The Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has expressed concerns over the protracted delays of the assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) after the National Assembly harmonized the Bill and transmitted to the Presidency. The NNRC is of the view that the sector stands to lose whatever gains that were made with the passage of the bill by NASS if the President fails to assent to it as a matter of urgency. Moreso, delays in assenting to the PIGB may have a negative impact on other outstanding relevant bills, including the fiscal, administrative and the host community bills, thus compounding the uncertainties and stalled investment opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas sector. The NNRC recognizes that the country has so much to lose in failing to pass the relevant laws needed to transform the oil and gas sector. It therefore urges the President to expedite action on the process.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman of Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) of the NNRC and Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia expressed optimism about the assent of the bill by the President noting that the President understands the importance of the bill; not only for Nigeria’s oil and gas sector but also for her economy. Mr. Ajumogobia stated that “given President Buhari’s antecedents, I believe that he would be committed to signing the PIGB (or as may be amended) into law considering the potential benefits to the economy and the nation as a whole”. He pointed out that the delay may “stem from on-going consultations being carried out by the President. It is my hope that these consultations are concluded quickly and the PIGB is signed into law”. The oil and gas sector he opined is in dire need of reforms. “The passage of the PIGB by the National Assembly after about 18 years, now awaiting Presidential assent is proof that the “political class” recognises the urgent need for reforms in the industry”, he added.
He dismissed worries being expressed in some quarters that the 2019 elections might negatively impact the potential for assent to the PIGB, “I do not see why the 2019 elections should affect the PIGB, even though there is an obvious tension between the timely passage of the PIGB and preparation for the 2019 general elections”. He advised the government to ride the tide as it is a “matter of garnering the political will to do what will be beneficial to the industry and to the lives and future of the citizens of this country”. He however warned that if the PIGB is not signed into law before 29 May 2019, “then we have to start afresh by re-presenting it before the 9th National Assembly that will resume sitting after 29 May 2019”.
In similar vein, Mrs. Ronke Onadeko, member, Experts Advisory Panel (EAP) warned that the PIGB is such an important piece of legislation requiring every attention from the government. She expressed surprise that a piece of legislation that took an entire 18 years is still being delayed, noting that it shows that the government is yet to realize the importance of such a law to the economy of this country. She however pointed out that “the level of collaboration between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be emulated between the legislature and the executive to move the oil and gas sector forward by getting the President to assent to the bill”. She pointed out that reforms and improvement across the sector can yield better improved management of our natural resources thus added financial and non financial benefits to the country and her citizens. The Petroleum Industry Bills according to her, will among other things help engender stronger institutions and weaker discretionary powers, usher in accountability to government spending, receipts and income. Above all, it will lead to transparency of contracts and processes to support accountability to citizens. The importance of speedy passage of the relevant laws required to reposition the sector towards increasing revenue generation, inflow of investments, job creation and improved governance of the industry cannot be over emphasised.