NIGERIA’S oil and gas sector has been ushered into a new era as the Senate, on Thursday, passed the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The passage is expected to provide the fiscal framework that promotes business and investments into the Nigerian most important resource -the oil /gas- sector.
The Senate, in the passed bill, approved three per cent share for Host Community Trust Fund as against five per cent recommended by the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Petroleum Upstream (Upstream and Downstream and Gas, in a report presented last week).
The percentage of the host community became contentious at the plenary on Thursday as the Senate reduced it from five to three after a heated argument.
The Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullah thereafter moved a motion for the bill to be read the third time and Senate considered it comprehensive enough to be passed, with the approval of three per cent for the Host Community Trust Fund.
This was seconded by Senate Minority Leader Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe after a clause-by-clause approval by the upper legislative chamber.
The current version of the PIB is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Provide Legal, Governance, Regulatory and Fiscal Framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, the Development of Host Community and for Related Matters.’
The various provisions in the proposed law, among others, seek to scrap the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA), with a view to replacing them with a new agency to be known as the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, which would be saddled with the responsibility of carrying out technical and commercial regulation of the midstream and upstream petroleum operations in the industry.
The bill also proposes the establishment of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, which would be in charge of the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations.
It seeks the commercialisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to be known as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act by the minister of petroleum.
Notably, the passage of the bill came after almost two decades of dilly-dally at the National Assembly. Industry players believe the jinx surrounding the PIB has finally been broken.
THE ICIR findings show that both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the all-important bill in separate sittings on Thursday.
The bill has five parts, eight schedules and 319 clauses.
Industry analysts argue that President Buhari’s assent to the bill can save Nigeria over $15 billion(N2.9 trillion) oil sector losses annually.
THE ICIR reports that Nigeria has lost huge investments in billions to other African countries for not having a fiscal framework that regulates Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
The President of the Major Oil marketers Association of Nigeria Adetunji Oyebanji told THE ICIR that the passage was a good development.
He, however, noted that he would give a proper verdict on the passage of the bill after understudying what was passed in order to ensure that it was a bill that worked for the people and was capable of yielding the right dividends for Nigerians.
An oil sector governance expert Henry Ademola Adigun, speaking on the development, said the next action was for the president to sign the PIB into an Act.
“Until the president signs it, we cannot talk about the next step. We cannot say we are not there yet till the president signs it. We cannot jump the gun till it is passed.”
He stressed that the National Assembly should reflect the same political will shown in the passage of this all-important bill to the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.