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Use your votes to bargain speedy passage of PIB, NEITI tells Nigerians

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ith Nigeria believed to be losing billions of dollars as a result of the continued delay in the passage into law of the Petroleum industry Bill, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, on Thursday urged Nigerians to use their voting power to pressurize political leaders to speed up the process.

The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, said Nigerians should deploy their voting power as bargaining chip to get the petroleum industry bill passed into law speedily.

He said in the run up to the 2019 elections, politicians, particularly those in the National Assembly, should be given the immediate passage of the PIGB as condition for getting their votes.

Mr. Adio spoke through a senior Technical Adviser in the agency, Dauda Garuba, who represented him at the maiden edition of the Round-table on the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill organized by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) in collaboration with the Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industries (MITEI) in Abuja.

The NEITI Executive Secretary said in view of the strategic importance of the petroleum industry as a major contributor to the survival of the country’s economy, the PIGB meant to regulate the effective and efficient operations by all players should be given priority attention.

“The civil society organizations and the media have, for several years, highlighted through their advocacy and reportage, the high cost of not getting the PIB passed into law. Nigerians should take their destiny in their hands and give the politicians, particularly the lawmakers in the National Assembly, the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill as condition for their votes in the forthcoming elections,” Mr. Adio said.

In his presentation on “Critical Reform Issues Proposed in the PIGB”, a professor of Petroleum Economics & Policy Research, Centre for Petroleum Energy Economics & Law, University of Port Harcourt, Wumi Iledare, said the delay in the passage of the PIB has become devastating to the country’s economy.

Mr. Iledare said the absence of a good governance law regulating the petroleum industry operations has resulted in declining revenues, oil & gas production and national reserves, deferment of core investments of diversion of new investments to other destinations due to uncertainty in legal, regulatory, fiscal and commercial frameworks, declining competitiveness and infrastructure deficits.

Other issues include loss of jobs as a result of gaps in governance structures, systems and people due to inadequate delivery capacity, lack of transparency, increased theft and sabotage as well as absence of policies to promote sustainability, open market, indigenous participation and equitable revenue distribution.

He said the passage of the PIGB into law would establish a clear, separate, transparent and accountable regime between policy and supervision, regulation and commercial operations as against the current confusion that characterize operations in the industry.

Team Leader, NNRC, Henry Adigun, said the continued delay in the passage of the PIB accounted for the negative ‘no sufficient progress’ reported in two of the 12 precepts covered under the 2017 recent Benchmarking Exercise Report, including legal and regulatory frameworks in the petroleum industry.

Mr. Adigun expressed confidence the collaboration between NNRC and MITEI would create the awareness necessary to persuade those in positions of authority to act positively towards the speedy passage of the Bill.

In her introductory remarks, the Programme Coordinator, NNRC, Tengi George-Ikoli, said the roundtable on the theme “Understanding the Petroleum Sector Reforms,” was expected to improve participants’ understanding of reforms proposed by the PIGB to help advocate for its speedy assent.

“The passage of the PIGB by the Senate in May, 2017 and the House of Representatives in January, 2018 shows the willingness of the Legislature to lead, by embracing much needed reforms in Nigeria’s petroleum sector,” Ms. George-Ikoli said.

Senior Technical Assistant, Upstream & Gas, Adegbite Adeniji, who represented the minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, said the Ministry remains optimistic the PIGB may finally be harmonized and passed by the two Chambers of the National Assembly before June.

He allayed fears about the post-PIGB era in the industry, particularly concerning labour issues, saying what the country needed most was a very good and fully independent regulator insulated from all forms of interference in its operations.

“Having a very good regulator is key. But, not having competent people to manage it is equally dangerous. When we say competent people, it does not mean plans to lay off workers,” he assured.

The Consultant to the National Assembly Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Francis Adigwe, said the lawmakers have reached a point where the PIGB may be passed on or before June.

“There is little or nothing left to harmonize. It is not going to be a complex job, except that the budget is taking time now. It is almost certain that by the end of this month work on the harmonization would be completed by the two Chambers. This means perhaps by next month the bill will be ready. I think we are getting to the dying minutes of this whole process,” he said.

The process to overhaul the petroleum industry law began in 2000 under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. But, passage of the draft PIB has delayed for over 17 years.

To ensure easy passage, the original draft PIB was in 2016 split into four parts, namely Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and Petroleum Host Community Bill.

Comparatively, over the last five years, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana all passed their respective petroleum sector bills in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2016 respectively.

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