Petroleum Bill suffers yet another setback


The Senate on Thursday has postponed yet another debate on the much delayed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) thus frustrating another attempt at passing a bill on long-delayed reforms to Africa's largest energy industry, making it unlikely the ambitious bill will pass before nationwide elections next month.  

  The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is expected to redefine   Nigeria's economic relationships   with its foreign oil partners and alter everything from fiscal terms to the structure of the state-oil firm, has become synonymous with missed deadlines.  

  In the latest setback, the Nigerian lawmakers delayed the bill's second reading until March 15 as   some senators complained of inadequate time to look over the latest draft of the bill.  

  Parliament is likely to need several days, if not weeks, to debate the hundreds of clauses in the lengthy and wide-ranging bill but senators are due to go on recess on March 16 and won't return until after the elections.  

  Some Senators   have said during the week that   they will like to do a thorough job on the bill and warned   they would not be rushed into passing the PIB after a series of recent promises were made by politicians over its deadline.  

  Presidential adviser Emmanuel Egbogah said at a conference last month the reforms would be passed within weeks and President Goodluck Jonathan has pledged to the public that it will be law before the end of the current administration in May.  

  But similar promises have been made, and broken, by senior government officials in the years since reforms to Nigeria's energy sector were first put in motion.  

  Deziani Allison-Madueke, Nigeria's oil minister, told Reuters in July last year that the PIB would be passed by the end of August. Then in October she said the bill would become law "well before the end of this year (2010)."  

  Uncertainty over the reforms -- which could significantly increase the cost of operating in Africa's biggest crude exporter -- have put billions of dollars of potential investment on hold, according to company executives.  

  The government hopes the bill will tackle issues including funding shortfalls at its joint ventures with foreign firms, insecurity in the Niger Delta, increasing local involvement in the industry and production of more gas for domestic power.