STRONG indications emerged Monday that hardship looms in Nigeria following the nation's over-reliance on oil as the Federal Government has raised the alarm that the days of crude oil are numbered.
According to the Federal Government, it has become imperative for Nigerians to start making effective utilization of its oil wealth when it matters most before the commodity becomes worthless.
Speaking Monday in Abuja at an interactive meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly, Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva cautioned that based on a forecast in the global oil industry, oil will in the next 20 years become less relevant in the global energy mix as the world looks beyond oil and seeks alternative sources.
The meeting, which was presided over by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, with the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other leaders of the National Assembly in attendance is aimed at discussing the details of a draft copy of the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB).
Sylva who pleaded that Nigeria should make use of the best of the remaining days of the relevance of petroleum in the global market, however, sought the cooperation of the National Assembly for speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill ( PIB) forwarded to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Minister who spoke on the intendment of the bill said that having wasted 20 years in putting in place required laws for the regulation of the oil industry, the country needs to quickly pass the PIB to make the best of investments from the sector before 2040, already forecasted for 50 per cent loss of relevance of crude oil in the global market
The Minister said: "It is quite unfortunate that since the year 2000 when attempts were made to come up with a draft copy of PIB, to 2007, 2009 and 2012 when draft bills were submitted to different sessions of the National Assembly by the executive arm of government without passage, up till 2018 when the legislators came up with one; that we are yet to put on the ground required laws for effective regulation of the oil industry.
"Twenty years have been wasted in putting the laws in place for a sector that has 20 more years of full relevance going by forecasts already made.
"Forecasts in oil industry circles indicate that oil will play less and less role in the global economy.
" Specifically, by the year 2040 which is 20 years away, the relevance of oil in the global economy will reduce by 50 per cent"
According to Sylva, the PIB as drafted and passed to both Chambers of the National Assembly, if expeditiously considered and passed, will serve as the foundation of investments, adding that one of the central aims of the bill, is to make Nigeria an attractive investment destination.
He warned saying, "The days of oil are numbered; deposits of coal did not run out before the world moved away from it. Today the world is talking about alternative energy and we should also move we should take advantage of making hay while the sun shines."
Earlier in his opening remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said that though the PIB seemed to be jinxed since 2007 and 2019, the fresh effort will surely see the light of the day, adding that it is difficult to put a time frame on when the jinx would be broken through the passage of the bill because details of its contents must be understood and thoroughness applied in its consideration.
Lawan who disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari's communication will be read today said that the Ministry must be around to educate the National Assembly on the content of the Bill, adding, "the essence of this meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and NNPC is to discuss the essence and focus of the Petroleum Industry Bill that has been sent to the National Assembly about two weeks ago.
"We announce that the Bill is now in the National Assembly even though it is not before the National Assembly. By tomorrow when the letter of transmission is read on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, we will know what it is the Bill.
"The essence of this meeting is for us to understand what is in the Bill. That is the essence and purpose of the meeting. This is just for us to interact with you on the content of the Bill so that we have some first-hand information, understanding, and idea of what is in there and of course from there the interaction will continue maybe at another level with our committees for the processing of the Bill by the National Assembly leading to its eventual passage by the grace of God.
"The PIB is said to be jinxed. Actually for a long time, roughly from 2007 to 2019, it was either the Bill was sponsored by the executive and not passed by the legislature as was the case in 2007 and 2011 in the 6th and 7th Assembly.
"In the 8th Assembly, the legislature sponsored the Bill by breaking it into three Bills which were passed but there was no assent.
Now the Bill is an executive Bill sent to the National Assembly. The two chambers promised even during our campaigns that we want to break that jinx. We want to see an oil industry in Nigeria that is properly regulated and that does not only sustains the investments we have but attract even more investments. We want to see an oil industry that is very competitive and oil resources that are beneficial to Nigerians."
Speaking in the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, said that though the bill will be considered and passed speedily, thoroughness will not be sacrificed.
Gbajabiamila said, "Oil represents the livewire of our Nigeria's economy, making the PIB the most important piece of legislation that will come out of the 9th National Assembly in months or years to come.
"We will pass the bill speedily, but not sacrifice thoroughness at the altar of speed. We have assembled a crack team of legislators who are versed in the workings of the industry."