Abuja — The National Assembly thursday disclosed that the harmonised Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which is one of the offshoot bills of the omnibus Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would be ready for President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to law by the end of March or latest after the upcoming Easter celebration.
This is just as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has emphasised the need to have a strong and independent regulator emerge from the enactment of the PIGB.
Kachikwu equally promised that the government would not sack workers in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), two of the agencies that would be annulled by the creation of the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC) in the PIGB.
According to the National Assembly, its joint committee handling the harmonisation process would soon conclude their job, adding that but for the work it was still doing to get the 2018 budget passed into law soon, it would have completed its harmonisation of the PIGB and presented to Buhari to assent to.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) and Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industries (MITEI) on the PIGB in Abuja, the Consultant to the National Assembly Committees on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Dr. Francis Adigwe, disclosed this and that the work left to be done in the harmonisation exercise was not so much.
Adigwe, noted that the National Assembly was desirous of getting the PIGB to the president for assent as soon as possible, as well as, passing the other three offshoot bills of the PIB which deal with the fiscal, administration and host communities.
"It is not going to be a very difficult thing to do, but the National Assembly is saddled with the 2018 budget which takes precedence, but the harmonisation is likely to happen within March and the bill is likely going to the president by the month end or latest by Easter.
"The PIGB needs a lot of carefulness to be harmonised. I am confident that this month, the harmonisation would happen," said Adigwe, in his remarks at the workshop.
He further stated on the commitment of the legislators to the PIGB and fears they may abandon it to face the 2019 elections: "There will be no attempt to sacrifice this bill on the altar of politics. I have not seen a National Assembly that is so eager to have this bill become law and we have legislators that are working so hard to ensure this works out well. The commitment, willingness, and excitement is there and there is so much self-sacrifice on the part of the National Assembly to get this concluded."
Also in his remarks, Kachikwu, who was represented by his Senior Technical Adviser, Upstream and Gas, Mr. Gbite Adeniji, at the workshop, noted that the cardinal goal of the PIGB was to create a governance framework that would allow the country's oil industry thrive, and as such, the government must ensure the emergence of an independent regulator for the industry.
He said: "What we are trying to build now is a more muscular regulator. That is very good and could be very dangerous. It is dangerous if you do not have competent people running it. "We cannot sacrifice the future of the country on the altar of incompetence. This is where we have to be watchful, so that the hiring process into that entity must be done in a manner that it gives clarity to all that things are been done in national interest."
The minister explained that "We are taking the entire petroleum industry into an entity that is statutorily independent, from political interference. The way the minister can interfere is through policy directions. The policy directives must emanate from published policies. That is to say, this is the policy of the country and it must be a consistent policy.
"You cannot direct that entity outside published policies. Which means you cannot be rogue-regulated. Therefore, it is got to be run by people who have professional depth. That is the fundamental assumption behind the design of this regulation and everyone must understand this issue. If we get that right, then we are going somewhere as a country, because then you then have the basis for the implementation of all the other legislations that are coming behind. If we do not get this issue correct, it means we have lost these last 19 years and the future is now uncertain."
Similarly, the President of Nigerian Association of Energy Economics (NAEE), Prof. Wumi Iledare, stated in his remarks that a presidential assent to the PIGB would go a long way in reviving Nigeria's oil industry which he noted had remained comatose.
The Project Coordinator of NNRC, Ms. Tengi George-Ikoli, and National Coordinator of MITEI, Mr. Collins Olayinka, stated respectively that the workshop was initiated to push for a quick conclusion on the PIGB.