By Gregory Mmaduakolam
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has applauded the Senate for the passage of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and called for speedy House concurrence to the bill.
A statement issued in Abuja on Friday by Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, Director, Communications for NEITI said the decision of the Senate to consider the bill as priority resulted in its passage.
He described the passage of the bill as legendary and historic, given the challenges the bill had passed through in its legislative journey for almost two decades.
Orji said that NEITI as an agency set up to enthrone transparency and accountability in the management of extractive industries in Nigeria, “has legitimate interest in the PIGB in view of its strategic importance to the realisation of its mandate.”
He said that NEITI, therefore, called on the House of Representatives to find similar courage to give the bill accelerated consideration on its merit in overriding public interest.
The NEITI director of communications said that the passage of the bill came more than seventeen years after the process commenced in April 2000.
“We note that the objective of a petroleum sector law remains to develop a dynamic governance framework that will re-position the Petroleum Industry.
“Also make the sector to fully embrace competition, openness, accountability, professionalism as well as better profit returns on investments.
“NEITI also notes that the public outcry that greeted the failure of the last National Assembly to pass this important Bill.
“Perhaps this informed the current Senate’s resolve to revive legislative interest on the bill resulting in the milestone achievement recorded at the moment.
“We are delighted that to avoid the controversies that killed the last PIB, the current Senate, carefully assembled experts who carefully broke the Bill into various segments beginning with the governance aspect of the proposed law.
“The PIG bill now passed by the Senate is a product of this creative initiative”, he said.
He said current stagnation of investment opportunities in the Industry and negative consequences to the economy due to absence of the new law “made the agency to publish a researched Policy Brief titled “Urgency of a new Law for the Petroleum Sector” in 2016.
He said that NEITI shared the publication with members of the National Assembly; which alerted the nation that Nigeria had so far lost over $200 billion as a result of absence of the Law.
“ And these lost revenues were as a result of investments withheld or diverted by investors to other (more predictable) jurisdictions’’.
Orji said that the hedging by investors stemmed from the expectation that the old rules would no longer apply, but not knowing when the new ones would materialise.
He said that NEITI’s 2013 audit of the sector revealed that a cumulative $10.4billion and N378.7billion were lost as a result of under-remittances, inefficiencies, theft or absence of a clear governance framework for the sector.
Orji said the cost to the nation in 2013 alone was N1.74 trillion.
He said that it was now hoped that with the prospects of a new Law coming into place, the huge revenue losses to the nation as a result of governance lapses would be eliminated.
According to him, NEITI looks forward to carefully studying the contents of the PIGB as passed by the Senate and called on all stakeholders to commend Senate for what had been achieved so far.
Orji also commended the media, civil society organisations, industry, stakeholders and experts for their valued contributions to the process.
He said that NEITI would hold a multi-stakeholders dialogue on the provisions of the bill as passed by the Senate to set the stage for informed stakeholders’ engagements “`on how this Bill will positively influence the on-going reforms in the oil and gas industry.”