Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: UK Business Scribe Seeks Pro-Nigeria PIB

Apparently reacting to a report published in yesterday issue of LEADERSHIP, the United Kingdom yesterday said it was disposed to a petroleum industry bill that will focus on helping Nigeria, rather than serve foreign oil companies.

The United Kingdom's business secretary Vince Cable was yesterday quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "the bill to overhaul Nigeria's oil industry should be focused on what helps the West African nation, rather than what benefits the foreign oil companies working there".

The position advanced by Vince Cable while a visit to Lagos is a "departure from what Western diplomats have said in the past about the Petroleum Industry Bill, which analysts say would sharply reduce the profits of foreign companies like Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., Eni SpA, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Total SA.

Diplomats largely have supported the position of the oil companies in a nation that remains crucial to U.S. gasoline supplies. Cable, speaking before business leaders gathered at a breakfast meeting yesterday, said the overhaul bill could help transparency and accountability efforts in the nation. The bill would require the government-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which partners with all foreign oil firms, to seek profits like a private business and not rely on government subsidies.

"The issue here is not what is good for the oil companies, but what best helps the country maximize its potential," Cable said.

However, he cautioned that the bill needs to be "well-crafted," without going into specifics.

Shell, which has strong presence in Britain and where Cable once worked as an economist, previously has said that it has put $40 billion in planned investments on hold in Nigeria over the outcome of the bill. Cable is a member of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner to the Conservatives in Britain's coalition government.

It remains unclear, however, whether the oil overhaul bill has the traction necessary to move from proposal to law. The bill has languished for years before Nigeria's National Assembly, despite claims by various leaders, including President Goodluck Jonathan, that it quickly would win lawmakers' approval.

Cable, who once worked as an economics adviser to Kenya's government, also highlighted Africa's recent economic resurgence despite the global recession. He sat next to billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote during the event Monday in Lagos.

He acknowledged that British firms have backed away from marquee road projects and other improvements in Africa, in part out of not being paid for work in the past. He made the comments inside the Oriental Hotel, a massive new building recently built in Lagos by Chinese construction companies.

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