Oil and gas industry stakeholders heaved a sigh of relief yesterday and expressed hope for the growth of the sector with the signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The law which has been in the making for over 20 years is expected to usher in an era of stability and growth for the sector. It was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly last month.
Reacting to the presidential assent, the National President of President, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Comrade Festus Osifo told Vanguard that it was a welcome development.
Osifo said the law would ensure stability and ultimately attract new investments to the sector.
According to him, “For us, it is a welcome development because there has been uncertainty in the oil and gas industry in the last 20 years but the signing of the PIB today has actually brought to an end the level of uncertainty in the sector.
“This is because there is no investor that would want to put its money into an economy where you are not quite sure what the rule will be in the next six months or next one year, you tend to take your money to at best other economy and invest. But signing this particular bill today has put a rest to those uncertainties”.
Osifo who rated the PIB 75 percent, noted that there were areas which the oil workers do not agree with in the Bill, but noted that it was difficult to get a perfect bill.
He explained: “Is PENGASSAN 100 percent at home with the Bill? The answer clearly is a no. Do we have areas of concerns in the Bill? The answer is yes. One of such areas is the dual regulators created for the industry.
“If you look at the other industries like the banking industry, you have one regulator which is the Central Bank of Nigeria. In the telecomm industry you have one regulator which is the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, and in the pension industry you have just the National Pension Commission, PENCOM, but today this Bill has brought to bear two regulatory bodies.
“Our problem with that is that if you have an investor coming to invest in Nigeria may be in the upstream, you need to get a clearance from the upstream regulatory commission and you will also need to go the downstream and get a similar clearance from the Mid and Downstream Regulatory Authority, if may you want to lay pipelines.
“We think that there may be unhealthy competitions between the two and that is why we advocated for one regulator with two strong departments. But overall we are happy and we give it about 75 percent. We know that there is no law that is perfect.
“All our misgivings we are going to put them together and channel it to the National Assembly so that one or two years of operations we could start pushing for amendments. In general for us, it is a welcomed development”, he stated.
He stressed that though it is provided in the Bill that no worker would lose their jobs, the unions are working to ensure that workers rights are protected.
“We are pushing that PENGASSAN and NUPENG are represented in the transition committee to ensure that no Nigerian working in the oil and gas industry would lose his or her job”, he added.
On her part, the former president of the Nigeria Association of Energy Economics, NAEE, Prof Wumi Iledare said while signing the PIB was important, its implementation would determine how successful it will be for the sector.
While congratulating the president and the National Assembly for the successful assent and passage of the PIB, he said: “The implementation strategy is very important and I will advise the President to make sure he has diverse opinions. Make it heterogeneous advisory group not homogenous”.
Also, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI has described as a historic development, the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari to the Petroleum Industry Act.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji in a statement in Abuja said the new Law has ended decades of uncertainty concerning the future of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
According to him, “The new law has opened a new phase of wider opportunities in the oil and gas industry. For us in NEITI, President Buhari has broken new grounds, created new business horizon built on healthy legal frameworks that will push the boundaries of reforms in the sector with realistic optimism for inflow of investments, revenue growth and job opportunities”
The transparency Boss applauded the significance of the Presidential assent to the Bill adding that NEITI looks forward to playing active roles in designing a new future for Nigeria’s oil and gas industry under the new Petroleum Industry Act.
“The signing into Law of the PIB has demonstrated government’s resolve to strengthen governance processes and systems especially in the extractive industry through an institutional and legal framework. NEITI is encouraged by the development,” Dr. Orji stated.
He said the law will provide the dynamic legal governance framework required to re-position Nigeria’s Petroleum industry to fully embrace competition, openness, accountability, professionalism and better profit returns on investments to both companies and government.
He further stated “I want to also use this opportunity to call on companies, government agencies and civil society involved in the oil and gas sector governance to give this Law a chance to succeed. NEITI as an agency with legitimate interest in the Law will carefully study the contents of the new Law and work closely with national and global partners especially the EITI to use the Law to open the Nigeria oil and gas sector for transparency, accountability and inflow of foreign direct investments into Nigeria”.