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PIB: As the Senate tows the path of honour

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By Alexander Ifeanyichukwu
In the flurry of negative news reports that has besieged front pages of Nigerian newspapers in recent times, one pleasant news item was carefully tucked away in the front page corner of most national dailies.

Although not cast in a screaming headline, the announcement that the Senate of the Federal Republic is set to pass into law the lingering but highly beneficial Petroleum Industry Bill, comes as a soothing balm on the sprained psyche of most Nigerians.

For those who have followed the issues closely and indeed the none issues that have been made out of the PIB, there has been several failed promises by the National Assembly to pass the Bill but quite unlike in other times, this one promise bears the mark of patriotism in its tonality.

This assurance is coming at a time when most principal officers of the Senate have at one time or another had their reputation questioned in both local and foreign gatherings due to the inexplicable delay in the passage of the PIB in more than two years.

To think that a Senate that is made up of very distinguished and eminently qualified citizens of this country would seat over a Bill that has all the ingredients to turn around the present and future fortunes of the citizens, has compounded the confusion in the nation's democracy.

The PIB, for those who have taken time to peruse the over 200-page document presents Nigeria with an opportunity to control its biggest source of revenue and deploy same revenue into productive use, for its people.

To keep the Bill comatose would appear that the men and women of the National Assembly are involved in a conspiracy of a sort against the very Nigerians who elected them for the sole reason of making laws for good governance.

And now that the Senate has woken up from its seeming slumber and is ready to lead the way to usher in a new hope and better future for the citizens of this country, it is only wise to encourage this bold and courageous effort.

After all, these are men and women most of whom cannot be easily swayed by material gains because they have mostly tasted power, fame and fortune in diverse dimensions.

From every indication, most members of the upper house have passed 50 years with a substantial number of them adorning the glowing tag of grand-parents.

It is expected that the concern of such men and women mostly retired public servants would be the future of this country and building an enduring legacy for those young Nigerians who wait long hours just to see them and share their dreams and aspirations with them.

Allowing the PIB to waste away in the way it has done in the last couple of years would amount to a callous display of selfishness and uncaring attitude towards the future of the country they have laboured for with their youth.

While a few dissenting voices have picked holes in a few sections of the PIB, suffice to say that generally, the Bill has suffered delay unjustly because of the few and insubstantial critiques of a certain of its content that does not amount to much.

If we are to practice true democracy and ensue that majority of Nigerians are protected while the minority are heard, then the PIB on account of its majority support ought to have been passed into law.

For the umpteenth time, it must be stated that the benefits of the PIB by far outweighs whatever shortcomings that may have been identified by its antagonists.

For instance, for the first time in the over 60 years of commercial exploration of petroleum in Nigeria, a well defined document which takes into cognisance our ethnic, social, economic and political dichotomy has been produced as an immediate answers to the numerous problems that have bedevilled oil and gas in Nigeria.

Attempting to politicise such document and unashamed attempt to discredit the authors of such a document is a wicked rape on the ideals of good governance and the corporate existence of the country.

On a more enduring future benefits of the PIB, not only would Nigerian businesses become key players in the emerging downstream petroleum sector of the nation's economy, the cumulative benefits of skills transfer, institutional strength building and global participation in the lucrative oil and gas sector are too enormous to fritter away on parochial short term political gains.

Since the PIB contains clearly defined roles for the new institutions that are to be established, sanctions and limits of the powers of such institutions, the hue and cry that has become a major distraction for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries with the predominantly extant laws guiding their operations, every patriotic Nigerian ought to embrace it with both hands as a way out of our present economic malaise in view of the strategic role oil and gas plays in Nigeria.

Like the boom that was witnessed with the GSM operations, there are too numerous sundry benefits that the implementation of the content of the PIB will attract to the Nigerian economy ranging from more job creation, more local participation in the sector and the further attraction of foreign direct investments contrary to myopic arguments to the contrary.

Indeed, it is worthy of note that the present crop of technocrats managing the affairs of the country's petroleum resources deserve a certain measure of accolade for their boldness and courage to seek for a change in the sector which may see them being shoved aside when the reform in the PIB are implemented.

This can only be influenced by an uncommon measure of patriotism.

And for the members of the Senate who have found the courage to say yes to the PIB in the face of opposition from those who have benefitted unduly from the failings of our present system, when eventually the Bill is passed into law, their distinguished names would have become etched in gold and left their footprints in the sands of our historic time.

Alexander Ifeanyichukwu wrote from Enugu