The much anticipated Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is on the path to becoming law as it is currently at the committee stage at the National Assembly – one of the final stages of a bill before it is considered and passed.
The Senate joint committee on Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas concluded its public hearing on the bill on Tuesday, after which its counterpart at the House of Representatives organised a separate hearing for the bill.
The bill was read for the first time at the Senate on September 30 and for the second time three weeks later on October 20 last year.
The bill, among other things, seeks to scrap the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
It also proposes the creation of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited – after all the asset and liabilities of the NNPC have been identified by the ministers of petroleum resources and finance.
It also seeks to establish the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Parts of the bill read, “The Minister (of Petroleum) and the Minister of Finance shall determine the assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC to be transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiaries and upon the identification, the minister shall cause such assets, interests and liabilities to be transferred to NNPC Limited,” the newspaper quoted parts of the bill.
“Assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC not transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiary under subsection 1 of this section shall remain the assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC until they become extinguished or transferred to the government.
“NNPC shall cease to exist after its remaining assets, interests and liabilities other than its interests, assets, and liabilities transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiaries under subsection 1 of this section shall have been extinguished or transferred to the government.”
The legislation also proposes a 2.5 per cent equity shareholding for host communities.
The bill had suffered setbacks in past sessions of the National Assembly for several reasons.
It was passed by the Eighth Assembly in 2018, but President Buhari rejected it on grounds of lack of fiscal content in the bill. He also complained that the bill as passed would limit the powers of the petroleum minister.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported some details of the bill.
Here are some observations and recommendations from the just concluded public hearing.
10% equity share
The demand for 10 per cent equity shareholding was almost like an anthem sung by every person or group that represented the oil-producing communities at the hearing.
The residents of these communities complained that previous assemblies had pegged the equity shareholding for host communities at 10 per cent Operating Expenditure but the percentage declined every time the bill was considered again. They, therefore, urged lawmakers to settle for 10 per cent.
While they made this demand, the Minister of Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said he believes the proposed 2.5 per cent is fair.
The communities also proposed that the host communities should be the beneficiaries of gas flare penalty funds. This, they said, is because these communities are the direct victims of gas flaring.
The groups also asked that all appointments to the proposed National Petroleum Company should have representatives of the six geopolitical zones and that the Company be provided with benchmarks and targets to attain.
Women were not left out as they took turns to make their recommendations to the panel – most of which bordered on lack of gender representation in the bill.
Women in Energy Oil and Gas asked that all the pronouns depicting masculinity like ‘he’, him’ and ‘his’ be changed to ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’.
They also asked that the name of the bill be changed from PIB to Energy Industrial Bill because “the world is transiting from gas to energy.”
The group also asked that more women be appointed into boards of major oil companies like the NNPC.
While it was a calm and peaceful hearing at the Senate, it was not the case at the House of Representatives after representatives of some host communities turned the committee room into a wrestling ring, over some disagreement.
The tussle began when the chairman of the committee, Mohammed Monguno, invited the host communities of Nigeria producing oil and gas (HOSTCOM) to make their presentation at the public hearing. The committee had earlier announced that only a harmonised presentation from the host communities would be aired.
And when leaders of the host communities could not agree and choose a representative from among themselves, the fight broke out disrupting the session.
Security agents, including police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officers, had to break up the fight, prompting the panel to allow each host community to speak.
For the leaders…
Even though the leaders of the National Assembly had promised a speedy passage of the PIB, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said it will be thoroughly scrutinised.
The National Assembly’s determination to pass the bill, he said, is driven by the need to “overhaul a system that has refused to operate optimally in line with global standards, resulting in loss of continental competitiveness, transparency, accountability, good governance and economic loss for the petroleum industry and the country.”
He also promised that the bill will be passed by April or May.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, assured that the lawmakers will protect Nigeria’s interest and ensure quick passage.
Although the PIB has been in the National Assembly for decades without much success, the ninth Assembly would ensure that it passes it into law, he said.