By Mofoluwake Omololu, Abuja.
The Senate passed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), 2017. And applause, understandably, came from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the landmark passage of a bill that has been on the bill for nearly a decade.
There have been bickerings over the years between the Executive and Legislature over the Bill, often leading to accusations and counter-accusations of its forgery. Recently, when the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachichukwu, commented at an international forum on the disagreement between the copy of the Bill in Senate and House of Representatives, he was more or less told to shut his mouth on matters of legislation by the Senate.
The Senate promised to pass its version, which it did Thursday. What is now left is for the House of Representatives to pass its version; have both copies harmonised into one; and send it to President for his assent into a law
The passage of the Bill followed the final consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum (Upstream, Downstream and Gas).
According to a Senate statement, the intent of the landmark legislation is to establish a legal framework for the creation of a more efficient, transparent, competitive and internationalized petroleum industry.
The Bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central), also seeks to create a conducive business environment for theoperations of the petroleum industry and overhaul the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the driving force behind the PIGB’s progression through the Senate, said the “Senate’s action today culminates some 12 long years of legislative attempts to reform the petroleum sector. Now, we are a step closer to bringing better governance and transparency to Nigeria’s most important economic sector.”
Saraki and his colleagues in the Senate have broken the PIGB jinx that many believed had beset the National Assembly’s efforts to reform the oil industry. Some industry analysts estimate that over the past eight years, Nigeria has lost over $120 billion in withheld or diverted investment due to the inability to pass the PIGB.
The Senate President praised his colleagues’ persistent effort to pass the bill and said “now there is no question that the will exists to reform the petroleum industry. The passage of the PIGB will go a long way to restore investor confidence in a sector that has great potential to be more efficient and competitive on the world petroleum market.”
The House of Representatives recently completed the second reading of the PIGB, where leadership has indicated their intent to move the Bill through the legislative process as efficiently as they can.
Saraki said “the importance and impact of this Bill can never be overstated. Nigerians are ever closer to reaping the full benefits our nation’s natural resource wealth.” “This means there will be greater revenue for government to invest in economic diversification, job creation, hospitals, schools and roads.”