Column: The Legislative Story of the Nigerian Petroleum Industry Bill

The Nigerian Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) possibly ranks as No. 1 by a wide margin among the bills that have spent the most time with the legislature. It is also one of the most controversial and most discussed in the legislative history of bills within the chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly, because of the sensitive nature of the matters addressed.

Following the renewed quest for more revenue by the resource-owning states and for increased participation of the local stakeholders in the extraction of their resources, the bill was first introduced in 2000. As generally acknowledged, the petroleum industry in Nigeria generates more than 90% of the income of the federal government of Nigeria. The operators of majority of the oil and gas fields in Nigeria are the multinationals and other local investors. All the investors, whether multinational or local, want good returns on their investments and some certainty in the applicable legal regime, while the local indigenous peoples of the Niger Delta, where these fields are majorly situated, have had to endure environmental pollution and the lack of commensurate infrastructure and economic development within their enclaves for a fairly long period of time. It is thus understandable why there have been conflicting interests that need to be properly harmonized in the PIB in order to satisfy all the stakeholders within the industry. It is the synchronization of these interests that has proved rather difficult so far.

Since 2000, when the idea of a PIB was first mooted, it has undergone a number of transformations, to the point where, today, it has been unbundled into several segments. What used to be the PIB has now been unbundled into at least four separate segments. The protracted incarnations, transformations, and reintroductions as well as the vexed question of why the bill has not been passed to date, even after 17 years of parliamentary debate and tinkering, agitates the mind of this writer as it does that of many other writers and commentators. This commentary attempts a short but direct appraisal of the legislative trajectory of the PIB to date and the objectives sought to be attained by stakeholders. With what appears to be on the horizon (i.e., the unbundling of the PIB and the current interests/efforts of the senate in particular and the National Assembly generally), the PIB or its transfigured sectional bills will become law eventually. It is also expected that the necessary investments will come and the petroleum industry in Nigeria will be on a sounder footing to meet the contemporary challenges confronting the sector.

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