ABUJA – Two arms of the Federal government, the National Assembly and the Presidency, have been fingered as the clog in the wheel of progress in the Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry, given their unwillingness to save the industry from the woes that have betide it for several decades now.
This conclusion arising from experts’ views and the realities on ground, is even more incontrovertible, seeing the reluctant and negligent attitudes of politicians in the two estates, towards the bills before them, which have internationally been adjudge the best that can bring about the needed reforms in the sector.
Year in year out, the hope of saving the nation’s petroleum industry from its current woes continues to grow very dim, with experts in the sector worrying that successive administrations,, have demonstrated parochial interests in matters affecting the industry.
This selfish interest is clearly noticed in the failure of the new entrant All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the eighth National Assembly, to work towards achieving the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), after the consistent failure by the administrations of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), in fifteen years, to reform the industry.
Just like the eighth National Assembly, President Buhari appears very unconcerned about the woes in the sector, as seen in his refusal to sign into law, the first part of the bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
Seeing the high level corruption in the sector, one would have thought that the President, who prides himself with anti-corruption war, should have taken advantage of that bill to open up the sector for scrutiny.
However, he has failed, because of what analysts have considered as his political considerations over certain provisions of the bill bothering on the powers of the President, without considering the fact that no Presidency in Nigeria under this present constitution, would last beyond eight years.
On their part the eighth National Assembly, with the APC as majority, does not look like it would go beyond mere talking, to write its name on gold by passing all the other components of the PIB, proposed under this administration.
Regrettably, an administration, which citizens hoped would go beyond the usual politics to fix the industry for once, has been foot dragging.
This administration’s refusal to pass and sign the PIBs into law and cause the needed reforms, would now see the bill having the life span of 18 years in the National Assembly.
Analyst are of the opinion that if the current administration which rose to power on the altar of anti-corruption crusade and change mantra has found reasons not to cause the expected reforms in the sector in these four years, then, there is a dirty deal going on in the industry between government and the oil companies that is not known to the rest of the country, which explains the unwillingness to reform the industry.
After the PIB suffered several blows under previous PDP-led administrations, the eighth National Assembly headed by Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who at the time were of the APC, unbundled the PIB into four bills, fine tune them for clarity, easy passage and Presidential assents.
Out of the four bills, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB, is the only bill that has been successfully passed but denied assent by President Buhari.
Reasons that experts have identified for this assent denial amongst others, is simply that it would whittle down the powers of the President, especially by removing the oil blocs award powers from the President.
For these experts in the industry, it is the greatest disservice the President is doing to the nation by not doing his part in signing a bill, which would be the beginning of good tidings of reforms and anti-corruption war in the sector.
They are of the opinion that government should approve laws to reform the sector and totally deregulated it to make it private sector driven.
The involvement of government over the decades was seen as leaving the industry with major setbacks, with institutional corruption being entrenched without any tangible evidence of growth and successes in the sector.
Henry Adigun, an Oil and gas expert, in his interaction with House of Representatives reporters recently to boost the advocacy for oil and gas sector reforms, pointed out that both the legislative and executive arms of the government are not demonstrating the willingness to carry out the needed reforms in the sector.
Adigun In his submissions was not far from the truth when he stressed that the problems of the sector are not insurmountable by government of any sovereign state, reminding that several other countries have made serious inroads in reforming the sector in their countries, except the Nigerian government, which has continued to footdrag.
He noted that, “the state of the oil and gas sector lies with the government. The spate of criminality lies with the government. Oil companies can do whatever they like and go with it because the government allows them.”
The continuous refusal by government to ensure reforms in the sector has left the country losing money to crude oil theft, oil subsidy scam, Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) scam in the nation’s refineries that would never work.
Equally, a lot of government agencies in the sector which have no business being in existence as regulatory agencies, have been left to exist as conduit pipes for corrupt politicians and civil servants to siphon money.
This leaves the public with no doubts that government of the day and political leaders are conniving with these oil companies, which explains the level of impunity that has continued to play out in the way businesses are being conducted in the sector by expatriates with flagrant disregards to rules, knowing that there are no stiffer sanctions.
Just like the presidency is unable to hold the oil companies in check, the National Assembly has also failed the people, as several oil sector probes by committees of the both Houses have always been surrounded with controversies, allegations of bribery and counter allegations.
The truth of the matter as often said is that, he who goes to equity must go with a clean hand. It is not untrue that these politicians in both the presidency and National Assembly are shareholders or owners of some of these companies, or are even looking unto them for favours, which explains their inability to do the proper things to reform the sector.
The need to carryout proper reforms is what experts have advised, urging politicians to put the interests of the nation first and legislate on the efficiency and criminality in the oil and gas sector.
It is no longer news that the industry is laden with corruption and corrupt minds, but fighting the corruption it is believe would amount to chasing shadows if necessary laws are not in place to cause reforms and structural interventions, which are the only things that can save the economy.
“Oil and gas industry has remained non- transparent. Something striking is going on there. The industry must open up”, says Joseph Nwakwe, an oil and Gas expert, who is interested in reforming the industry for national survival.
Nwakwe said that these reforms are even more imperative now because of the rapid changing global energy dynamics, and its attendant uncertainties to our national economy.
Equally, he is unhappy that the nation’s oil and gas resources are not optimally managed, following poor resources stewardship, leaving negative impact on the economy.
The country has made several policies that could bring prosperity to the industry, but Nwakwe said that investors and operators in the industry are not interested in temporary policies but legislations that would give a good legal framework to their operations.