PIGB will curb corruption, says IPMAN, NEITI
Major stakeholders like the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) are of the view that the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) will curb corruption in the distribution of petroleum products. However, the Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Area Landlords’ Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN), has viewed it from a different perspective, stressing that what will make the difference is not a mere passage of the bill but implementation of its content, reports JOHN OFIKHENUA.
Owing to the Senate passage of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) that now awaits President Muhammadu Buhari assent, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, including Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and Solid Mineral Producing Area Landlords’ Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN), and Civil Society Organization expressed their observations about the new order.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly had last Thursday scrapped the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). In its place, the Senate established three entities: the Petroleum Regulatory Commission (PRC), National Petroleum Company (NPC), Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company (NPAMC). Following the bill, the PRC shall be the Industry Regulator and watchdog, responsible for licensing, monitoring, supervising of petroleum operations, enforcing the laws, regulations and standards across the value chain.
Should Mr. President pass the bill into law, the PRC will absorb the Department of Petroleum Resources, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and the Petroleum Equalization Fund.
Although there are two other parts of the Petroleum Industry Bills (PIB) that the Senate is yet to pass, the present PIGB is simply meant to restructure the administration of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Soon after the Senate broke the news of the passage, the IPMAN National Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Maigandi, told The Nation on phone that should the law see the light of the day, it will address the issue of corrupt practices in the petroleum industry. He has been very critical about the effect of corruption on the distribution of petroleum products, which he describes as a setback to this administration’s fight against corruption. He advised President Buhari to quickly sign it into law to improve the anti-corruption battle in the industry and attract investment in refineries and depots.
Maigandi said: “That bill is a good thing to Nigeria because it will reduce a lot of corruption in the industry. It will allow people to participate fully in the industry. So, it is a good thing. It will bring the marketers to start thinking about the establishment of refineries and private depots. I advise Mr. President to sign it in a hurry so that it will reduce the rate of corruption. And it will add value to the Nigerian economy. It will remove the bureaucracy that allows a few individuals to shortchange the country.”
Speaking for the Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Area Landlords’ Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN), Prof. David Esezobo, said that the implementation of the law is as important as its enactment. What would make the difference, said the don, is its ability to stop the priority which was given to oil multi-nationals to the detriment of local content in the industry. He tasked the government on encouraging local participation in the refining of petroleum.
His words: “Encouraging the local people that are having refineries here will boost the economy of the nation. But you find out that the people that are supposed to encourage these indigenous refineries, their outfits are being burnt and given all sorts of name. This is because there is always international conspiracy to the nation wealth to impoverish the local communities. I think that they should strengthen these people, otherwise it will just look like a paper.”
The Chief Economist of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Dr. Peter Ozon-Eson, who spoke with The Nation on phone on Sunday, recalled that the congress had always sought the abrogation of the omnibus National Petroleum Corporation. He could neither commend nor condemn the PIGB, according to him, the NLC was yet to read it.
He said: “I am yet to see the bill for me to make comment. I know there were issues we had raised. They had to do with omnibus regulator both for upstream and downstream. I don’t know whether that has been addressed so until I see it before we can comment on it.”
The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) issued a statement commending the lawmakers on its courage. Its Director of Communication, Dr. Oji Ogbonanya Oji said that the “decision of the Senate to consider the bill as priority resulting in its passage is not only legendary, but historic given the challenges the bill has passed through in its legislative journey for almost two decades.”
The Watchdog organization recalled that the passage of the bill is coming more than 17 years after the process commenced in April 2000. It stressed that “We also note that the objective of a petroleum sector Law remains to develop a dynamic governance framework that will re-position the Petroleum industry to fully embrace competition, openness, accountability, professionalism as well as better profit returns on investments. “
NEITI noted that in 2016, it was in realisation of the current stagnation of investment opportunities in the Petroleum Industry, the negative consequences to the economy as a result of the absence of the new law that made the agency to publish a researched Policy Brief titled “Urgency of a new Law for the Petroleum Sector”.
