AMIDST growing concerns and rejection by civil society organisations and sociocultural groups on some provisions in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as passed by the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, signed the PIB 2021 into law.
Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), disclosed in a statement on Monday that working from home in five days’ quarantine as required by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 after his return from London on Friday, the president assented to the Bill in his determination to fulfill his constitutional duty.
The statement said the ceremonial part of the new legislation will be done tomorrow, after the days of mandatory isolation would have been fulfilled.
The Petroleum Industry Act provides legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the development of host communities, and related matters.
The Senate had passed the Bill on July 15, while the House of Representatives did the same on July 16, thus ending a long wait since early 2000s, and notching another high for the Buhari administration.
Nigerian Tribune checks revealed that the report submitted by Joint Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector, Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Gas, led by Senator Sabo Mohammed Nakudu, was embroiled in crises, owing to certain contentious provisions.
One of the areas of contention was the five per cent of the actual annual operating expenditure of the upstream petroleum operators as fund for the establishment of the Host Communities Trust Fund.
While the Senate settled for three per cent (about $502 million) of the upstream oil and gas companies operational costs, its counterpart in the House of Representatives initially insisted on the provision of five per cent (about $502.8 million).
The conference report of both chambers, however, adopted the Senate resolution of three per cent. Both chambers adopted the committee’s recommendation of 30 per cent profit of the proposed Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to be dedicated to crude oil exploration in the Frontier Basins.
Kicking, the apex sociocultural group, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (CHURAC), lampooned the president for disregarding the issues raised over a portion of the bill that ceded a paltry three per cent to Host Communities Development Trust Fund and 30 per cent of NNPC Ltd profit to Frontier Oil Exploration Fund.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in a statement made available to Nigerian Tribune in Warri, Delta State, described the assent as callous, repressive and insensitive to the plight of the Niger Delta.
“This PIB falls way short of the expectations of the oil and gas producing communities that bear the brunt of unconscionable industry operations.
“This assent by President Buhari simply speaks to the repugnant attitude of disregard, propelled by arrogance, disdain and contempt with which issues concerning the Niger Delta region is treated, particularly, by the present administration.
“What this act signifies is an unequivocal message to the Niger Delta people that how they feel and what they say do not count at all in the schemes of the Nigeria project.
“That’s insensitive, abominable and, therefore, unacceptable to the good people of the Niger Delta, the critical economic nexus of the entire Nigerian territory.
“The Niger Delta people will speak shortly after full consultations on this callous act on the best legal and political response,” he disclosed.
Speaking in the same vein, CHURAC’s president/chairman, Board of Trustees, Cleric Alaowei, said the unusual speed by President Buhari in assenting to the Bill was suspicious and a sign that he was predisposed to doing the bid of a section of the country to the detriment of others.
“It appears President Buhari is yielding to the desires of a section of the country, especially the core northern supremacists. For us in the Niger Delta, the hasty signing into law of that rather repressive Act only marked another draconian legal regime where the region is being subjected to the whims and caprices of the inimical petroleum laws.
“Niger Delta people need 10 per cent equity share. Three per cent cannot remedy the despoliation of our environment occasioned by the years of unhindered oil exploration,” he said.
Also, communities in Rivers State, under the umbrella of the Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities (CROGHCOM), rejected the Bill and condemned the signing without first resolving the rifts in it or even putting into consideration the outcry of the people from the host communities to law In a press release in Port Harcourt, on Monday.
CROGHCOM said: “We want to state very clearly that this PIB is just a rubber stamp of what the executive wanted, that’s why it’s been hurriedly passed and signed just like that.”
The statement, signed by chairman of the coalition, Barituka Loanyie, added: “We want our people and indeed the world to know that the meagre three per cent provided for the host Community Trust Fund as signed into law by the president is to be managed by the oil companies. It is like the case of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), where they give with one hand and take with the other hand.
“We reject this PIB because it does not scratch where it is itching us. This is complete injustice.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said President Buhari showed his contempt for oil producing communities by signing the Bill into law despite the outcry against it.
In a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its national publicity secretary, it noted that the signing of the law, “despite widespread public rejection, amounts to endorsement of imposition and further confirms that President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) have no iota of respect for the people as well as the tenets of democracy as a system of government.”
The party argued: “By his action, President Buhari has only authenticated that he is not a listening leader and that the APC and its leaders are only out to trample on the will of Nigerians for their selfish interests.”
Meanwhile, the ninth Senate has commended President Buhari for giving his presidential assent to the PIB. Senator representing Osun Central and chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Basiru Ajibola, described the assent by President Buhari as “a major victory that has the potential of bailing Nigeria out of its economic predicament and an act that will enable the country make the most of economic gains of the oil industry for the benefit of Nigerians.”
Senator Ajibola further attributed the success of the assent to the Bill, which has now become an Act, to the warm relationship between the Parliament and the Presidency.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Lanre Lasisi, said the bill has become an Act of the National Assembly and expressed optimism that Nigeria’s oil and gas industry will now receive a breath of fresh air.
Gbajabiamila said when massive investments come in as a result of the Act, a lot of Nigerians will gain employment.
In its reaction, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) congratulated President Buhari for signing into law the PIB. Secretary-General of OPEC, Dr Mohammed Barkindo, in a congratulatory letter released to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday, said: “Indeed, the new law will enhance the Nigerian petroleum industry’s reputation, open the door to new investment and ultimately strengthen its position to meet the world’s growing demand for energy.”
He added that the enactment of the legislation was timely as the investment outlook had become clouded by efforts aimed at accelerating a lower-carbon future.
According to him, the new law will help harness Nigeria’s potential to achieve its programme of raising oil production to four million barrel per day and oil reserves to 40 billion barrels, while also drawing on the country’s vast natural gas reserves to provide clean and efficient energy. The OPEC scribe said since the 24th OPEC Conference on July 12, 1971, when Nigeria was welcomed as the 11th member country of the organisation, it had symbolised Africa’s leadership within OPEC and its pivotal support for global oil market stability.
Barkindo further commended the president for the support of the Charter of Cooperation, signed on July 2, 2019 and acknowledged the contributions of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, to OPEC and the DoC.