By Obas Esiedesa
Former Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odein Ajumogubia has said that it was shameful that it was taking the country so long to get a new law in place for the sector, despite several attempts.
Ajumogobia who spoke in Abuja at the launch of the 2019 Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER) by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC), said a new oil reform law could position the country to maximize its hydrocarbon deposit.
According to him, “It is a shame that it is taking us this long to pass a bill that is critical to the oil sector. I worked on that bill in 2007 as a minister under (late) President Yar’Adua, and this is 13 years after. We must recognise that we have increased competition, half of Africa now produces oil, the US which was previously the biggest importer is now the biggest exporter, the window of opportunity is closing on us,” he said.
Ajumogobia who is also the Chair of the NNRC Expert Advisory Panel, advised that while waiting to pass the entire bill, Nigeria could also focus on achieving the small things which are capable of making much impacts just like the Onshore/ Offshore bill.
The 2019 Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER) showed the urgency for such a law as it revealed that Nigeria earned N87 trillion revenue from oil and gas over the past 37years, while 87 million of its population lives in abject poverty.
According to the report, average daily crude oil production in Nigeria at 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd), more than Norway’s 1.8mbpd average production, noted that while Norway has $956 billion saved up for future generation, Nigeria has less than $1.3 billion saved up.
Also speaking at the launch, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who was represented by Hon. Henry Nwaubah, assured that the PIB would be passed by the National Assembly mid this year.
He said: “I can assure that the Legislative agenda of the 9th NASS is anchored on passing the PIB. Much work has been done, for now we are just crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. No matter how good or bad, this law will come to be”, the lawmaker assured.
Speaking earlier, Programme Coordinator of the NNRC, Tengi George-Ikoli, said it was the Charter’s belief that actions taken to address the gaps identified by the NNRC’s 2019 BER will guide Nigeria towards effectively translating her petroleum resources to benefit citizens.
She noted that report which was “painstakingly put together by a team of well accomplished research institutions is undoubtedly the most incisive, in-depth and well detailed account of the developments in the petroleum sector in the period under review.
“It seeks to find answers to very important questions such as whether the government has clearly identified the country’s resource endowment, ownership and full impacts of extraction. It equally demands if the government has an inclusive and comprehensive national strategy for the management of resources as well as to what the extent resource management should secure the greatest benefit for citizens through an inclusive and comprehensive national strategy, clear legal framework and competent institutions, among others. Most importantly it highlights the perennial issue of the neglect of oil producing communities and the delays as regards the transformation of the National Oil Company”, she added.
Latest attempt to have new law for the sector failed during the Eighth Assembly when President Muhammadu Buhari declined accent to the Petroleum Industry Government Bill (PIGB). His action brought a disappointing end to the quest by experts, civil society groups and other stakeholders to have the Petroleum Industry Bills passed into law.