TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

Delayed Passage Of PIB And The Curious Indifference Of The Opposition?

Source: pointblanknews.com
Listen to article

By: Ifeanyi Izeze
Every day we are embarrassed by the now regular and traditional

appearances of managers of the nation's oil earning to explain how one

huge sum of money or the other disappeared or did not appear properly. Is

it not ridiculous that the National Assembly prefers the everyday

invitation of the managers of our oil earnings rather than

institutionalizing a new mindset in the sector?
First do we all agree that the issue of the delayed passage of the

Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law is a matter of urgent national

importance? If yes, then why is it that the National Assembly does not see

any need for expediency in allowing the bill go through? If the lawmakers

at the National Assembly are genuinely interested in promoting

accountability and transparency in the oil and gas industry, why are they

not eager to pass this all-important bill?
Who does not know that the continued delay in the passage of the PIB was

responsible for the large scale abuses and illegalities being witnessed in

the nation's oil sector? Yet those who should put pressure on the National

Assembly over the fate of this all important bill could best be said to

have expressed mere casual interest or at worst curious indifference. This

bill already passed second reading at the Senate and was committed to the

joint committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream), Gas, Judiciary,

Human rights and Legal matters, which was asked to conduct public hearing

since March 7, 2013, so what happened?
Most of the terrible things happening in the sector could be traced to the

operational settings in the NNPC, its SBUs and the joint venture partners.

It's impossible for us to properly regulate the oil industry for the

benefit of the country as clamoured without putting in place effective

guidelines that are in sync with our present realities. It has been said

severally that the coming into effect of the PIB which is a comparatively

tight legal framework for the sector would plug most of the channels of

the much-trumpeted leaks in the nation's oil and gas sector.

When we needed some corrections in our political economy particularly the

blurred transactions in the government's fuel subsidy payments, several

groups and independent voices rose in unison to demand a redress of the

abnormality. The anti-subsidy protests including the Lagos sit-to-rule and

the Abuja march to the National Assembly by prominent Nigerians under the

Save Nigeria umbrella did produce tangible results. At least the National

Assembly was forced to embark on an inquest into the wuru -wuru

transactions that characterized the subsidy payments.

So why has the opposition politicians and the plethora of “voices of

patriotic reasoning” gone dumb in the face of the glaring sabotage of a

legislative framework that can save us the heartache of hearing everyday

how few people cart away with billions or trillions of naira unscathed?

If the opposition with all its muscles and mouth; Save Nigeria or kill

Nigeria; and all the paper-tiger civil society groups should today

confront the National Assembly on the speedy passage the PIB or hand them

over a threat of mass action, definitely, something would be done to get

the bill scale through no matter how. But this has not been done for

reasons well known and canvassed by a select few.
Playing selective opposition represents self-deceit. It is really pathetic

that debates on only two issues in the document have been covertly

manipulated to grossly progress in error. It was a show a shame for us to

have been torn along sectional lines on trivialities ignoring the weighty

issues of the document that deserve very serious attention from all of us.

Without mincing words, the unnecessary controversy the PIB has generated

so far is a clear indication that national interests would be sacrificed

for selfish and sectional desires. And this will not do us any good as a

nation.
Most Nigerians are unaware that only two issues have succeeded in almost

killing the spirit and intent of this all important bill. Lawmakers from a

section of the country (north) have vowed not to allow the bill pass into

law because the current version excluded the Petroleum Equalization

Management Fund (PEF). The same group had also vowed not to accept the

clause on the Petroleum Host Communities Fund which ceded 10 per cent

stake in the profits of oil and gas companies to host communities. Just

these two issues and members of the National Assembly cannot get

themselves to agree on a workable compromise. Shame!

The argument of lawmakers the north was that if the bill passes as it is

now without provision for the Petroleum Equalization Fund, prices of

petroleum products in the northern part of Nigeria will be far higher than

what will be paid by users of fuel in the south because of transportation.

The question is: even now do we have uniform prices of petrol, diesel and

kerosene across the country? Few kilometers from Port Harcourt refinery,

petrol sells for between N110 –N120 per litre even as near as Oyigbo from

the refinery. The prices in the riverine areas of the entire south-south

have always been far higher than what other Nigerians pay even when the

nation's refineries where carrying the domestic fuel needs. The entire

south-east, for peculiar reasons, has been operating a fully deregulated

market since I grew up. And the story is just the same way into the

extreme northern parts of the country. So what are our lawmakers from the

north saying if not that they have been manipulated to canvass the

interest of the beneficiaries of the fraud in the petroleum equalization

racket?
Let's even look at it: the PEF, which is currently a parastatal under the

Ministry of Petroleum Resources, has two main objectives: to apply the

laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as they affect the uniform pricing

system, in ensuring that each marketing company complies with the laws

regarding the management of the transportation equalisation process, and

to even out the transportation differentials in product marketing in the

country.
This fund has been an avenue to equalise the differential gap that

marketers incur as a result of the transportation of petroleum products

from the coastal part of the country where almost all the import receptor

tank farms are situated to the hinterlands.
However, this need to be shouted loud and clear that : almost all the

transactions in the petroleum equalisation arrangement are blurred. The

fund created vast opportunities for rent-seeking and has become a source

of serious fraud and corruption. Many marketers have been presenting fake

claims to the agency for reimbursements thus resulting in loss of billions

of naira to dubious claims. Ofcourse they do this in collusion with PEF

and NNPC officials. And if the agency refuses to pay (which they are yet

to do because they also benefit from the racket), the marketers would

threaten to stop haulage of products to the north and no decent government

would want such situation. You see, it is now a blackmail situation! And

these are the same people shouting of massive corruption in the oil sector

particularly the subsidy arrangement!
How can we explain as a people that the defense of a terrible arena of

fraud and corruption by certain people is what has held down the entire

legal framework that could have sanitized the nation's oil sector!

Nigeria, I hail thee!
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and be reached on:

[email protected]; 234-8033043009)