Breaking the jinx of PIB passage in National Assembly
Successive Assemblies since the return of democratic rule in 1999 have not been able to pass the bill initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 due to various parochial and unpatriotic considerations.
The bill, among others, seeks to create a conducive business environment for petroleum operations, enhance exploitation and exploration of petroleum resources in Nigeria for the benefit of Nigerians and optimize domestic gas supplies, especially for power generation and industrial development.
It also seeks to encourage investment in Nigerian petroleum industry, optimize government revenue, establish profit-driven oil entities, deregulate and liberalize the downstream petroleum sector and create efficient and effective regulatory agencies.
Besides, it seeks to promote the development of Nigerian content in the oil industry, protect health and the environment in petroleum operation and lead to the establishment of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Investment Pact Scheme that will ensure components of industry equipment can be manufactured locally.
The Chairman, National PIB Committee of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Hyginus Chika Onuegbu was quoted as saying that the country lost a whopping $200 billion in investments due to the absence of desired reform in the oil and gas sector of the economy in the past 17 years.
He said out of the amount, the country loses $15 billion yearly in investments withheld or diverted by investors to other countries because of uncertainty as investors do not know which rules guide their investments.
The Speaker Yakubu Dogara-led 8th Assembly in the lower legislative chamber, in conjunction with the Senate, appears to be keen on breaking the jinx that had bedeviled the proposed legislation when it devised an ingenious means to get the job done by splitting the PIB into four logically smaller bills.
Dogara who believed that the hurdles placed on the way of the bills are surmountable explained that the initiative was aimed at ensuring the individual bills can be expeditiously considered and passed one after the other.
With less than a year left in the lifespan of the Assembly, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, 2017 (PIGB) which is the first part of the larger PIB was among the 222 bills passed by the House within the last three years is now before President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Widely considered as priority legislation required to reposition the oil and gas sector which is the mainstay of the nation’s economy, an ad-hoc committee of the House led by its Chief whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa had already conducted public hearing on three other components of the PIB, namely the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill 2018; Petroleum Producing Host and Impacted Communities Bill, 2018; and Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, 2018.
Dogara, who lamented the setback recorded by the country over the years during the recent public hearing on the bills, noted that under the prevailing circumstances, the oil and gas industry can no longer meet the aspirations of critical stakeholders in the industry.
Expressing regret that the 6th and 7th National Assemblies could not conclude deliberations on the PIB, he assured that despite the setbacks experienced in the past, the 8th National Assembly, will ensure that the bill is passed because completion of the oil and gas industry reform is one of its cardinal legislative objectives.
Said he: “You are all aware that the oil and gas industry reform have been a critical issue before the House of Representatives since 2009 when the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was first transmitted to this House as an Executive Bill for legislative consideration.
“The major reason for the reform, which remains even more valid today, is that the petroleum industry in Nigeria is not operating at standards and levels of efficiency expected of a twenty-first century oil and gas industry.
Government recognizes that the industry can no longer meet its aspirations and those of key stakeholders.
“This, in my opinion, was as a result of insufficient consultations, weak ownership of the bill, absence of requisite political will as well as the extremely divergent and competing views of the government and other major stakeholders on the provisions of the bill.
“However, at the National Assembly, the most important set back was that the PIB was difficult to handle by the relevant committees because it was a massive and complex document that was to repeal and re-enact almost all our petroleum laws into a holistic legislation.
Because of its sheer size and complexity, the bill was difficult to consider by the legislative committees in both chambers.
“The implications of the delay in concluding the oil and gas industry reform which commenced since the year 2000 has been very colossal for our country running into several billions of dollars that would have accrued to Nigeria and our economy coupled with the loss of our erstwhile continental competitiveness.”
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas who acknowledged that the passage of the entire PIB would be the icing on the cake as far as the performance of the House is concerned, said that the House has every reason to celebrate its landmark achievement within the period under review.
Namdas who disclosed that the House passed over 1000 motions relating to various matters of national importance, believed that the introduction of 1,473 Bills to the House within the period under review speaks volume of the House commitment to its legislative agenda.
Stating that the House prioritized 222 bills for the country and ensured their passage within a defined time frame set by the House agenda, he remarked that 90 of the Bills were contained in the recently concluded Fourth Alteration of the Constitution Amendment Act in response to demands by Nigerians for constitutional reform.
Namdas adduced the incremental approach adopted by the House as reason for the timely passage of the Constitution Alteration Bill, which suffered setback in the 5th, 6th and 7th Assemblies.
He explained that the measure was adopted to avert a situation where the baby is thrown away with the bath water, a coinage that derived from the 2006 experience where all items in the constitutional amendment exercise went down the drain on account of the third term clause.
Namdas further disclosed that 519 of the total bills were awaiting first reading, adding that the committees of the House were reconsidering 192 additional bills just as the House withdrew 23 of the bills and killed 22 other irrelevant ones during the period under review.
Describing the feat as unprecedented, he pointed at the contribution of the House towards exiting the country out of recession as well as the passage of the “Not too Young to Run Bill” as some of the laudable achievements of the House in the period under review.
Of the deluge of motions were the ones relating to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders, kidnapping and the murderous activities of cattle rustlers and armed robbers in the Northern part of the country.
The most recent one was sponsored by Mr. John Dyegh in which the House urged the National Security Council to rescind the decision calling on some of the 36 states of the federation to suspend their Anti-open grazing laws.
The House called on the executive arm to submit a supplementary budget to the National Assembly to develop colonies in states that have agreed to donate lands to cattle herders.
The House had faulted the position of the Security Council on the ground that it’s position contradicted section 4 (7) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which gives express powers to States Assemblies to make laws for the good governance of the states of the federation.
The legislature agenda, launched on the 4th of August 2015, among others, stressed the need for the House to respond to citizens demands for greater transparency and accountability in the way the legislative activities of government are conducted as well as the introduction of necessary legislative interventions to promote equality and inconclusive news.
It also hoped to entrench the rights of women, youths and vulnerable groups in the society, establish the necessary legislative interventions that respond to national economic challenges, address poverty and rebuild infrastructure.
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