EnergyDay Editorial Board
The Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is incontrovertibly the longest running bill in parliamentary history of Nigeria. Unfortunately, this is so, despite the obvious importance of the bill to our national economy and stability of the volatile Niger Delta. Therefore, it has nitty witty, become the symbol of our national shame and legislative incompetence.
By implication, the bill has assumed the status of a remarkable demonstration of Nigeria’s unwillingness to come to terms with the realities of its history.
Successive National Assemblies have found one reason or another to jettison the bill all in a bid to pander to political correctness and survival.
The reality is that the bill has become an albatross on the neck of the current (9th) National Assembly, and for Nigerians, the non passage of the bill is not only an assault on national psyche, but also a violation of the oath of their representatives to adequately stand in for their interests.
EnergyDay, like most stakeholders and Nigerians alike, have heard series of promises of passage of the bill, to no effect, including the timeline of last April, with which to pass the much awaited, all important bill.
Thus, the absence of the bill has not only hindered the progress of the industry, but has become an epitome of unfulfilled promises, leading to scepticism on the part of Nigerians, anytime a government officials speak of its passage and President’s assent.
Most Nigerians were not surprised when the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, in May this year, gave assurance during an interactive session with the media in Abuja, that the PIB, currently before the National Assembly will be passed into law latest end of June.
As usual, those familiar with the fate of the bill, saw the pronouncement as an era of ‘unkept promise’.
He said, “PIB is fully on course and we are very happy, because we have focused on that for a long time and we had many meetings with the National Assembly and stakeholders.
“Today, I believe that we are all basically satisfied with where we are. The National Assembly has given a timeline, they actually gave April.
“We are hopeful that between now and June, they will pass the PIB. I don’t think we are faraway with the passage of the PIB,’’ the Minister promised.
Today, pessimists appear to have gained the upper hand, as we are almost half way into the end of June, yet what the nation is getting is another excuse for the passage to be prolonged pro-bono.
This time around, it’s coming from the horse’s mouth, speaking at the just concluded Nigerian International Petroleum Summit, NIPS, President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, said the National Assembly is committed to the revitalization off the nation’s hydrocarbon, stressing that the Legislative and Executive arms are working together to ensure the passage of the PIB.
He hinted that the Joint Committees of the National Assembly are about writing their reports for submission while further deliberation will follow at plenary.
Similarly, while addressing participate at the same forum, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, declared that the National Assembly is more determined now to ensure the passage of the PIB, which has been on for 20 years. He however failed to commit himself to a time frame for the execution of the promise.
This medium is ashamed that such comments that border on deceit and doublespeak could come from the leaders of the National Assembly, who should know the importance of the bill and has in the past consistently promised Nigerians the passage of PIB in April.
For the President of the Senate to now say that the Joint Committees of the National Assembly are about writing their reports for submission, while further deliberation will follow at plenary, has further played up the idea promoted by conspiracy theorists that there’s more than meet the eyes on the wobble of the bill.
It would seem, and most probable that some powerful interests are against the passage.
As a matter of fact, many Nigerians are now sceptical of the new promise by the Senate President, and prefer not to pitch their hope on the evasive, opaque timeline of “before the end of the year” in the Senate President’s address referenced above.
For us at EnergyDay, we wonder at and non plussed by the persistent delay of the bill by NASS. It would seem the delay is deliberate and political.
Sadly, there is an excruciating connect between the delay and the nation’s economy growth and development as well as unemployment figure.
It would look like the federal government (the executive) and NASS (legislature) are waiting on the foreigners to prompt them to pass the bill.
Having failed Nigerians for the umpteenth time, why should Nigerians believe them this time around?
Should the international community prompt our Leaders to do the needful before they wake up to their duty?
It looks like our government institutions and leaders, at different levels, lack understanding and ideas to lead, for us this is sad and unacceptable.
If that is the case, the government should heed the call of the Chairman/Chief Executive of Total Group, Mr Patrick Pouyanne, who told President Muhammadu Buhari recently that the global community (investors) have been eagerly waiting for the passing of the PIB.
Pouyanne while speaking with a delegation of Nigeria government, led by the President to an investment forum in France last month pointed out that passage of the bill will send a strong signal of more predictability to investors.
As usual, the call appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as those saddled with the responsibility of birthing it continue to postpone the passage of the bill.
It is interesting to note that the PIB which has suffered all forms of abuse, bastardisation and delay for nearly two decades, got a ray of hope when the 8th National Assembly passed the governance arm of the bill which it broke into four parts. Unfortunately, the bill failed to get Mr President’s assent as he felt uncomfortable with it.
Hope was again rekindled when in September 2020, Mr President himself sent a reworked version of the bill to the Senate. Given that this time around, it came as an executive bill bearing in mind that the President’s party has majority in both chambers of the National Assembly, the best that has happened to date is that it passed second reading in the House of Representatives and Senate in October, 2020.
Prior to the new twist in the fate of the PIB, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had both earlier affirmed that the bill will be passed at the end of May, then June timeline, now before the end of the year.
As it is, even the die hard pessimists and supporters of this administration are beginning to lose hope and wondering what demon is so strongly opposed to the PIB, which targets a comprehensive overhaul of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Ordinarily, the bill, if it is passed would have ensured transparency and accountability within the sector, stimulating foreign direct investment and optimizing production revenues, among other key objectives.
But unfortunately, Nigeria being what it is, prefers the world to move ahead and play catch up when its too late. The Buhari administration must do all it can to pass the PIB, it’s the only legacy it can bequeath upon the country for good.