Nigeria: Experts Seek Firmer Regulatory Frameworks to Boost Investment in Oil Sector

Experts have called on the government to develop a viable and firmer regulatory framework to boost investment in the oil sector.

The experts spoke at the 3rd Lawyers in Oil and Gas Network conference in Lagos last week.

Speaking on 'Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry: its National Policies and Regulations, a reflection on the economy', Chairman, Lawyers in Oil and Gas Network, Mr. George Etomi said the absence of a recent legal framework or policy is the reason for lack of investors coming into the sector, adding that the current laws are old and not safe for investors.

Etomi said the capital needed to improve the oil sector is not in Nigeria but outside the country and those investors would only come when the environment is secured and there is room for them to make profit.

He said lawyers needed to increase the level of interaction with legislators because it is one thing for government to design a policy and another if that policy is not enacted or captured in law, which makes it almost comes to nothing.

According to him, government needs to stop interfering in the activities of privatized companies.

"You have privatized an industry yet you interfere. There are more pronouncements coming from government than the regulator," he said.

Etomi therefore called on lawyers to show more interest in the oil and gas sector, affirming that they play a major role in the enactment and regulation of laws and policies.

Managing Director, Aiteo Exploration and Production, Mr. Victor Okoronkwo speaking on legislation of prices, said: "Once you legislate a price, you kill competition."

However, Dr. Terhemen Andzenge, who represented the Attorney General of Edo State, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, said legislation and policy-making process is difficult in Nigerian due to various personal interests.

Andzenge stated: "The law is not difficult, what is difficult is the interest groups. There are people who are benefitting from the system. They don't want the law to be reformed."

According to him, oil industry laws need reforms because the existing laws are so opaque and outdated, pointing out that emphasis on policies and regulations are misplaced.

"Policies lack force of law. Policies are not self-enabling or effective and reliable means of attracting investment," he stressed, adding that the way out of the problem in the sector is to have laws in place.

Meanwhile, Osaro Eghobamien (SAN) who acknowledged that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was too complex to be passed into law, said with the way it has been broken down into smaller bits, there should be no difficulty in passing it.

"PIB currently has been broken into smaller bits and that's why we have the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and other subsidiaries or broken down legislatures," he said.

Eghobamien said there are indeed needs for regulatory policies in the sector as a result of the slowness of legislative reforms, explaining that if there is no policy to guide activities, there will be nothing to work with.

President of the Nigerian Gas Association, Dr. Audrey Joe-Ezigbo who affirmed that it has been a long walk from the 1969 petroleum act, the gas master plan down to the current national gas policy, said it has not been fully optimized.

Audrey called on the public, government and all related bodies to help optimize the potentials of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.

"Whatever reason has been as to why we haven't fully optimized our gas resources, it is important all parties government, private sector, the legal sector who has a huge role toplay, we are all coming onboard in a collaborative manner to fast-track the potentials," she said.

Justice Derefaka, who spoke on the National Gas Flare Commercialization Programme, explained that there are 178 confirmed gas flare sites in Nigeria.

"As at 2001, we flare 50 percent of the gas we have. That volume has reduced so far, but still worrisome. Nigeria is currently no. 7 among list of gas flaring countries," he said, adding that large amounts of money are lost to gas flaring, which is about $1 billion.

According to him, harnessing the gas that has been flared can bring in lots of money for the Nigerian government, generate jobs and solve the electricity crises.

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