Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Alison-Madueke yesterday led a high-powered delegation to meet with Senate members over the touchy Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
For a meeting initially planned with the Senate leadership before a last minute change to accommodate all 109 Senators, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu tagged the meeting "a technical briefing on the PIB to clear areas of doubt".
Ekweremadu said the Senate was targeting passage of the PIB this year as long as the petroleum ministry cooperated with relevant Senate committees treating the PIB to ensure a new legal regime for Nigeria's oil sector which will in turn serve the interest of the country.
The petroleum minister in her presentation said that in line with the deregulation drive of the PIB, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be unbundled to create a world-class National Oil Company (NOC) fashioned after the globally recognised models like Petrobras (Brazil) and Petronas (Malaysia).
Speaking to newsmen on the sidelines of the meeting, Alison-Madueke faulted notions in select quarters that the PIB grants seeming unlimited powers to the petroleum minister. She said the PIB as presently drafted had drastically reduced the powers of the minister by virtue of PIB proposals that government divest much of its interest in the state-run oil company and related agencies and departments.
"You can check the law, there is no legislation that gives the petroleum minister as much powers like the current petroleum Act. The current petroleum Act gives the current petroleum minister which happens to be myself more powers than any other bill can possibly give. In drafting the PIB which I was personally involved, we ensured that control was actually divested away from the minister and the federal government. If you take an entity like the NNPC and unbundle it, that takes away a large portion of the minister's power.
Alison-Madueke said the section of the PIB which granted a 10 per cent equity advantage to oil-bearing communities from the net profit of oil companies operating in the areas was not new and had been captured in past bills which failed to become law.