Legal practitioners hopeful of Buhari’s assent to PIGB
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is optimistic about the assenting of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), by President Muhammadu Buhari, following recent deliberations on the bill and its submission to the Presidency.
The lawyers argued that Buhari would likely assent to the bill given the number of work that had gone into since the President refused to sign it into law.The lawyers, who spoke at the NBA Roundtable on Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Reforms, in Lagos, maintained that currently, the nation does not have an ideal oil industry, and does not have the structure traditional oil industries have around the world.
A founding Partner and current Managing Partner, Primera Africa Legal, Israel Aye, said: “For Nigeria, we do not have a petroleum industry; it is an extractive industry that we have.“This is because we are mainly exporting our crude oil for cash, and using same cash to import petroleum products. Our operations in the oil/gas space are so rudimentary that we cannot match with the level of sophistication that is obtainable globally in the oil-producing space.”
Aye noted that the current Petroleum Act governing the business had no framework; hence, the 11 years delay in conducting bid rounds for oil fields, which in other climes, are being done regularly in real time.He said the PIGB would address the challenges in this regard, especially the Petroleum Administration Bill, which tends to promote oil/gas production as business characterised by significant value additions.
They also noted that the passage of the PIGB, with particular reference to the Petroleum Administration Bill, will eradicate the issue of unfettered discretion exhibited by the Minister of Petroleum or his/her principal in the current dispensation; thus allowing for corporate governance ethos in the business.
Senior Partner, Gbenga Biobaku & Co, Gbenga Biobaku, in his presentation, said with the current structure, accountability and transparency are highly compromised, thus making oil and gas operations beneficial to a few privileged and powerful individuals.
This, he noted, had remained the bane of the hydrocarbon sector, with governments (current and past) and the commercial entities in the space contributing to the level of abuse and impunity seen for decades. Biobaku said: “If the bill is passed into law, ensure confidence in the sector, and help to create a petroleum industry of global repute.”
Special Adviser (Policy & Regulation) to the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Joe Nwakwue, said current fiscal provisions in the oil and gas space only created an upstream business with no midstream end and others.
“People just come into the country, take oil/gas and walk away. Our mid-stream end is not virile. Our legislation should be able to determine how the money from oil and gas assets can be spent. This will help us save because saving is key and must be backed by law.”
Also commenting, the Chairman, Energy Institute Nigeria, Osten Olorunshola, said the essence of the PIGB is to remove uncertainty, which the Nigerian people had created in the oil and gas sector.According to him, the uncertainty had resulted in investors holding on to their funds, which had stalled investments in the oil and gas sector over the years.