Wide-ranging debates by federal lawmakers on the general principles of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) yesterday faulted the 'enormous' powers domiciled with Nigeria's oil minister by the proposed legislation.
In one of the debates, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa (Lagos/ACN) stated, "The President might as well vacate his seat and hand it over to the petroleum minister." largely sounding the views echoed by the lawmakers on the Minister for Petroleum Resources powers.
Dabiri-Erewa scored the PIB low on transparency, specifically on non-disclosure of oil sales and signature bonuses acrueing from sale of Oil Prospective Licences (OPLs) by the federal government.
However, confidentiality clauses for licences, leases, agreements or contracts for upstream petroleum operations in respect of any payments of royalties, fees and bonuses of whatever nature, and taxes, will now be shall void and of no effect going by provision of the PIB.
Going by provisions of the ambitious 223-page PIB, the oil minister will supervise all the oil institutions, including the regulator, which used to be independent. Also, any person or company who fails to comply with an order made by, or on behalf of the minister is liable to a fine or jail sentence - provisions the lawmakers are uncomfortable and say is vulnerable to abuse.
The contentious onshore/offshore dichotomy debate played out during deliberations as lawmakers differed on the PIB stand on beneficiaries of oil revenues - the federal government or host communities.