*Nigeria losing $20bn annually over delay
By Obas Esiedesa
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has expressed concern over continuing delay by the Executive arm of the Nigerian government to send the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to the National Assembly.
The PIB which has been in the making for over 20 years is expected to introduce reforms in the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and make the sector more transparent and beneficial to Nigerians.
Energy experts say the country is losing $20 billion annually in new investment due to the uncertainty over the non-passage of the bill.
The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva had in February this year assured Nigerians that the PIB would be passed and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari by the end of May.
This has not happened and has led to concerns that the government was not taking the passage of the Bill seriously. Last year, a version of the bill (the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill) was passed by the 8th Assembly but the President refused to sign it into last.
Just last week, Chief Silva, again, assured that the new PIB would be sent to the National Assembly within two weeks, but CSOs are not confident that this will happen despite the importance of the Bill.
Speaking to The AUTHORITY on Sunday, the National Coordinator of Publish What You Pay Nigeria (PWYP), Mr. Peter Egbule urged President Buhari to expedite action on the PIB and send it to the National Assembly.
He noted that failure to pass the Bill in the past 20 years has made Nigeria a laughing stock among her peers.
He said: “PIB is a very critical policy matter in this country because it is the mainstay of our economy, petroleum. We are worried because if you look at the trajectory on the passage of PIB, it has taken more than 20 years and we are still talking about it. Countries that discovered oil after us has gone ahead and they have well structured petroleum industry laws better than we have.
“So I am worried because there is a lot of motion with without movement. We are shocked; we are disappointed by the delay. We are suspicious because the content of the new Bill has been kept secret. We don’t know what it is about”.
Egbule urged the government to make the content of the bill known to the public “because we want ensure that it is a people friendly Bill.
“Secondly, government should expedite the action on the process of passage. We are long overdue for a new law and the more we delay it, the more we lose revenue, the more we become a public mockery before the global economy”, he added.
On her part, the Convener and Founder of Women in Extractives, Faith Nwadishi expressed worry that the government was not taking the passage of the PIB as seriously as it should.
According to her, “I am very worried because the fact is that after the 2019 elections we expected that the PIB will be one of the accelerated bills but unfortunately we have done a year, going to two years of the administration and we have not heard anything concrete.
“We keep hearing that they are going to send the Bill to the National Assembly, we have not seen that happen. Meanwhile things are already happening around the petroleum sector like the removal of subsidy and marginal field bid process; we need to be sure of which framework we are using to run the sector. Every Nigerian should be worried that we are not taking as serious the matter of the petroleum sector as we should because it runs the economy”.
Nwadishi, a two-time member of global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), urged the government to step-up action of the PIB and ensure that it is sent to National Assembly this week.
“This is a new week, hopefully there will be an announcement may be at the Federal Executive Council saying the Bill has been approved and sent to the National Assembly so that we can put pressure on the National Assembly so that we can have the Bill”, she added.