.
Mr. Maeba pointed out that it would be for the greater good and interest of the nation for departments and agencies to be created under the PIB to be autonomous and independent, while being supported by clearly defined policy and regulatory regimes.
He however expressed optimism that NEITI would continue to work with the National Assembly, the Civil Society and other industry experts to make informed inputs to the discussions that would guide the lawmakers in producing a balanced and strong petroleum industry law.
Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mutiu Sunmonu, who spoke on behalf of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the forum, noted that investors in the country’s oil and gas sector look forward to a PIB that is not only sensitive to returns on investment, but one with clear and consistent policies in the areas of fiscal, physical and governance regimes as well as one that recognizes investors as key partners in the development of the sector.
Mr. Sunmonu reminded the authors of the draft Bill that the era where Nigeria was the major oil producing country in the region was over, pointing out that with oil now being found even in neighbouring countries, the average investor was looking out for where it would derive the best return on investment.
The SPDC boss called for a PIB that would attract Foreign Direct Investment (FID), promotes business diversification in the sector to create jobs and restores the country’s oil and gas industry to a peaceful environment where businesses can thrive in a secure environment with minimal cost of production.