By Gift Eguavoen
Barely 36days after signing the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, President Muhammadu Buhari has returned the Act to the National Assembly seeking amendment to some sections.
In a letter to the Senate on Tuesday, the President is seeking to increase the membership of the Boards of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and Upstream Regulatory Commission (URC) from nine to 13.
In the letter dated September 16, 2021, and read during plenary by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Buhari explained that the appointment of two non-executive members as provided for by the Act to the Boards of NPRA and URC does not reflect balanced geopolitical representation and requested amendment to Sections 11(2)(b) and 34(2)(b) which provides for the Administrative Structure of the PIA 2021 to increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six on both boards.
The president also proposed the deletion of Sections 11(2)(f), 11(2)(g), 34(2)(f) and 34(2)(g) from the PIA, which would effect the removal of the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Finance from the Boards of the NPRA and URC explaining that the two ministries already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations.
While noting that they can continue to perform such roles without being on the board, he added that, “It is also important to note that, administratively, the representatives of the ministries in the board will be directors – being of the same rank with directors in the institution. This may bring some complications in some decision making, especially on issues of staff related matters.”
The president also sought an amendment to Sections 11(3) and 34(3) to be replaced with a new section that provides that appointments to the Board of the Commission or Authority under section 2 shall be made by the president, while those made pursuant to subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c) of section shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Furthermore, he requested that Section 41(2) of the Petroleum Industry Act be replaced with a new section as “there shall be five executive directors for the Authority whose appointment shall comply with the rules of the Federal Civil Service,” while underscoring the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments.
“This will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the Authority. In future, these positions will obviously be filled by the workers in the Authority through career progression in conformity with the rules and regulations of the Federal Civil Service” Buhari said in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina.
He stressed that the proposed amendments to the PIA 2021 are strictly about the structure, aimed at ensuring the smooth take-off and consequent growth of the two institutions. “This composition would strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread and also achieve the expected policy contributions,” the president added.
Meanwhile, President Buhari in seeking amendment to the law, ignored calls for an increase of the 3percent Host Communities (HostCom) funds. Stakeholders have rejected the approved 3percent saying it is grossly inadequate, calling for an increase of the fund to 5percent.