From Uche Usim, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Adewale Sanyaolu
Strong indications emerged, yesterday, that Nigerians may pay more for refined petroleum products following the signing of the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said the president signed the bill while working from home in line with COVID-19 protocol from his five- days quarantine as required by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 after returning from London on August. 13.
He said the president assented to the Bill in his determination to fulfill his constitutional duty.
The Petroleum Industry Act provides legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the development of host communities and related matters.
Buhari’s assent which came 31 days after the Senate had passed the Bill on July 15 and the House of Representatives on July 16, thus ending a long wait since early 2000s has, however, drew widespread reactions across the country.
Going by the recent comments by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva, presidential assent to the PIB means Nigeria’s subsidy regime has finally come to an end as market forces would now determine price of petroleum products still being subsidised at N162-165/litre.
This means that the new pump price may hit N250/litre to reflect market realities as noted by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari.
He, however, said consultations with Organised Labour was still ongoing to guide the way forward.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has berated President Buhari for signing the Bill in spite of public outcry over some sections of the law.
The PDP, in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan noted that signing the law despite widespread public rejection amounted to endorsement of imposition.
The opposition party claimed signing the PIB is a confirmation that President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have “no iota of respect for the people as well as the tenets of democracy as a system of government.”
Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has described as unfortunate President Buhari’s assent to the Bill despite the overwhelming outcry and condemnation that greeted its passage by the National Assembly, especially with regards to the paltry three percent provision for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund and the brazen appropriation of an outrageous 30 per cent of NNPC Ltd profit for a dubious, nebulous Frontier Oil Exploration Fund.
A statement by National Publicity Secretary of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ken Robinson, reiterated that the PIB falls way short of the expectations of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities that bear the brunt of unconscionable industry operations.
Leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, had in July warned that anything short of 10 percent as the actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations affecting the host communities for funding of the Host Communities Trust Fund, cannot guarantee peace and security in the Niger Delta region.
The Ijaw National Congress (INC) has insisted on its earlier demand of ten per cent minimum for host communities.
President of INC, Professor Benjamin Okaba, in a statement, said the next line of action of the Ijaw people would be unveiled soon.
This came as the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) declared that it would accept Bill.
President of the council, Mr Timoty Igbifa, in said the Ijaw youths have made their stance known and anything short of what was demanded would not be accepted.
“It is unfortunate that we are being treated like this. Must we have a president from Niger Delta before we get what is rightly ours? Must we shoot guns before government listen to us. The Niger Delta is the most peaceful region in this country now but this is when the government does not want to do what is right. We are not going to accept it.”
In his reaction, former DG Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, described the presidential assent as a welcome development despite some legislative imperfections in it.
“I am aware that the oil companies were concerned about the adequacy of the fiscal terms in the PIB. The host communities also had reservations about the percentage contribution to host communities fund. But we can always improve on those provisions with time. Issues of this nature are typically work in progress,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr. Olatunji Akinwunmi, Chairman, Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigeria Council, said the assent would help Nigeria’s energy transition through the utilisation of its abundant gas resources.
“We believe that it will serve as a good tool for the development of our oil and gas resources. The bottomline is that the PIB as it is today is a most useful document.”
Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said the new law has opened a new phase of wider opportunities in the oil and gas industry.
This was as the Group Chief Executive Officer, Quest Oil Group, Goke Dele, said the passage of the PIB marked a new dawn and the beginning of a major repositioning of the Nigerian oil and gas Industry.
Reacting, Managing Director of Vhelbherg, a local oil firm, Mr Bank-Anthony Okoroafor, told journalists that the PIB would plant the sector on success path by boosting investor’s confidence who would now see a modern law that guides Nigeria’s oil and gas industry operations.
The National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Mike Osatuyi, said the PIB becoming law was a sign of greater things to come as it would help reposition the sector while the National President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Festus Osifo, said the signing of the bill was paramount, adding that three percent of operating expenditure for the host communities was a good place to start.
Managing Director of TotalEnergies, Mr. Mike Sangster noted that the PIB becoming law was a soothing development as Nigeria, being one of its global operations hub would witness its investment in renewable energy sources, as the Bill would unlock robust alternative energy potential of Nigeria.
“The National Assembly and the executive deserve commendation. The collaboration has been useful because the IOCs also were consulted.”
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