opinionBy Charles Soeze
Now that the federal legislators have finally agreed to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), one can boldly say that there is now good fate for the PIB, which would be for the benefits of all Nigerians.
In the past, the PIB suffered from legislative delays and special attention from the relevant authorities to make it a reality.
Since the importance of the bill has dawned on the lawmakers, it may be appropriate to say 'kudos' to all Nigerians and international well-wishers.
It is obvious that the PIB is mainly to increase government revenue with minimal or no extra expenditure. Whatever the case may be, the PIB is mainly to increase government revenue with minimal or no extra expenditure.
As a result, the willingness of the legislators to pass the proposed bill urgently should be seen as a welcome rarity because it would mean Nigeria putting oil affairs in the front burner.
A careful study of the bill reveals that it establishes the legal and regulatory framework, institutions and regulatory authorities for the Nigeria Petroleum Industry (NPI).
It went on to stipulate guidelines for operations in the upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors and for other purposes relevant to same.
With the PIB in place, the texts of all licenses, leases and contracts and any of the changes will no longer be confidential.
I think that was why the minister bellowed that 'Nigeria will move in one step from one of the most opaque petroleum nations in Africa, to one of the most open and transparent in the world'.
This is because payments to the government will be through public information. It will not be done secretly any longer.
According to late President Umaru Yar'Adua, the bill will form the foundation for a revival of an industry where attacks on pipelines and constraints on investment have fuelled a growing sense of crises among energy outfits.
It is disheartening to say that the executives from Nigeria's biggest producers, which include Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Chevron, said the new terms were so stringent that they risked deterring investment rather than encouraging it. Where do we go from here?
Happily, it is pertinent to state that the bill would definitely inject new vigour in the NNPC by reforming its opaque, octopus-like structure to create discrete units to handle essential tasks based on training, professionalism and experience (putting federal character principle in oblivion) such as exploration and production, regulation and research.
From my own point of view, the PIB would restructure joint ventures between the NNPC and western majors to allow them to raise private capital, rather than rely on a notoriously unreliable injection of cash from Nigerian government at the expense of the poor Nigerians who live under hard economic conditions and abject poverty.
Furthermore, the benefits of the bill include making the government to increase its stake from a growing number of deep-water developments, review of the royalties on gas by creating a new fiscal regime separate from rules governing oil, changes to the way tax breaks are applied for new developments.
To this end therefore, oil companies will be encouraged to refine at least 50 percent of their production in Nigeria by the end of the decade, and in addition, new rules to boost employment of Nigerians in the oil industry will take effect.
Importantly, the PIB would restructure, repackage and revolutionise the oil industry in a system that would guarantee more returns on investment for Nigeria, which currently rely immensely on oil for 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings.
The bill combines 16 different Nigerian petroleum laws like the existing legislations as the Petroleum Act 1969; the Petroleum Profits Act 1959 and the Nigerian Petroleum Corporation Act of 1977.
Other existing laws to be affected include the Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) Act of 1959; the Petroleum Act 1969; the Petroleum Technology Development Act 1973; the Associated Gas Re-injection Act 1979; the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Act 1989; the Oil Pipelines Act 1990; the Nigerian National Petroleum Act 1997; and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency Act 2003.
The Oil Producing Trade Section (OPTS), which made a submission before the Senate public hearing in July 2009, also highlighted the importance and fate of the bill.
Interestingly, the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, acknowledges that the signing of the bill into law will move Nigerian businessmen and women into the commanding heights of the oil and gas industry, while the oil bearing communities could attract incentives as much as $1.1 billion from oil revenue if the law comes into effect.
What a bonanza and improvement on the standard of living of Nigerians! She specifically pointed out that Nigeria's annual oil revenue is expected to rise to about $680 billion when the Petroleum Industry Bill is passed into law. Another bonanza for Nigeria and Nigerians indeed!
Finally, as part of efforts to boost the activities of the oil industry, the bill should be passed without further delay to give the NNPC (currently funded by the government) the opportunities to create a viable and self-financing oil companies for the good and betterment of all Nigerians.