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The return of PIB
Apart from the constitution amendment bills which laboured through the different sessions of the National Assembly since 2000 through 2007, no other bill has seen the prolonged stress which the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is currently undergoing. The bill, which made its way into the National Assembly in 2008, has remained in comatose state, coming in and out of the legislative chambers without the final nod.
That bill, which has been identified as being central to the wellbeing of the nation’s oil industry, has failed to secure the legislative backing it desires to become a law, four years after it first made its way into the chambers.
There have been issues piling up to deny the bill. There are issues of politics, disagreements among stakeholders in the business and a cacophony of voices from the host communities of oil pipelines. A bold attempt by the sixth National Assembly to pass the bill hit the rocks when different versions of the bill hit the pigeon holes of the lawmakers. Even members of the House of Representatives who decided to merge the different versions at pass the bill as it were got stuck at the middle and there appeared no way forward.
Thus, the PIB remains a bill in the intention of the nation and the National Assembly. Even though its intents have been identified as being noble and capable of redressing the ills of oil industry, the road to eldorado just appears rough. In the wake of the oil subsidy protest by the organised Labour in January, Nigerians, again, clamoured for the re-introduction of the PIB and its passage by the National Assembly.
During an oversight function on the comatose refineries in Port Harcourt, the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) led by Senator Magnus Abe visited Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. The governor did not mince words that the non-passage of the PIB was hindering oil business in the state and that as the governor of the nation’s oil capital city, he felt the pinch the most. He said oil businesses and oil servicing companies are folding up in the state as a result of the delay. Amaechi, a former lawmaker himself told the Senate Committee that the National Assembly needed not wait for the executive version of the bill since the primary job of lawmakers is to make laws. He said that the version being midwife by the Ministry of Petroleum in response to widespread calls after the January nationwide strike could just provide further inputs whenever it is passed onto the lawmakers.
After waiting for months for the executive to complete work on the bill through the Task Force set up on the PIB by the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allinson- Madueke, the Senate appears to have entered another gear.
Penultimate week, Senate Committee Chairman on Petroleum (Downstream), Magnus Abe, confirmed that the Senate has concluded plans to re-introduce its own version of the bill and pass same into law.
Abe said that the nation could not wait in perpetuity, as the bill being prepared by the executive appeared to be taking longer than expected. The Rivers State senator confirmed that some concerned senators have concluded plans to introduce a version of the bill to the floor of the Senate.
Senator Abe said in an interview that the lawmakers believed that Nigeria could not continue to wait in perpetuity and that the non-passage of the bill has stagnated investment in the oil sector. He added that the committee fashioned by the executive arm to midwife another PIB was actually taking too long to turn in a bill.
According to him, since the business of lawmaking is the primary assignment of the legislators, some Senators have come together to sponsor the new PIB as a private members bill.
He said: “We want to introduce a private member’s bill on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). If, before we do that the executive come with their bill, fine. The country just cannot wait indefinitely, already a lot of work has been done on the PIB, we really don’t see what should take so long here. I can give you almost two copies of the PIB in my office. Substantially, there can be much difference. We are looking at the clauses one after the other, if we are comfortable with them we merge them and we introduce it and anybody who is not comfortable or has amendment or has a different versions, they can bring their version and we work on it. It is all in the interest of the country.”
Abe stated that the stagnation in the oil sector as a result of the non passage of PIB was not good for business.
He also added that the non-passage of the PIB has caused uncertainty among players in the oil sector adding that the Senators have decided to take the bull by the horn.
He further said: “We have decided that we are going to look at one of the old versions that had been submitted before and submit it as a private member bill and kick start the process. At any time the executive feels the need to bring what they have, they can bring it and we can add it to what we are already looking at and proceed.
Legislation as you know is a function of the legislature, not an executive function, so it doesn’t make sense for us a country to keep waiting indefinitely on the executive before we proceed with what is clearly a very critical area of legislation in the affairs of our country.
“As you know, because of this lack of a knowledgeable way forward on the question of the PIB, it has affected investment in the sector, it has affected confidence in the sector because people don’t know whether we are still going to be operating under the old petroleum act or whether we are now going to operate the new industry bill and all that and since this is an industry that requires a long time planning and long term investment, it is difficult for participant to know exactly what to do and to move forward. So we’ve decided that we can no longer allow that state of uncertainty to continue to permeate the industry so our staff right now are already looking at the existing versions of the PIB. I don’t see much that is wrong with them, and very soon we will be introducing it in the Senate.”
No one would fault the logic of the senators and the entire nation can only urge Senator Abe and his colleagues to move as fast as they can and get the bill back on track.Share