President Muhammadu Buhari has intensified efforts to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said yesterday, explaining that there are ongoing talks with the National Assembly for the federal lawmakers to consider suspending their annual recess to expedite the passage of the bill.
Sylva said his ministry, headed by Buhari, had finished the drafting work while the Ministry of Justice had also finished aligning the bill with the existing laws in the industry.
The minister stated this yesterday at a webinar organised by the Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), with the theme: "Fiscal Regime Design, Government Revenue and Investors Interest in Nigeria Oil and Gas Sector."
According to him, what is left now is for the lawmakers to receive the draft and move ahead to pass the bill.
The minister added that he has been in touch with the lawmakers who had assured him that the bill will not stay in the National Assembly more than six months from the time they receive the draft before its passage into law.
Sylva said: "I cannot give a specific timeline on the passage of the PIB because it involves the National Assembly.
"I can only give you our own timeline and what we have been doing. For us, I will tell you that we have finished our job. The drafting process has been concluded and we have also discussed with the relevant stakeholders in the industry.
"The Ministry of Justice has also looked at the draft to ensure that there are no issues and that has been concluded.
"In the coming few days, we will be requesting the National Assembly to specially reconvene to look at the PIB, which may as well take some weeks before its passage."
The minister expressed optimism that the bill would be expeditiously processed, given that it has taken the country years to get it to this stage.
He said the government needed maximum fiscal environment to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, adding that for this reason, they are proposing grand fathering in the new PIB.
The minister said: "This, I believe will preserve current government take, while also guaranteeing investors' returns. It also guarantees that investors can continue with the existing operations while earning favourable returns.
"The proposed PIB framework shall be based on the core principles of clarity, dynamism, neutrality, open access and fiscal rules of general application.
"At the same time, investments in new acreages will be encouraged with attractive competitive terms in order to achieve an economic growth.
"Investors in existing assets will be able to sign conversion contracts to obtain better terms for existing production, and to be able to explore and produce part of the existing blocks under the new block terms."
Sylva decried the poor investment and development in the midstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry and urged investors to invest in the sector.
On whether the government will continue to encourage investment and remove monopoly in the gas sub-sector, he explained that the PIB when passed will make it impossible to encourage monopoly in the sub-sector.
"Though only a few operators are existing in the gas subsector, we will not promote monopoly," Sylva said, adding that the ministry is receiving enquiries from investors eyeing opportunities in the pipeline business.
"The PIB will provide a framework for increased petroleum industry activities in terms of developing gas for the domestic market and increasing oil production under competitive terms and support the goal of a stronger non-oil economy for the benefit of all Nigerians," Sylva stated.
On his mandate to increase the nation's production capacity to three million barrels per day, the minister said he was looking forward to ramping up the nation's production volume.
He, however, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with oil production cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have restrained Nigeria's desire to hit the production target.
Sylva expressed optimism that with the expectation from Bonga South and West, coupled with the plan to embark on another major bid round after the marginal field bid round, Nigeria will be able to attain the target of producing three million barrels per day, particularly when the PIB has been passed into law.