PIB’s fate uncertain as elections take centre stage

The fate of the Petroleum Industry Bill is still hanging in the balance as none of the four bills in which it was split into has become law a few months to the end of the current administration.

Industry experts, in separate interviews with our correspondent on Monday, expressed doubt that the PIB would be passed as the general elections and the outcome might dominate discourse in the National Assembly till May 29.

The National Assembly said it had shifted its resumption date earlier scheduled for Tuesday (today) to February 26 following the postponement of the elections.

The PIB, which has been in the works since 2008 when it was first introduced to the legislature, suffered setbacks in the 6th and 7th National Assembly.

The bill seeks to change the organisational structure and fiscal terms governing the industry.

Currently, before the 8th National Assembly, it was split into four parts — Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and Petroleum Host Community Bill — to fast-track its passage into law.

After its passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the PIGB was transmitted to the President for assent in July last year to enable it to become law but it emerged in August that Buhari declined to assent to the bill.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, identified the provision of the PIGB permitting the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to retain as much as 10 per cent of the revenue generated as one of the reasons Buhari declined to assent to the bill.

The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, International Energy Services Limited, Dr Diran Fawibe, said, “There are a lot of hurdles to be crossed for the other bills to be passed. To do that during the remaining three months of this administration is very doubtful.”

He said the non-passage of the PIB would continue to create uncertainty in the oil industry, describing it as bad for the industry.

“This is one area I believe the Nigerian government has not been very sensitive to the yearnings of the industry. Both the National Assembly and the executive kept lamenting the non-passage of the bill and they know the passage of the bill will make a positive impact on the industry. That we don’t have the political will to pass this bill is inexplicable and it is a very sad thing,” Fawibe added.

An energy expert, Mr Bala Zakka, said the investments that had been waiting to flow into Nigeria would keep waiting or would go to other countries.

He said, “A lot of the lawmakers are not even sure that they will come back; they are currently fighting for their political survival; so, there is so much distraction. After the election, they will know their fate; those who would have lost out may not even be bothered about what is going to happen again.”

He recalled that as far back as 2010, the then Minister of Petroleum Resources said the PIB was going to be passed in September that year.

“With the change of the party ruling the country, many of us thought so many things would change. In fact, we thought there would be a paradigm shift. But virtually all the errors that we thought the other party committed are being committed now,” he added.

The Director, Emerald Energy Institute, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Wumi Iledare, said the PIGB could still become law before the end of the administration.

“But the fate of the other three bills depends on the election result. If the majority of the lawmakers are re-elected, then there is a likelihood that the bills will be passed,” he added.

According to the former President of the International Association for Energy Economics, it is in the interest of the country for the PIGB to become an Act irrespective of what happens with the election result.

“Investors do not like uncertainty. I wasn’t happy that the PIGB was not signed into law; it was a bit disappointing,” Iledare said.