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