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Petroleum Industry Bill nears passage as National Assembly leadership promises June deadline

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By Chrystal NK Chukwudebe

MON 07 JUNE, 2021-theGBJournal- The Challenge to write a Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that will be acceptable and appealing to the array of special interest groups in the oil and gas sector has tested the country’s leadership for two decades. Administrations over the period have to achieve three apparently unifying objectives. The Bill must cater for local, international and community based interests.

Achieving the three objectives was not possible. Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President told the dignitaries gathered today at the International Conference Centre, Abuja for the 4th Nigeria International Petroleum Summit that the approach taken to write an acceptable Bill then did not offer the unifying qualities it required.

Lawan said they at the 9th Assembly cracked the problem.

‘’One different approach that has been able to bring us to where we are today in the Petroleum Industry Bill processing is that in the 9th  National Assembly, we decided on cooperative approach where the National Assembly will work with the administration to conceive the Bill to narrow down our differences and areas of potentials of it. I think we have been able to achieve that significantly.’’

According to the Senate President, the speed and commitment the National Assembly have shown in working on the PIB and reaching where they are today shows that they have chosen the right path.

‘’As I speak, our joint Committees of both the Senate and the House on the PIB are about to conclude writing the report which will be submitted to both Chambers of the National Assembly. Our expectation is that we will pass the PIB within this month of June,’’ he said, adding, ‘’I want to assure you all that the final product of the PIB will be a product that will ensure the win-win situation for everyone.’’

He also suggested that it is important to have the legal framework as well as the enabling environment that is required by all to be in place.

‘’We must as an administration continue to ensure that there is calm, security, stability in the Niger Delta area where the oil is produced. The host communities need to be carried along and we have done that during the public hearings. We have given opportunities to host communities to participate in the Public Hearing for the PIB and we have taken note of what they have submitted.’’

He is confident that the National Assembly will give this country the kind of legal framework to regulate the oil industry in Nigeria in such a manner that will be attractive to all who will come in to invest their resources as well as attract more funds for the country into the sector.

 ‘’We are guided by one principle- that the hydrocarbons endowment we have in Nigeria must give Nigerians the benefit of being in Nigeria. But we are also very conscious of the fact that this is a business environment. We need those companies, those businesses that are here to have a very good business environment and therefore we need a protective environment that will not only retain those businesses we have in Nigeria but also attract businesses from other climes and we are not averse of the fact that many countries have petroleum or oil, so we need to ensure that Nigeria’s environment is protective enough and that is why we have allowed for so many consultations.’’

Earlier the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila spoke at length on the need to carry the interest of the various stakeholders along as well as the role of the legislature in providing the framework for the growth of the oil and gas sector.

‘’We are expected to encourage everyone-foreign or local or community based interests. Amidst competing interests our role is to look for a balancing act bearing in mind that the most important interest, for us is the national interest and it is that national interest that we have, that we will look at while considering other competing interests to strike what I think is a very delicate balance for this industry.

The National Assembly and the executive arm of government are working together to ensure the passage of the PIB. We thought the Bill should have been passed by May, but we want to be very fair in listening to everyone,’’ he said.

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