• Govt plans midstream sector in PIB

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is to be commercialised as part of the provisions of the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) transmitted to the National Assembly for passage.

The nation’s oil industry behemouth will play a new role in the envisaged arrangement as the government also proposed a midstream sector in the oil industry.

There are the downstream and upstream sectors of the industry in the current arrangement.

Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva gave an insight into the new Bill on Monday during an interview with reporters after a meeting between the Executive represented by him and the leadership of the National Assembly.

He said the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) will not exist in their current forms after the PIB has been passed.

Sylva said: “We have heard so much noise about NNPC being scrapped but that is not envisaged by the Bill at all.

“We have said that NNPC will be commercialised. But If you are talking about transforming the industry, the only new thing that we are introducing is the development of the midstream, that is the pipeline sector – the one between the upstream and the downstream. This is because the framework was not there.

“So, we have provided robustly for the growth of the midstream sector.”

He added that the host communities have the best deal now and declined to give further details on the Bill, saying “you will hear when it is read on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate”.

On the recent renewal of the tenure of the chief executives of the PEF and the PPPRA vis-a-vis the provisions of the new PIB, he said:  “A lot of people have been asking me questions about that.

“I am sure that the PIB will also take care of that because with the PIB, the industry will be transformed.”

At the meeting Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the National Assembly would not pass the PIB if it does not understand it.

House of Representatives  Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said a thorough scrutiny will not be sacrificed on the altar of speedy passage of the Bill.

Others are at the meeting were Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abudullahi, minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe, Minority Whip Philip Aduda, Leader of the House and Ado Doguwa, among others.

Lawan said that the essence of the meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC was to discuss the essence and focus of the PIB sent to the National Assembly about two weeks ago.

Lawan said: “By tomorrow (Tuesday) when the letter of transmission is read on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, we will know what is in the Bill.

“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 Sixth and Seventh Assembly.

“In the Eight 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.

“The Ninth Assembly wants to see a situation where we work with you to process the Bill and to have a very clear understanding of every available clause of the Bill so that we at the end of the day will break that jinx together with you and make history and provide the oil industry a legislation that will make it more effective and efficient at the end of the day.

“We want to pass the PIB as quickly as possible because the economic life of this nation depends on this.”

Gbajabiamila said even though the National Assembly wants to pass the PIB speedily, it will not be done at the expense of thorough scrutiny.

Gbajabiamila said: “We are talking about the most important piece of legislation in the life of this administration.

“Because oil is the most popular and most common bill because obviously oil represents the life wire of our State and that represents the importance of this Bill.

“This Ninth Assembly will pass it speedily however with a caveat because we won’t sacrifice thoroughness at the altar of speed.

“Speed because we need it but it will be in the best interest of the nation.”

The Speaker added that the Green Chamber had assembled an ad-hoc committee on PIB made up of legislators versed in oil industry.

He said the Ad hoc Committee members were drawn from the House Committees on petroleum (upstream and downstream) and local content.

“It is going to be a busy three months for us. We are going to look at the PIB and the 2021 budget. But it is going to be worthwhile,” he added.

Sylva added: “We all, collectively, today have a date with history.  The PIB started almost exactly 20 years ago in year 2000.”

He noted that several attempts made in the past to pass a comprehensive legislative to guide the operations of the nation’s oil industry failed:

“Today in 2020, we are still discussing it because it is at the core of various sectors of the economy.

“Here we are, the 20th year but for me it is a good signal. One of the things investors want to look at is the predictability of the legal framework.

“We must convince them that laws don’t change very easily in this country,” he said.

He noted that going by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) projections,  the world’s dependence on oil would have reduced by 50 per cent in 2040.

“Our focus should be that we take advantage of our resources while it matters. With PIB, we can make Nigeria an attractive investment destination,” he said.

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