Nigeria: Finally, President Sends New Petroleum Bill to National Assembly Next Week

24 September 2020

Abuja — Barring unforeseen circumstances, President Muhammadu Buhari would next week send the long-awaited oil-reform bill to the Senate, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

The president approved the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) late last week, and his team has already been building support for it in the National Assembly, according to the news medium.

THISDAY gathered that the lawmakers would resume next week and are expected to work on the proposed law, which the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, this week argued that its non-passage was scaring investors from the oil and gas industry.

The legislation has been in the works for the past 20 years and the main laws governing the country's oil and gas exploration have not been fully updated since the 1960s because of the contentious nature of any change to oil taxes, terms and revenue-sharing within Nigeria.

But reforms and regulatory certainty became more pressing this year as low oil prices and a shift towards renewable energy made competition for investment from oil majors tougher.

The alignment of both chambers with Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) party has also given the reforms the best chance of passage in years.

The sources, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, according to Reuters, said the National Assembly has already chosen teams of members who would work most closely on individual portions of the bill.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives must approve it before Buhari could sign it into law.

Two presidential spokesmen declined to comment and the Senate had no immediate comment.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources sent the draft, the product of months of consultation between Nigerian officials, oil and gas companies, and other industry stakeholders, to Buhari last month.

Excerpts from the bill seen by Reuters included provisions that would streamline and reduce some oil and gas royalties, boost the amount of money companies pay to local communities and for environmental clean-ups and alter the dispute resolution process between companies and the government.

It also included measures to push companies to develop gas discoveries and a framework for gas tariffs and delivery.

Commercialising gas, particularly for use in local power generation, is a core government priority this year, according to the Minister of State, Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva.

Earlier in the month, Sylva stated that the timeline for the delivery of PIB was out of his control, after several promises to get the bill to the lawmakers who are expected to start work immediately, seemed to have failed in the past.

Sylva described PIB as omnibus reform legislation, which "combines 16 different Nigerian petroleum laws in a single transparent and coherent document."

The first version of PIB was presented to the National Assembly, 13 years ago, but didn't materialise into an Act and has since then returned fruitlessly to two separate tenures of members of the two chambers.

Speaking penultimate week, the minister said work had been concluded on the part of the executive, noting that he couldn't say how long it would take before the final approval by the National Assembly.

"I would tell you very confidently that we have finished our job. The drafting process is concluded. We have discussed with some relevant industry operators as well," he stated.

However, he added that the Ministry of Justice was looking at the draft again to ensure that it's not in conflict with the existing laws in the country, stating that even that process has now been concluded.

He said because of the urgency of the bill, there had been a request to the National Assembly to see if they could reconvene during their recess to accept PIGB.

"And then after that, frankly, I cannot say how long it is going to stay with the National Assembly. But, my understanding from all the consultations we have had with them is that they are going to look at it expeditiously.

"I do not think that it is going to stay for more than, I am just trying to be excessive in my estimation, six months in the National Assembly," he stated.

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