In that publication shared with members of the National Assembly, NEITI alerted the nation that Nigeria had so far lost over $200 billion as a result of absence of the Law. “These lost revenues were as a result of investments withheld or diverted by investors to other (more predictable) jurisdictions. The hedging by investors stems from the expectation that the old rules would no longer apply, but not knowing when the new ones would materialize”.
While NEITI looks forward to carefully studying the contents of the PIGB as passed by the Senate, it joins all stakeholders to commend Senate for what has been achieved so far in the passage of this important Bill. NEITI also commends the media, civil society organizations, industry, stakeholders and experts who have followed the bill in the National Assembly for their valued contributions to the process.
Also speaking with the Nation on phone, Emmanuel Ojugbena of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), extolled the Senate for passing the bill. His association, according to him, was yet to study the to the extent of making informed comments on it. “We are yet to take a look at it. We are happy that at least eventually the bill is passed but we have not really taken a lot at what has been done. For now, we may not be in a position to make a statement on it. But generally we are happy that the Senate was able to pass that bill. When we go through it we will know what to say about the bill.”
While working with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a stakeholder that had been advocating for the passage of the bill and improvement of governance issues in the industry, Dr. Garuba Dauda yesterday told The Nation that Since the bill has unbundled the NNPC, inter-governmental agencies: Bureau of Public Enterprises, Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Petroleum will now be interacting as stakeholders who can now make it difficult for NNPC to hide anything in the industry from stakeholders. According to him, these organizations will now bring their ideas and interest to bear in the governance of the industry instead of leaving it solely in the hand of NNPC.
On how the bill will contain corrupt practices if signed into law, Dauda said “this PIGB also addresses the issues of transparency and accountability. Let me just say that even if it is signed into law as it is, it is not going to be automatic. There are still going to be quite a lot of some work to make things happen. We are going to have six months after the assent to unbundle all that is supposed to be done in this content and push on. But to me, it is a fine way to begin that process. This bill for restructuring the oil and gas industry has been on for many years, and we are just starting it is not going to look as if all the problems of opacity and accountability issues in this industry is going to be solved all in one day. But at least, we now have a roadmap towards narrowing all those issues and ensuring that the public put their eyes in what is happening in the oil and gas industry. Like I said, the share division of the assets and liabilities and serious involvement of the various government agencies into it are also going to be party to getting it right.”
In retrospect, the advocate of social justice in the industry traced the history of the bill to when former President Olusegun seventeen years ago first commissioned a series of reports through the efforts of the World Bank to carry out a study on the ills of the sector. Dauda noted that the effort to restructure the industry with a law commenced in December 2008.
He added that “before us, we have seen how that effort failed under the 6th assembly after which we faced a very serious crisis with what culminated in the January 2012 subsidy issue. That, also culminated in the sending of another bill to the National Assembly in 2012, which we also saw crumble at the last minute during the end of the past administration by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.”
Extolling the lawmakers that passed the bill, Dauda said that “what I find particularly ingenious about those who moved the present effort was the decision not to do the business in the same way again because you cannot do a particular thing the same way and expect a different result. He added that: ” I found it particularly ingenious in terms of the decision taken to pursue this from a different perspective and I thank seriously the Senate for their effort, and also the House of Representative.”
He explained that previous efforts at passing the bill were unsuccessful because people were pursuing various interests that were inimical to the system.
On his expectations from the bill, Dauda said it was surprising the private bill that is on the management of the industry was passed before that the executive bill which is on the 7 Big Wins of the federal government.
He explained that “What we were expecting at least ,if you read the 7big wins which actually is defining the roadmap for the restructuring of the oil and gas industry under the administration particularly from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The the big wins told us that we were going to get a new bill by December and because the Senate has gone ahead to do something. The pressure on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and executives since last year was to tell them not to put forward another bill again so that, that will not like take us back to the basis. That they could actually make submission to the National Assembly to incorporate into what was before the Senate. And for me, that actually works. It is in that context that even the ministry of petroleum resources is also currently forthcoming with a fiscal policy, and it is also going to the National Assembly.”