26 December 2012

Nigeria: PIB, Long Overdue


The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been in the works long enough to make critical observers wonder if it will ever see the light of day. As usual, there are too many interests at play. There are political interests that want to ensure that the industry remains a source of patronage for those in government to pay political debts. There are also powerful multinational interests who have proved ever too often that morality is not one of their strong points in their bid to exploit their hosts to the marrow.

Revelations from wikileaks have shown that the oil companies have a good many government official on their payroll and expect such an official to tweak any proposed policy or legislation in favour of the foreign companies, even at the expense of Nigeria.

Then, there are legislators who, for a variety of reasons, may want to bend the bill to favour lobbyists who have reached out to them on behalf of sundry interests. There are also industrial unions who want the best deal possible for their members. In the minority, but not to be ignored, is the band of patriots and environmental rights activists who simply want the rape of their motherland to be stopped and the best practices followed in Nigeria's oil industry.

Whatever be the case, we are convinced that Nigeria is greater than any puny interest some cabal may be interested in protecting. Whereas there are different views on some contentious sections of the bill, all seem agreed that there is need for a comprehensive law to govern activities in this vital area of the economy to ensure that Nigeria and her citizens benefit more from their God-given resources. We expect federal legislators to put on their garb of patriotism for once and attend expeditiously to the bill.

We do not envisage a bill that will create a monster out of the petroleum minister or any other government official. Nor would we support a bill that continues to permit oil companies to enslave Nigerians through their inhuman labour practices which favour short-term non-pensionable contracts rather than decent full employment for most of the Nigerian nationals that work for them.

Under the noses of our elected officials slave labour continues to thrive in the oil industry in spite of the spirited protests and occasional strikes of the unions.

These are the critical areas we expect the legislators to enshrine in the much expected bill in addition to areas already identified in the draft. They should not leave the bill in limbo as if there is a conspiracy to ensure that it never sees the light of day. The law makers ought to be embarrassed that the Petroleum Industry Bill has taken this long already.

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