In the next few weeks, the 7th National Assembly, NASS, will officially come to an end. A new set of legislators with a few former ones, will be sworn in to constitute the 8th Assembly and make laws for the nation. By the Assembly rules, any bill not passed before the end of the current tenure would deem to have failed. One of the many bills that would obviously suffer this fate, is the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB.
Initiated over 15 years ago, the PIB is a document that many believe would have brought sanity to Nigeria’s bedevilled petroleum sector. It is an all encompassing document which seeks to address, among many other things, the challenges in the sector as well as ensure an equal distribution and better management of oil resources, enhanced oil exploration and its use for the welfare of the people. It addresses the issue of environmental degradation, health and safety guidelines compliance and so on.
It is irresponsible and very unpatriotic that such a noble bill has been left in the shelves of two consecutive assemblies so far, to gather dust. It is even more worrisome that there have been a lot of talks and newspaper publications on the need to urgently pass this bill; all to no avail. By not passing this bill, the 7th assembly has no doubt failed Nigerians.
The non passage of the PIB is not doing Nigeria’s economic fortunes any good. This is because there are numerous challenges facing the petroleum industry such as corruption, pipeline vandalism, oil theft, gas flaring, and divestment by international oil companies (IOCs), poor local content among others, which, if not nipped in the bud, will not augur well for the economy.
There is no doubt that part of the reasons for the bill suffering untold setback stems from sabotage and protection of some selfish interests from the stakeholders in the industry especially the international oil companies. They would rather prefer the status quo to remain. However, the truth is that it is imperative to place the common good, in reference to equity and justice, over and above some selfish interests. This is the only approach that would make the PIB see the light of the day.
The PIB is vital for a comprehensive restructuring of the oil industry. Its non passage is not acceptable and amounts to an embarrassing blot on Nigeria. This is why we urge the current NASS to do everything within its capacity to pass the bill having reached the final stage. The 7th Assembly must understand that not passing the bill before its tenure ends will translate to starting the whole process afresh with the incoming 8th Assembly.
But in case it spills over to the next assembly, it is our firm belief that the Buhari administration would summon the spirit of patriotism and provide the right thrust to the legislature, which is expected to be controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to make the PIB become a reality. Ultimately, the time to pass the PIB is now, considering that for so long the oil companies have taken Nigerians for granted.
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