Nigeria: Days of Dependence On Crude Oil Are Numbered, Govt Warns
By Bode Gbadebo and Jonathan NDA-Isaiah
The federal government warned yesterday that the era of depending heavily on the nation's crude oil would soon be over.
Accordingly, it stressed the need to take advantage of the resources now through a robust legislative intervention that will guarantee a fair deal for the country.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, sounded the warning at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to discuss the redrafted Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 (PIB) forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Both chambers of the National Assembly will formally unveil the Bill at plenary today on resumption from their over two-month annual recess.
The minister who lamented various attempts to have a petroleum industry law in the last 20 years without success, however, noted that PIB remained one of the most important piece of legislation that the country needed at the moment.
He said, "It is for good reason that the PIB happens to be at the core of the Nigerian economy and if you are in the process of making some changes in that core, you know those changes will impact on various other sectors of the economy.
"Today, there is a forecast in the oil industry sector that oil is going to be playing less and less a role in the global energy usage. Some begin to think that by 10 years the world's dependence on oil would have reduced to 50 per cent.
"At OPEC, the projection is in 2040 that in 20 years from now the world's dependence on oil would have reduced to 50 per cent. So, whichever way you look at it, it appears that the days of oil are numbered. I always tell people that coal did not finish; the deposits of coal did not run out before the world moved away from coal.
"Today the world is talking about alternative forms of energy, and we must also move with that trend but our focus should be in ensuring that we take advantage of our resources when it matters. Let's make hay while the sun shines".
Sylva added that one of the federal government's objectives was to make Nigeria an "attractive investment destination" as the oil sector will be transformed through the PIB law.
There was however a mild drama when the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, interjected and asked the minister to stop reeling out the details of the Bill in the presence of journalists who were covering the meeting.
At that point, journalists were asked to leave while the meeting continued behind closed-doors till about 7.41pm.
Earlier, the Senate president and chairman of the National Assembly, Ahmed Lawan, said even though the PIB appears to be jinxed, the 9th Assembly will break the record by passing it into law in record time.
"In the 9th Assembly we promise to break that jinx. We want to see an oil industry that is competitive and beneficial to Nigeria. We will at the end of the day break the jinx and make history," Lawan added.
He assured that the PIB will be passed "as soon as possible" because of the nation's economic situation occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, reiterated that the PIB was the most important legislation that will come out of the 9th National Assembly, even as he warned that the parliament will not sacrifice thoroughness on the altar of speed in considering the bill.
He stated: "We are here to talk about, perhaps, the most important piece of legislation that will come out from the National Assembly in the lifetime of this government. It is a most important piece of legislation because we all know what oil represents in terms of our economy.
"Everyone has been waiting for the arrival of the PIB. That is the legislation that is on the lips of every Nigerian, whether he knows anything about petroleum or not. It is the most popular and most common bill. Everybody talks about PIB because oil represents the lifewire of our state. That underscores the importance of this Bill.
"The bill has been long in the making for several years but I believe this is the time to pass it. We will pass this bill speedily. However, its passage will not sacrifice thoroughness. We will not sacrifice thoroughness on the altar of speed, because it will be in the nation's best interest".
The Speaker added that in the House of Representatives, a "crack team" of legislators who are versed in the workings of the oil industry had been assembled to work with relevant stakeholders towards achieving a common goal.
He continued: "It is an Ad-hoc committee drawn from the House committees on Oil, Upstream, Downstream, Local Content and Gas. So, there is a crack team that will be working with you as we are all trying to go to the same destination.
"Talking about passing it speedily, unfortunately it is coming at a time when it will be competing with the passage of the budget. It is going to be a busy three months for us. I am not saying the PIB is going to be passed in three months".
LEADERSHIP reports that the meeting which started about 5.25pm at the Senate Wing of the National Assembly complex, had in attendance some principal officers from both the Senate and House of Representatives, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, among other officials.
NNPC To Be Commercialised, Not Scrapped - Sylva
Meanwhile, the minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, provided insights into the PIB, even as he debunked media reports that the scrapping of NNPC is one of the items proposed in the bill.
Speaking with journalists after the closed-door meeting, Sylva said the country's oil corporation will only be commercialised as part of measures to transform the oil industry as contemplated by the proposed law.
He noted: "We have heard so much noise about NNPC being scrapped but that is not envisaged by the Bill at all.
"We have said that NNPC will be commercialised. But if you are talking about transforming the industry, the only new thing that we are introducing is the development of the midstream, that is the pipeline sector; that sector between the upstream and the downstream, which because the framework was not there, has not really developed very well.
"So, we have provided robustly for the growth of the midstream sector. The host communities, I think, have the best deal now but I'm sure the details of the bill you will hear when it is read on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate".
On other provisions of the bill, the minister reluctantly revealed that the Petroleum Equalisation (Management) Fund (PEF) and Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) will have a new outlook if the bill scales through.
"I am sure that the PIB will also take care of that because with the PIB, the industry will be transformed and the PEF and the PPPRA will not exist in the same form that they exist today.
"But I don't want to go into the details of the Bill until it is read on the floor of the Senate," Sylva added.
