Abuja — Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday warned members of the Special Ad hoc Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to shun the temptation of corruption and avoid putting their personal interests above national interest in the task of producing a workable legislation for the oil and gas industry.
Tambuwal, who gave the charge at the formal inauguration of the ad hoc committee, said its members must realise the enormous interests of the various stakeholders and ensure that they do not fall prey to the antics of groups and individuals who might want to compromise the due process of law making.
He spoke at a gathering of lawmakers, representatives of multinational oil companies, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and officials of oil industry unions.
The ad hoc committee has been charged with the responsibility of conducting public hearings on the PIB and fine-tuning of the bill for the final consideration of the whole House. Tambuwal said that members of the committee must endeavour to maintain a high level of integrity throughout their assignment.
"From the tempo of public discourse, it should be obvious to all and sundry that there is high level of interest as well as expectations on the Petroleum Industry Bill from various interest groups both within the country as well as the international community. I therefore need not emphasise on the need for absolute circumspection, diligence, transparency and patriotism on the part of the committee.
"Let me remind all the members of this committee that the assignment before you is critical, sensitive and demanding. It will not be an overstatement to say that the biggest activities in the country's oil sector now is the wait for the Petroleum Industry Act. It means then that you must do a good job.
"I should also caution that with the demanding nature of the task before you and high stake interest and expectations lies the glittering but slippery line of integrity test. When you encounter it do not take a second look, do not slow down, do not stop but rather flee because it is outside the scope of your mandate," he said.
The mandate of the committee, Tambuwal said, was to facilitate the delivery to the people of Nigeria and indeed the global oil industry, a legislation that addresses most comprehensively, the hiccups that have encumbered Nigeria's oil sector and constrained optimal operations and returns: issues of environmental degradation, general operational inefficiency, outright fraud as well as insecurity of investment and infrastructure.
He charged them to avail themselves the rich bank of information and that exists on the bill, including the 2008 version of the PIB presented to the National Assembly by the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua but which was scuttled midway.
He also advised the committee to explore and incorporate the knowledge of the legal regime in other jurisdictions to enrich the process.
"You will do well to place at the back of your minds that you are working a legislation not just for today but also for tomorrow and tomorrows, tomorrow. Accordingly therefore, it is important to reflect on the future position of oil in the global economy where the craving for alternative energy sources is on the rise with speedy advances in technology and beckoning possibilities. It is imperative that the law keeps pace," Tambuwal said.
Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, Hon.Ishaka Bawa, said the committee fully understood its assignment and was not under any illusion as to the enormity of the task ahead.
"The House of Representatives has no fixed or hidden agenda on the Petroleum Industry Bill and accordingly this committee will be so guided in this assignment. In the final analysis, we would have struck a delicate but necessary balance between overriding national interests on the one hand and the need to make our oil industry attractive to foreign investments on the other," he said.
"The need for this balance has become even more imperative since Nigeria and a few countries in Africa no longer have the monopoly they hitherto enjoyed in oil export. The recent discoveries of oil in a number of sub-Saharan countries, especially our next-door neighbours such as Niger Republic, Chad and Ghana, have thrown up new challenges and introduced new dynamics for Nigeria in the global oil industry.
"We must therefore seek to do things differently not only to retain our traditional trading partners but also to attract more investors into the industry," Bawa said.
"The ad hoc committee has saddled us with the responsibility of providing a legal framework that will guide and guard the operations of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
The House has mandated us to lay a solid foundation for the enactment of a statute that is not only capable of ensuring the optimal utilization of this important national resource but also capable of attracting and or retaining a sizeable quantum of Foreign Direct Investment in to the sector; while also promoting investments by Nigerians.
According to its work plan, the committee is expected to take public hearings to the grassroots and would commence with a retreat designed to enhance the committee's understanding of the bill.