The Senate on Thursday passed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, which seeks to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and merged its subsidiaries into a single entity.
The passage of the bill came 14 years after the original Petroleum Industry Bill was drafted and submitted to the National Assembly.
The PIGB, formerly known as the Petroleum Industry Bill, had suffered setbacks since 2003 when it was first sent to the National Assembly.
This was part of the recommendations in the report by the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Upstream, Downstream and Gas) on the PIGB, which was adopted by the Senate at the plenary on Wednesday.
While presenting the report, the Chairman of the committee, who is also the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Petroleum, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, said some subsidiaries of the NNPC had also been merged into an entity to be known as the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, said the bill had been in the National Assembly “for many years and we have not been able to pass it.”
He added that a commitment was made at the beginning of the Eight Senate that the bill would be passed.
Saraki said, “This is a bill that not only Nigeria, but our friends and investors in the petroleum sector have been waiting for us to put a framework that will ensure transparency and accountability, and create an enabling environment for the petroleum sector to stimulate growth in the sector.
“We hope that by what we have done today, we will continue to show the kind of commitment and leadership and contribution to develop this country. We are proud of what we have all done today. We gave the commitment and we have passed this bill. It had not been possible for many years but we have done it now.
“I hope that with this bill, the oil and gas industry will begin to see the new kind of investments that is necessary. We will plug the loopholes; we will be able to reduce the areas of corruption and inefficiency; our people will be able to benefit better in the petroleum sector and Nigerians will be better for it.”
The proposed NPRC is expected to be a one-stop-shop in the petroleum industry. It will also be allowed to retain 10 per cent of the revenue it generates as the cost of collection.
The proposed entity will be saddled with the responsibility of promoting efficient, effective, safe and sustainable infrastructural development of the industry, while ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations governing the sector.
The commission will also be in charge of implementation and maintenance of technical standards, codes and specifications in the industry in line with global best practices.
On December 7, 2016, at the public hearing held on the bill, the NNPC and workers in the oil industry had differed on the proposal to unbundle the corporation.
A proposal to amend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act, 2004, failed on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday as members rejected it.
The bill, which sought to “enhance financial and fiscal discipline in the conduct of transactions by the NNPC” was sponsored by a member from Imo State, Mr. Nnana Igbokwe.
Igbokwe sought to amend the extant law of the oil corporation to make a provision that the NNPC should submit its budgetary estimates for next year to the President four months to the expiration of the current financial year.
He said his intention was to bring the NNPC to act in line with a similar provision of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
However, members opposed the proposed amendment on the grounds that it was in conflict with the FR Act, a more recent law that set the timeline on how estimates should be presented to the National Assembly.
Incidentally, it was the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who led the opposition.
Dogara observed that Igbokwe’s proposal would mean a repetition of a provision already adequately captured by the FR Act.
He also pointed out that the NNPC was one of the 39 agencies listed under the FR Act, which were required to attach their budgets to the national budget for onward transmission to the National Assembly by the President.
Dogara noted that the amendment could only be worth the effort if the laws setting up all the other agencies were amended as well.
Igbokwe alluded to the absence of the PIGB when he said he proposed the amendment in the interim, while the passage of the PIGB was being awaited.
When asked to explain the delay in the passage of the PIGB, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Gaza Jonathan, said the House was still working on it.
He stated, “We pay due respect to best practices. What we are doing is to pass a bill that will stand the test of time. We have held a world class seminar on the PIGB, where the views of Nigerians and experts were collated.
“We are working on those views to ensure that we have a realistic PIGB in operation when it is passed.”
Jonathan refused to give a specific date when the bill would be passed.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress has commended the Senate for passing the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, describing the development as historic.
The party said the bill had sought to introduce reforms that would ensure greater transparency and accountability in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
The National Publicity Secretary, APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, said this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.
He said, “The party notes that the bill had languished in the various chambers of the National Assembly for about 12 years, but it took the purposeful and dedicated APC-led Senate to pass the bill.
“We are very excited that the bill was passed today after about 12 years’ delay. We specially commend the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for his focused leadership of the 8th Senate, which has produced several legislative actions that have positively affected the lives of Nigerians, promoted good governance and advanced ongoing efforts by the APC-led administration to rebuild the country.
“The passage of the bill is an indication that our federal legislators are diligent and reform-minded, and are committed to fulfilling the promises our party made to Nigerians.”
According to the statement, the party urged the Yakubu Dogara-led House of Representatives to follow the example set by the Senate by also promptly passing the PIGB.
The APC urged Nigerians to continue to support and cooperate with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the National Assembly as they continue to make laws and execute projects to improve the well-being of the citizens.
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria have commended the Senate for the passage of the PIGB.
The PIGB is one of the parts in which the long-delayed Petroleum Industry Bill was split into after it suffered setbacks in two consecutive legislative tenures.
The PIB seeks to overhaul the nation’s oil and gas industry, which has been hobbled by corruption and mismanagement for decades.
The Chairman, NUPENG and PENGASSAN Petroleum Industry Bill Committee, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said in a statement, “This is indeed a milestone achievement, especially when you consider that the PIGB is not an Executive Bill.
“Also, when you consider that Nigeria has lost over N235bn due to its inability to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill into law since the reform in the Nigerian petroleum industry was kick-started 17 years ago.
“We, therefore, look forward to the concurrent passage of the PIGB into law by the House of Representatives and also eventual assent by the President of Nigeria.”
He said the unions expected the passage of other aspects of the PIB, namely, the Petroleum Fiscal Framework Bill; Petroleum Industry Downstream Administration Bill; the Petroleum Industry Revenue Management Framework Bill; and the Petroleum Host Community Bill.
Onuegbu said, “The passage of the PIGB, while commendable, will not deliver the full benefits of the intended reforms except the other aspects of the PIB are also legislated.”