The PIB is like a demon. That PIB thing, there are people both inside and outside the country, who would work against it, but it is going to take the strength of our patriotism to pass it.” – Ahmad Lawan
The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has again reached a critical point in the National Assembly following last week’s revelation that there were forces within and outside Nigeria working desperately to frustrate the consideration and passage of the bill.
The revelation came from no less a person than the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan who also described the bill as a demon which many forces, he failed to name, were up against and determined to cast out.
While one may not agree with the description of the bill in that negative light, Lawan was right when he said that there were some internal and external forces that do not want the PIB to see the light of day. In the course of the revelation, Lawan found it more convenient to pan the camera towards the external forces when he alluded to the attitude of the multinational oil companies to the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Bill which was passed in 2019. He said that some International Oil Companies ((IOCs) who were against the bill, threatened to leave the country if the National Assembly passed it into law.
According to him, the parliament defied their threats and passed the bill which has now resulted in an increment to Nigeria’s revenue profile from Deep Offshore activities from $216 million to $2 billion dollars annually.
Lawan assured Nigerians that the same approach adopted by the National Assembly in ensuring the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Bill would be deployed for the consideration and eventual passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
The PIB has a long history, spanning a decade and half in the National Assembly. During this period, the bill which seeks comprehensive reforms in the oil and gas sectors of the economy has faced series of challenges in the parliament. It was first introduced as an executive bill in the National Assembly in 2008.
The bill which was received with a lot of enthusiasm in both chambers of the parliament later became a divisive issue towards the twilight of the Sixth National Assembly. What happened? Like Lawan alluded, there were speculations that some multinational oil companies were not comfortable with some provisions of the bill. They therefore set up a lobby group that reached out to some lawmakers in their usual divide and rule tactics.
The lobbyists packaged a special retreat for lawmakers on the bill, ostensibly to enlighten them on the various dimensions of the proposed law. However, by the end of that retreat, the lawmakers became divided and were then seeing the bill from different perspectives.
A seed of discord had been sown and what was supposed to be a national assignment was now being viewed from regional binoculars. Flashback In March 2011, the bill which had already crossed the second reading stage ran into a major hitch at the House of Representatives because some members of the House of Representatives from a particular region of Nigeria were uncomfortable with the bill.
They did all they could to frustrate the consideration of the report on it. Similarly, in December 2012, a fresh opposition was mounted against the bill in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
This assault was championed mainly by senators of northern extraction who perceived the bill as discriminatory and skewed against non-oil bearing regions particularly states of the defunct Northern Nigeria.
The then Secretary Northern Senators Forum, Senator Ahmed Lawan gave an insight into the trouble behind the bill in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Lawan disclosed that the legislators were against the bill because it contained certain clauses that gave too much power to any sitting Minister of Petroleum Resources. He said the lawmakers were also unhappy about the provisions in the bill in respect of the Petroleum Host Community Fund.
According to him, the proposed fund was another ploy by those who conceived the bill to allocate more funds to the oil producing states in the Niger Delta even when these states currently take home so much through the thirteen per cent derivation and the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Lawan debunked speculations that the Northern Senators were trying to scuttle the passage of the PIB and insisted that the concerns being raised against the PIB was geared towards making the bill better to work for every part of Nigeria including the non-oil producing states.
“I want to say that there is no Senator who is not from the oil producing that would like to see that bill passed as it is.
This bill may be passed but it has to be given very sound and solid legislative surgical operations.
“You cannot pass a bill in which most parts of Nigeria that are not part of the oil producing states will be shortchanged; you cannot a pass a bill in which the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke, appropriate enormous, unnecessary and unwarranted powers to her office; you cannot pass a bill that the Minister will have quasi-legislative powers in which the Minister can change the provisions of the law.
“Whether it is Northern Senators or any Senator from any part of Nigeria which is not oil producing, I’m sure we will have to work on it properly and make it a pan- Nigerian bill to make it work for every part of Nigeria and make it profitable to the public and private sector,”Lawan said.
Last line It is interesting that Lawan is still in the parliament and indeed at the driving seat today. Perhaps, we should let Lawan and his colleagues know that the PIB is not the demon as he would want us to believe.
The trouble is not with the bill but with those charged with the responsibility of giving us new legislation to regulate the activities in the petroleum industry. Our lawmakers now have a fresh opportunity to exhibit the strength of their patriotism by shunning the carrots from the external forces and not giving room to primordial sentiments as they did in past years.