Lawyers Seek Early Passage of Petroleum Industry Bill

AllAfrica |

Lawyers have tasked lawmakers to expedite action on the passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB into law in order to stimulate the sustainable development of the nation's oil and gas industry.

The lawyers stated at different interviews that they are worried that the PIB has been at the National Assembly in the past six years.

One of them who preferred not to be named stated: "If there is any bill that has generated intense controversies in recent times among various categories of stakeholders it is no other than the Petroleum industry bill (PIB) which has been with the National Assembly for the past six years."

He added: "The PIB which is still before our lawmakers since 2008 is a product of a report submitted by the Oil and Gas Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) set up by the federal government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo."

The Bill which has 495 sections laid out in whopping ten parts comprising 189 pages, have been lauded by experts as the first authentic step to improve the nation's oil and gas sector since oil and gas production in Nigeria commenced in 1958 sequel to first discovery two years earlier in Oloibiri.

The former Company Secretary/ Legal Adviser of the Nigerian National Petroleum itself, Professor Yinka Omorogbe, attributed the delay to internal, rather than external factors.

Omorogbe said the delay "was caused by a few people who were not comfortable with the intended reform in the oil and gas industry" and not surreptitious manipulation by international oil companies," adding that there is the belief that the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill into Law last year must have sent jitters down the spines of vested interests as the Act, when combined with the PIB after it becomes an Act, would be a terrible weapon of ensuring transparency as all the operations in the oil industry would be laid open.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing, Sen. Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, said that the North geo-political zone of the country was opposed to the bill on the grounds of its alleged "lopsidedness."

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The former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association and top presidential candidate in this year's presidential election of the association, Mr. Dele Adesina, said: "One notable advantage of the bill is that it promotes transparency in the oil and gas industry in a comprehensive manner. It is common knowledge that in the industry, under the present system, the more you look, the less you see. Indeed, the more you see, the less you understand."

"The bill has the potential to address decisively the current noticeable systemic failure in the industry. For example, everyday one reads about loss of several barrels of oil per day leading to the loss of several billions of naira, monies which could have been channeled towards meaningful economic growth and development of infrastructure," he further said.

For a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joseph Nwobike, the non-passage of the PIB by the National Assembly till now is not good given what that is costing the nation, particularly in the light of problematic nature of our oil industry.

"We are not getting enough on our own resources compared to what other oil-exporting nations are getting. We must find a solution to this," he pointed out.

A Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu said that the Petroleum Industry Bill pending before the National Assembly has been greeted with all sorts of controversies.

A Senior lecturer of the Department of Commercial, University of Lagos, Dr Abiola Sanni, who made a call for the speedy passage of the bill, said that the prolonged delay in the passage of the bill is affecting the nation as the reforms being envisaged will improve the petroleum sector.

Sanni stated, "The only people benefiting from the non-passage are those profiting under the existing system and they are the people playing different roles and making illegal gains. They know that if the bill is passed, the will be little or no room for the shady practices, but the more the bill is delayed the more their own profits will be prolonged. But the more there is delay, the more the country is losing."

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