Following our last blog post highlighting the transmission of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) from President Muhammed Buhari to the Nigerian National Assembly, several developments have occurred culminating in the Senate fixing 20 October 2020 for the commencement of the PIB debate.
The first of such developments was the postponement by the National Assembly of deliberations on the PIB to the first quarter of next year, which was reported to have taken place during the Joint Executive-Legislature Leadership Retreat at the Presidential Villa Banquet Hall in Abuja on 6 October 2020. The postponement was said to be due to the more urgent need for the National Assembly law makers to pass the 2021 Appropriation Bill before January 2021. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva (Minister) had stated in this regard: “what the National Assembly has told us in our engagement with them is that the PIB, which is a very important piece of law, is coming at a time when they will be considering the Appropriation Bill.” The Minister expressed the belief that the PIB would nonetheless be passed in the first quarter of 2021 because there was consensus around a need to pass the PIB.
In a subsequent development and in response to the proposed temporary suspension of PIB deliberations, some industry players were of the view that the move could be in the best interest of the industry, insisting that there is need to carefully study the ubiquitously discussed PIB before it becomes law. On the other hand, other industry players insisted that the PIB has faced a similar fate of endless suspensions for over two decades without much progress. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said Nigeria has recorded losses to the tune of $200 billion stemming from its failure to pass the PIB.
Perhaps in response to the opinions of the latter industry players, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan (Senate President) stated via his twitter handle on Thursday 8 October 2020 that the Senate has fixed 20 October 2020 for the commencement of the PIB debate. The Senate President in considering the importance of the PIB and the urgency of the 2021 Appropriation Bill, stated that “if we [the Senate] are able to take the debate, pass the PIB for second reading and refer the document to our Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream) and Gas, the committee can keep work on the PIB warm, while we are working on the budget.”
In the wake of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil industry and the Nigerian economy as a whole, both the PIB and 2021 Appropriation Bill are crucial to chart the course of restoring the Nigerian economy and oil industry. It is hoped that the Senate President’s optimistic prediction of how both bills can be effectively progressed by the National Assembly becomes the reality. More particularly, and in view of the significance of the oil and gas industry to Nigeria’s economy, it is essential that the PIB is passed promptly. However, in doing so, it is also essential that the Senate considers the provisions of the PIB carefully to ensure that the version passed contains the much-needed reforms to revitalize and recapitalize Nigeria’s flailing oil and gas industry.
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