Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on the National Assembly to ensure that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before it, is passed into law with provisions on contract transparency staying intact as currently captured in the proposed bill.
The group said this call has become necessary to avoid past experiences where vested interest will push for the removal of the provisions so they can continue business as usual in the countries oil and gas sector.
The call was made in Abuja on Thursday at a media roundtable organized by Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) in collaboration with Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industries (MITEI), to formally launch the Contract Transparency Network (CONTRANET).
The proposed PIB in sections 83(3&5) provides that the text of any existing contract, new license or lease and amendment with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd shall not be confidential but should be published by the Commission immediately following the granting or signing of such agreement.
Presenting a research finding on contract transparency in Nigeria, Mr. Leo Ugboaja, who represented the Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER), said there’s presently no existing legislation expressly mandating contract disclosures in the country, which calls for the need to ensure that it is covered in the PIB.
“We need a policy and legislative framework supporting contract transparency, and the best way to do this is to embed it in the PIB. Now that it is provided for in the PIB, we want to make sure it is passed with that provision intact; we also want Nigerians to understand why we need that provision intact,” Ugboaja said.
He explained that while many oil companies operate under high standard of reporting in their home countries, and in other frontiers, Nigeria unfortunately, has no law requiring same high level of reporting from them, a situation that has resulted to opacity and corrupt tendencies in some contracts negotiated in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector
“So, it is our problem that our laws don’t require equally high standard of reporting from oil companies operating in Nigeria. And that’s what we are trying to fix with demanding that the PIB be passed with contract transparency provisions intact,” Ugboaja added.
In her remarks, Executive Director, CTA, Ms. Faith Nwadishi, observed that CSOs and media should not relent simply because the PIB provided for contract transparency, but must intensify advocacy to ensure the bill is passed into law with the provisions intact.
“The PIB is still a proposal; the bill has been going for about two decades now, so we must not think we have achieved a legal framework for contract transparency until the bill is passed into law. This is where we need to work more to ensure the bill is passed with the provision intact,” she emphasized.
This, she said, will give Nigeria the opportunity to meet the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) requirement on contract transparency. “If passed as it is in the PIB, contract disclosure will become mandatory, which is a notch higher than the EITI obligatory requirement,” Nwadishi stated.
While urging CSOs and media to vigilantly guide against attempts to expunge the provisions from the bill by vested interests, she said,” We have to look out for local contractors; people who do not have a standard of contract disclosures, who will want to do a pushback so they can continue business as usual.
“We must look out for that category of people to ensure they don’t influence removal of the provision from the bill. We must amplify our advocacy so the National Assembly members will be on lookout for the provision and ensure it is passed with it.”
In his goodwill remark, Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Mr. Waziri Adio, who was represented by Mr Kazeem Lameed, said the launch of CONTRANET was apt, even as urged the National Assembly to expedite actions in considering the PIB and passing it into law.
“We should set our eyes on the ball, the engagement should shift now to NASS because that’s where the ball is now so that we do not have a repeat of the experience we have had in the past,” he said.
According to him, argument around confidentiality clause being put forward by companies is just an attempt to dodge disclosure, because in the course of bidding competitors don’t see what they have each put in their proposals.
“So, after the contract is signed it is no longer injurious to their chances if it is then disclosed. Their argument is just a mere excuse to avoid disclosure,” Lameed added.