Former President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Peter Esele, has called for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
He insisted that once that is achieved, it would address the issues of incessant fuel price hike and other sundry challenges in the oil and gas industry.
Esele, who spoke yesterday on the Morning Show of Arise News channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said: "By the time the PIGB is passed into law, it will address all the challenges of petroleum products, as they relate to pricing.
"When the bill is passed into law, it will help maximise the benefits of oil and gas in the country. The PIGB will definitely wipe out the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which could then be merged with other departments. At that time, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will then be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to enable Nigerians have stake in NNPC. When NNPC goes public, between 10 to 40 per cent will be divested by the government within the next five years."
Esele, however, blamed politics for the delay in the passage of the initial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which he said metamorphosed into the current PIGB.
"Politics was the major reason why PIB is yet to be passed in Nigeria.
"It all started from Oil and Gas Implementation Committee (OGIC), which later metamorphosed into Petroleum Industry Bill, and recently to Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB)," Esele said.
He also explained that with the current development and trends, it is possible that in the next three years, the government will just have to sit up concerning the petroleum bill, because more modular refineries are beginning to spring up like the Dangote Refinery and the Bua Refinery.
According to Esele, "One of the beauties of the PIGB is that deregulation of the oil sector will come up on its own accord. Then at that time, the government will begin to think of how to make life more meaningful for the citizens.
"The challenges with the oil and gas sector include that crude is sold in dollars, bought in dollars and the refined products from crude oil is sold in naira. So as the currency continues to fluctuate, it will definitely affect business in the oil and gas sector. In January this year, the rate of naira to dollar was N303, and currently, it sells for N387, and in the black market, it is about N480, and this is a fundamental challenge in trading in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian market."
Reacting to the recent call for the privatisation of the country's refineries by the South-south leaders, Esele said the issue would be addressed when the PIGB is passed into law.
Also reacting to the demand from South-south leaders that all subsidiaries of NNPC should move their headquarters to the South-south region, Esele said the demand had political undertone and that politicians cannot tell oil companies where to site their operational headquarters. "One of the reasons why headquarters are mostly sited in the federal capital territory is for the ease of doing business and having easy lobby and access to the government," he said.
Also, while responding to the move by the federal government to import petroleum products from Niger Republic, Esele said it would be better for Nigeria to buy petroleum product from Niger Republic than buying from Europe.
He however said by the time Dangote and Bua refineries come on board, Nigeria would definitely stop importation of fuel from neighbouring countries like Niger Republic.
The group president added that the Dangote and Bua refineries would help Nigeria save a lot of forex for the country.