Group pictures of participants and resource persons at the Discourse on Nigeria Petroleum Industry Reforms held at the Emerald Energy Institute, University of Port Harcourt.
Nigeria is a major producer of crude oil for more than five decades with multinationals showcasing their interest in the country, but surprisingly it has protracted issues with its petroleum sector. The country’s oil sector is bogged down with challenges owing to frequent scandals of mismanagement and lack of coherent guidelines and regulations.
Concerned about this ugly trend, the National Assembly (NASS) has been making efforts to get the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) passed into law. The PIB has four elements as stakeholders partner with relevant authority to ensure that all the segments are passed into law so that the sector will be relieved of inadequacies.
Emerald Energy Institute (EEI) and Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER), collaborated through a Discourse on Petroleum Industry Reforms at the University of Port Harcourt.
In his remarks, Dr. Michael Uzoigwe, Lead Consultant for Foster and Accountability, made it known that Foster is a brain child of the Department for International Development (DFID), under the United Kingdom government. According to him, the Foster programme is dedicated in supporting Nigeria to improve its Oil and gas sector. It mainly focuses on how the sector is managed and governed. Uzoigwe was of the view that Foster has a strong believe that the oil and gas sector in Nigeria can be more developed, efficient and beneficial to Nigerians than it is at present.” “This is why it involves in various activities to sensitize and support the Nigerian government and multiple stakeholders who work with the Nigerian government to improve the sector.
The Lead Consultant for Foster disclosed that the organization works with civil society institutions and community leaders so that multiple stakeholders’ approach will be able to help Nigeria to adopt an inclusive system in terms of how the oil sector is governed. He asserted that “Every stakeholder interest is carried along in the process of governing petroleum sector. The UK government saw the need to institute a programme like it does for health, education, agriculture among others.” Foster has the limited mandate to work within the oil and gas industry.
He revealed that even though there are challenges in the sector, much can be done and since 2011 when Foster commenced operations, it has been engaging stakeholders. The programme is not instituted to take over the role of stakeholders rather it is to galvanized change, working with professionals of the industry. This is why it identifies PIB as a key part of efforts to improve the sector.
Since 2011, when Foster started, the organization has been working hard with NASS, Nigerian government, Civil Society and all stakeholders on how the PIB can be passed based on enhanced set of laws that will drive it. Uzoigwe appraised the success made on PIB and the role played by EEI particularly Professor Wumi Iledare its Director who has been working tirelessly with members of his technical team supporting NASS to input best provisions into the bill and working with different stakeholders.
Uzoigwe explained further that “Foster thought it good to support EEI for a stakeholder engagement around the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIBG) which is awaiting presidential assent after seventeen years before NASS transmitted it. The international organization identifies with the progress made on PIB, but it is just one part of the job. He submitted that PIB is broken into four pieces of legislation and only one has scaled through. Uzoigwe observed that “After presidential assent, there is still need for stakeholders to work quickly on the remaining bills especially the Host Community Bill.” Most people are concerned about it because they believe it will address issues around the Niger Delta. He emphasized that “As one component has been worked on there is need to rub minds on how others can get to the stage of being passed into law.” This will assist the country with a virile bill to run its oil industry.
Besides, Nigerians are concerned about how the bills will benefit them and change the economy including the oil industry. It is noteworthy that NASS is committed to ensure that all the four bills are passed. But there are fears that the country is heading towards election and the legislators may be distracted. Therefore, how they will deliberate on the bills is paramount to Nigerians. Uzoigwe assured EEI that so long as the PIB is an important document paving the way forward for the country’s oil industry, there will be wide consultations. The trend of support which has been kick-started will be sustained. In future, “If there is need to deliberate on the bill, the discussion will be catalyzed.” Foster is also open to support and fund any fruitful introspection about the bill.
However, participants and stakeholders at the Discourse on Petroleum Industry Reforms identified gray areas that have not been touched or need to be worked on. They also urge President Mohammadu Buhari to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) while NASS on their own part should ensure speedy passage of the other bills. They made it known that signing of the governance bill without further delay is paramount because it paves the way forward for the country’s oil industry. They recalled how Nigeria has lost huge amount of fund which could have been invested in the country but since there is no virile policy for the industry it becomes difficult for this investment to be attained.
It is also expected that with the caliber of people handling different segments of the bill, their inputs will be acknowledged and the document will not gather dust at government shelves which has always been a recurring culture with issues of national concern. The Discourse was also attended by academic board members of EEI and industry stakeholders.
Professor Iledare spoke on the governance bill that it will not only improve the oil industry but ensure sanity in the system and remove opaqueness.
Dr. Francis Adigwe, a consultant with the Senate Committee on Upstream assured that Petroleum Host Community Bill (PHCB) will resolve issues bothering on the communities with check and balances put in place. He enjoined Nigerians to attend the public hearing in order to contribute to the success of PHCB.