Senate begins work on new PIB
• Probes NNPC’s JV cash calls
• Govt to grow energy sector, says Osinbajo
• 12cargoes of PMS discharging in Lagos, Calabar and Port Harcourt
The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly (NASS)the Senate has commenced work on the controversial updated version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and passed its first reading on the floor on Wednesday.
The PIB which could not be passed by the 7th National Assembly has now been re-named Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB).
The PIGB as introduced in the Senate yesterday by Senator Donald Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central) was the product of harmonised work by both chambers of the National Assembly.
In another development, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has said the Federal Government was working towards ensuring availability and accessibility of energy and petroleum products.
Osinbajo, represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Power Privatisation, Chiedu Ugbo, disclosed this at the ongoing Nigeria Energy Forum in Lagos.
The vice president said the administration would ensure that the energy challenges were addressed in a sustainable manner.
It is however emerging that the latest trend in the international crude oil market may be gradually impacting on Nigeria’s domestic fuel price saga as the Federal Government is due to pay about N9.09 on a litre of petrol imported into the country.
Also yesterday, the Senate asked its Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream), Finance and Appropriation to immediately conduct comprehensive investigation of the joint venture cash calls by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The Senate hinged its action on what it called ‘a prolonged silence’ by the Presidency on the bill as well as the continued agitation for its passage by the citizenry.
The National Assembly has come under criticism for failing to pass PIB in two consecutive assemblies which compelled both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to repeatedly urge President Muhammadu Buhari to present a new PIB to the National Assembly.
The petroleum industry framework was first conceived by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and sent to the Sixth Assembly whose failure to pass the bill compelled the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan to re-present the bill to the Seventh Assembly which again failed to pass the bill as a result of stiff opposition from Northern lawmakers especially over the allocation of 10 per cent royalty to oil producing communities in the bill.
The northern lawmakers had opposed the provision of host community fund in bill on the ground that Niger Delta region where oil is domiciled had received more than enough benefits with little or nothing to show for it.
Since the present National Assembly began moves to re-introduce the PIB, there have been series of protests over reported plan to remove the 10% allocated to host communities in the former bill.
Also yesterday, the Senate expressed concern over an allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) had been violating rules governing its Joint Venture Cash Call responsibility and consequently asked its committee to investigate the allegation.
It simultaneously asked the committee to come up with sanctions for any known violation of appropriation acts in the oil and gas sector.
The move followed the adoption of a motion by Senator Bassey Akpan (Akwa Ibom North east) who had alleged persistent constraints by NNPC to meet its cash call obligations, a situation he said had worsened the country’s crude oil production output and other activities in the oil and gas sector.
According to the vice president, the government will provide policies that will encourage private sector participation and resource mobilisation.
He said: “It is a commonplace now to state that Nigeria is rich in natural resources like fossil fuel and renewable energy from hydro and solar.
“Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and 11th largest in the world with proven reserve of crude oil of about 35 billion barrels.
“The country also has the seventh largest natural gas deposit in the world and the highest quality rich in liquid and low sulphur.
“Despite these abundant resources, we still suffer serious challenges in the oil and gas sector.”
Also speaking, the Director of Economic Growth and Environment Office of the US Agency for International Development, Matthew Burton said despite real challenges in power sector, transformation was underway in Nigeria.
Burton said: “By leveraging on US strengths in energy technology and encouraging policy and regulatory reform, Africa is achieving results and facilitating future investment that will benefit both Africans and Americans.”