By Obas Esiedesa
The Federal Government on Thursday assured that the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which has been in the making for over 16 years would be passed before the first anniversary of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term on May 29 2020.
This time, the PIB will be passed as one omnibus law for the oil and gas sector.
The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva who disclosed this to journalists in Abuja during a briefing sector, said the various versions of the PIB are being harmonized in consultation with industry stakeholders.
This is however clear contrast to the method adopted by the government when Dr. Ibe Kachukwu was the Minister of State Petroleum Resources which unbundled the PIB into four different bills.
One of those segments, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) was eventually passed by the Eighth Assembly but President Buhari declined refused to sign it into law.
Sylva said the new move would leverage on the cordial relationship between the Executive Arm of government and the Ninth Assembly to get the PIB passed.
He explained that passing the PIB for crucial to the growth of the petroleum industry, noting the Oil field bid rounds could only be held after its passage.
Sylva who was having its first press briefing since he was appointed in August last year said unlike the PIGB, the new PIB will have two regulators, one for upstream and the other for the mid and downstream sectors.
He said: “A few of things we intend to do this year, we want to progress the consideration and passage of the overall petroleum legislation. The team working on the PIB is at the final stage of the harmonisation of all the existing versions from 2000 till date; 2009, 2012 and 2018 with considerations to the concerns raised by the industry players to create an enabling environment for investors as well as appropriate government taking in all the oil and gas value chain.
“Counting on the existing harmony between the legislative and the Executive arm of government, we are optimistic that both the Petroleum Industry governance administration and host communities bill on the one and the Petroleum industry vis a viz on the other hand will be passed within the first anniversary of this administration.
“Special focus will be placed on the mainstream and downstream sector consequently, we are considering two regulators in the PIB; one for the upstream, the commission and another for the midstream and downstream the authority”.
The Minister explained further that the “midstream and downstream will particularly open enormous opportunities to local investors and consequently create massive job opportunities in the country”.
He expressed government’s desire to grow crude oil production in the country, saying production level was far below Nigeria’s target of four million barrels per day.
“The petroleum industry has not moved very far in this country for some time now, I am the first to admit it because a few years ago in my first incarnation in the Ministry of Petroleum, we were already producing as a country over two million barrels per day and we actually had a projection to move our productions to three million barrels per day and to at least four million barrels by this time. At that time, UAE as a country was producing 2.7 million barrels per day. Today, the UAE has moved on to producing four million barrels per day. We would have been very lucky if we were even stagnant in this country but instead of being stagnant we have gone backwards, today we are producing according to OPEC quota, 1.774 million barrels. So we can see there is a need for us to move this industry forward and that is the mandate we have from the president who is also our minister of Petroleum”.
He harped on the need to improve the relationship between the industry and ordinary Nigerians, pointing out that “a lot of Nigerians on the street do not have any other relationship with this industry other than at the pump. We want to improve that relationship by making fuel more accessible and more affordable”.