By Odunewu Segun
The recently passed Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has been described as seriously flawed, and an unconscionable attempt to legalize the appropriation of national oil and gas assets to some powerful private interests.
A civil society organization, Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action in a press statement affirmed that the PIG Bill is not comprehensive enough and lacks clarity of intention, saying the restructuring of the oil and gas industry must not only be to serve the commercial interest of multinational oil companies and a few local businesses but the general interest of the country and her people.
In the press statement signed by its director, Isaac Osuoka, the group condemned the separation of the bill into bits by the Senate, saying it has created a sufficient setback to a holistic effort to revamp of the oil sector in Nigeria for the benefit of citizens.
The report, titled “The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), 2017: Implications for the Environment and Local Communities”, also claimed that the PIGB has no provision for an end to gas flaring, noting that “there is a lack of independence for regulators and a glaring neglect of host communities’ interest in the proposed new institutions.”
It said, “The provisions of the PIGB as passed by the Senate do not demonstrate an understanding of the need to guarantee energy access as a right of citizens.
The statement noted that it is strange that the Senate is swift to create new institutions in the industry without first creating the enabling environment on which these entities will thrive, adding that the bill does not have any part or section dealing with environmental protection.
“In its current form,” the statement said, “the PIGB cedes virtually all powers on environmental regulation from the Ministry of Environment to the New Petroleum Regulatory Commission. Sadly, the Commission is saddled with functions that are conflicting with each other.”
The original PIB, the statement explained further, had made it clear that the Ministry of Environment shall have overriding authority on environmental matters, but the neutrality and independence was necessary to appropriately enforce environmental regulations.
“By so doing, the Senate is causing the country to lose out on the opportunity of a new legislation to correct the lapses in our regulation of environmental issues in the Petroleum Sector.”
It therefore called for a comprehensive package of the intended new legal regime for the Nigerian petroleum industry, which should be tabled before the National Assembly and other stakeholders for consideration simultaneously.