According to the details of the proposed legislation sighted by LEADERSHIP last night, the bill is proposing the creation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and the scrapping of the NNPC and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
In the proposed arrangement, the new petroleum company will be incorporated by the Minister of Petroleum who alongside his counterpart in the Finance Ministry will determine NNPC's assets and liabilities that will be inherited by the new oil firm.
Section 54(1, 2 and3 )) reads in part: "The Minister (of Petroleum) and the Minister of Finance shall determine the assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC to be transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiaries and upon the identification, the minister shall cause such assets, interests and liabilities to be transferred to NNPC Limited.
"Assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC not transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiary under subsection 1 of this section shall remain the assets, interests and liabilities of NNPC until they become extinguished or transferred to the government.
"NNPC shall cease to exist after its remaining assets, interests and liabilities other than its interests, assets, and liabilities transferred to NNPC Limited or its subsidiaries under subsection 1 of this section shall have been extinguished or transferred to the government."
According to Section 53 of the bill, the minister shall "within six months from the commencement of this Act, cause to be incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, a limited liability company, which shall be called Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC Limited).
"The minister shall be at the incorporation of NNPC Limited, consult with the Minister of Finance to determine the number and nominal value of the shares to be allotted which shall form the initial paid-up share capital of the NNPC Limited and the government shall subscribe and pay cash for the shares.
"Ownership of all shares in NNPC Limited shall be vested in the government at incorporation and held by the Ministry of Finance incorporated on behalf of the government."
The Bill also proposes the establishment of an agency known as the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission which will be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations.
Section 4 of the bill states in part, "There is established the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (the commission) which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal.
"The commission shall have the power to acquire, hold and dispose of property, sue and be sued in its own time. The commission shall be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations."
The proposed legislation also recommends the creation of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Section 29 of the Bill states in part, "There is established the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (the Authority) which is a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal.
"The Authority shall be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of midstream and downstream petroleum operations in the petroleum industry," among other functions spelt out by the PIB.
Senate Denies Report More Corruption In PMB's Govt
Meanwhile, the Senate has spurned reports that there is more corruption in President Muhammadu Buhari's government than previous administrations.
Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, stated this while speaking with State House correspondents after the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy, an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the anti-corruption agency.
Lawan described those peddling the assertions as partisan and petty.
According to him, no government in the history of the country has hinged its campaigns on fighting corruption like the present administration.
He said, "I don't know who they are and I don't know what their facts are, but I will not speak to speculations; I speak to facts. I want to see the facts that there's more corruption in this administration than the previous administrations.
"You will recall that in a particular former administration, we know that somebody once said that what people accused the government of corruption was simple stealing. This administration does not see anything that appears like corruption or thievery and leaves it untreated. So I believe it depends on who is talking.
"If you have an opposition, it is likely the opposition will tell you there's so much 'persecution' of the opposition, that there's so much corruption in this administration than the previous one, but we know that previous administration.
"Let me be a bit more decent and may be non-political, but I want to tell you that this administration has done so well because we campaigned on the basis of three pillars of anti-corruption, the fight against insurgency and insecurity across the country and the revitalisation of our economy.
"So, no administration or political party in the history of Nigeria has hinged its campaigns on fighting corruption in Nigeria. In fact there were administrations that never mentioned corruption in their entire tenure.
"This administration has stood firmly trying to fight corruption and I want to believe that those who are saying that there's more corruption in Nigeria today than before are simply trying to be partisan or petty.
The Senate president also disclosed that any corruption case that has lasted for 10 years has the tacit support of the establishment.
He further stated that if the judiciary ensures speedy completion of corruption cases it would help in the fight against corruption.
Lawan also emphasised that all the three arms of government must be on the same page for effective fight against corruption.
He stated: "The emphasis is to ensure that all hands are on deck. First of all, without the Legislature there wouldn't have been the ICPC. In the fourth session of the National Assembly, the ICPC bill was passed, which was assented to by the then President. That is to tell you the level of the need and imperative for togetherness in the fight against corruption.
"When you have a judiciary that works to ensure that cases of corruption are treated with dispatch, you will agree with me that that will help in the fight against corruption.
"If a case of corrupt practice or alleged corrupt practice will last up to four, five, six or ten years or so, you should know that something is wrong and that is giving some kind of tacit support to the corrupt practice, but if there's always dispatch in the treatment of such cases, that will expedite action by the judiciary to give support to the fight against corruption.
"So, that I believe is the kind of togetherness that is so important; that is so necessary for us to ensure that we fight corruption at the level of governance. But fighting corruption also requires the support of the populace. Citizens need to be on board and one way of ensuring that citizens are on board and remain on board is to see genuineness, sincerity and honesty in the way and manner the fight against corruption is carried out and I believe that so far this administration has done quite a lot on this.
"Some people will argue that sometimes there's selectivity in the way and manner that the anti-corruption fight is fought. I think that is a matter of misunderstanding because when you have a set of people interested in public funds for 16 years, where do you think most of those that will be alleged to have done the wrong thing will come from?"