If the lawmakers sustain the current pace of work on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the passage of the new law for the country’s oil and gas industry may not linger beyond the first quarter of 2021, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has said.
The minister ,who was giving an update on the status of the PIB currently undergoing legislative processes in the National Assembly, told in his office on Wednesday that the government was happy with the pace of work by the legislators on the document.
The passage of the PIB, which has lingered for newly 20 years and survived at least two legislative cycles, appears to have received acceleration in recent times under the present administration that has described the document as key to attracting growth and development in the country’s petroleum industry.
“The PIB is out of the executive’s hand right now. We completed our own part by drafting the Bill. It is currently with the National Assembly. The process has already passed the second reading in the Senate. They have sent the draft to the relevant Committees for consideration.
“The House of Representatives would take up from there and look at it next week. We are expecting that both Chambers would go through the committee stages by the first quarter of next year and pass it into law.
“I am not saying categorically and conclusively that the PIB will be passed then. But, what I am saying is that from the pace of work we can see the National Assembly working so far, everything being equal, we are projecting that the PIB will be passed latest by the first quarter of 2021,” he said.
National Assembly complex. [PHOTO CREDIT: Queenesther Iroanusi]The minister said everything depends on the pace of the legislative process by the National Assembly, noting that if the two chambers of the National Assembly could pass second readings and hold public hearings, there is high optimism that it could be passed within the first quarter of next year.
He said the government has been engaging the leadership of the National Assembly on the matter, adding that the outcome of that engagement was very encouraging.
The lawmakers, Mr Sylva said, are quite committed to see the law passed as soon as possible, adding that there exists a national consensus that this is the best time to pass the PIB into law.
“Everybody concerned feel this is the best time to get the PIB passed to stimulate progress in the oil and gas industry. The passage of the PIB will involve a lot. But, we believe that will actually be a major foundation to move the petroleum industry forward from where it is at the moment.
“Since the beginning of the oil industry in Nigeria in the 1950s, this is the first major rehabilitation process being undertaken by any administration in the oil industry. There is no doubt that the PIB will help resolve some of the knotty issues that constituted the contradictions in the industry all these years. When all these issues are smoothened out, it would have laid a solid foundation for the growth of the petroleum industry,” he said.
Over the years, he said, the petroleum industry has grown more towards the upstream sector, with more attention paid to oil exploration and production, while little or no attention was paid to other sectors.He said with the PIB, the midstream sector of the industry, which is where the linkages to the growth of the economy exists, would receive better attention in terms of development.
He said the midstream sector creates not only the vital linkages, but also the jobs for the country’s teeming unemployed population.
“The midstream sector of the petroleum industry has been neglected over the years, because the fiscal framework for its development was non-existent. The PIB will now create the fiscal framework that would encourage its growth and development.
“The time is ripe now for the industry to produce the jobs that would mop up all those opportunities and sweep all the unemployed young Nigerians from the streets.
“There is no better way of diversifying the country’s economy than through a well-developed oil and gas industry, particularly with the huge gas resources in Nigeria.
“So, this will be the most credible attempt towards a holistic diversification of the Nigerian economy. That is why it is very important for all stakeholders to see that the PIB is passed as soon as possible,” he said.
On plans to roll out the National Gas Expansion Programme across the county, the minister disclosed that the government is getting ready to launch on November 30 this year.
The roll out, he said, ties into the government’s plan to ensure the development of the midstream sector of the petroleum industry, adding that this would help focus attention on the development of the abundant gas resources in the country.
The NGEP, he said, is geared towards expanding the utilization of gas resources to benefit the economy, noting that gas utilization has been at its lowest level in Nigeria, and gas penetration in the country the lowest in Africa.
Domestic gas resource, he said, is not used extensively in Nigeria, particularly at the grassroots, apart from the cities and urban areas, noting that this has caused serious environmental concerns and affected the government’s afforestation programme, as the bulk of the firewood used in cooking in the rural areas are sourced from the forests.