Industry experts, organized labour and members of civil society organisations have called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency in the oil and gas sector and take urgent steps to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Rising from a webinar, with the theme; Petroleum Industry Bill: Myths and Realities, the participants called on the federal government and the National Assembly to urgently emplace the process of passing the PIB and rescue the oil sector from sinking further, while stressing that stakeholders should be consulted before the law is passed.
The forum which was conveyed by African Initiative for Transparency and Responsible Leadership (AfriTAL), also insisted that the country must make deliberate efforts to move away from upstream rent focused economy, to a more productive based processing economy in the midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry. This it said, would make the country reap the bounties of abundance surrounding her hydrocarbon resources and aid employment generation
While pointing out that Investors prefer to deal with a government that is rule based, which would assure that their investments are safe and profitable, the forum demanded an end to use of discretion in matters of economic importance to investors as well as the conclusion of the NGFCP, which started in 2016.
In his welcome remarks, Convener of the Save Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry and founder of AfriTAL, Dr. Louis Brown Ogbeifun, who underscored the importance of reforming the industry, decried the present state of the industry where government is unhappy with its financial take, companies are complaining about multi layered taxation, lack of laws to support investments, uncompetitive when compared to smaller countries, high cost of doing business, redundancy and divestment.
With all these made worse by COVID-19 pandemic, Ogbeifun regretted that although government realized long ago that the industry was in a parlous state, it has not been serious with the efforts at transforming the industry into a bankable sector.
“The PIB which would have transformed the industry to enable government increase its revenue from oil, lay a solid foundation to strengthen oil and gas legal and regulatory framework, redefine the fiscal regimes, establish a more accountable and transparent governance system, set parameters for the efficient management of its acreages, is unfortunately, yet to birth 20 years after,” he said.
“The Pandemic has exposed the shallowness of our socio-economic systems and we need to urgently declare a state of emergency in the oil and gas sector… Despite Nigeria’s abundant resources, Nigeria was labelled the world’s poverty capital before the Pandemic. Ultimately, Nigeria walked into the Pandemic with so much uncertainties and challenges,” Dr Ogbeifun added.
Also speaking at the webinar, Dr Tim Okon, a petroleum economist and one time lead, inter-agency technical review team on government memorandum on PIB, however, assured that there has been progress in laying the framework for the new PIB. According to him, but for Covid-19, the bill would have been presented to the National Assembly by now.
On the allegation that other stakeholders are not being carried along in the bill making process, Dr. Okon said, the National Assembly has a consultative process, which would bring together all stakeholders during the public hearings.
“The reason the PIB is not made public now, is to ensure that a document that would be in the public space should have the seal of government. This is to avoid having several versions as it was in the past, when there were about four versions that found its way into public domain, which became a sources of agitation and bickering,” Dr Okon stated.