19 February 2013

Nigeria: Ekweremadu Assures Petroleum Minister On Speedy Passage of PIB

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu on Tuesday in Abuja assured the Minister of Petroleum Resources of the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Ekweremadu gave the assurance during a presentation of the bill to the leadership of the Senate by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke.

He advised Allison-Madueke to endeavour to honour invitations of the Senate to answer enquiries on some contentious issues in the bill.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister had faced criticism over the slow passage of the bill by the National Assembly.

The criticism stemmed from her refusal to appear before the legislature in the past to answer questions on some grey areas in the bill.

The bill, which seeks to reform the country's oil and gas industry, has been pending in the National Assembly for the past 12 years.

Speaking with reporters after her presentation, Allison-Madueke said that if passed into law the bill would ensure transparency, accountability and flexibility of the fiscal regime in the industry.

She reiterated that the bill would boost government revenue from oil and gas sector as well as create a robust and profitable business environment for investors.

"The bill will also bring out the gas master plan, which we have already started moving with our various gas pipeline infrastructures.

"In doing that, we also have fiscal regimes that cover gas investment and incentives to bring people into the country for gas investment with particular emphasis on domestic gas supply," she said.

The minister expressed the hope that in the next three years, many households in the country would rely on domestic gas.

She noted that the country had over 187 trillion cubic feet of gas potential and 600 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered potential.

Allison-Madueke also told reporters the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) plant in Benin, Edo, would be commissioned in March.

"This is a pilot project and we intend to replicate it in other parts of the country; as we speak now, there are many cars in Benin being driven on gas.

"We have the conversion kits there and it is much cheaper than petrol and a lot of cars and taxi drivers are itching to convert to CNG.

"Once the PIB moves forward, the gas market will explode in the country."

Allison-Madueke dismissed claims that the bill vested too-much power on the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

She said "in terms of control, I can safely say and you can check the law that there is no bill that gives the Minister of Petroleum as much powers as the current Petroleum Act."

"The current Petroleum Act gives the minister more power than any other bill can possibly give.

"I was fully involved in thrashing out the PIB and I spent sleepless nights with the review team after the technical committee finished their work.

"We ensured that for the first time in history, control was actually divested away from the minister and the Federal Government."

According to her, government will have its shares but equity share holding and private shareholders will also come in and it will be run by independent managing directors.

The minister also noted that some of the contentious issues in the bill such as the 10 per cent for oil host communities would be discussed by the Senate committee. NAN

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