Senate may pass Petroleum Industry Bill on Thursday

The Senate announced on Tuesday that it would consider the report on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for passage on Thursday.

The announcement, made by Senate President Ahmad Lawan, was sequel to the submission of a report by the Senate joint committee on petroleum and gas which has been processing the bill since October 2020.

Lawan also directed that the report be circulated to all senators before Thursday.

The last attempt to pass the bill was halted when President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to it during the 8th Senate under former President of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

One of the reasons for the rejection of the bill was that there were some sections that sought to whittle down the power of the Minister of Petroleum Resources and vest same in some technocrats.

It was also reported that the “president equally felt uncomfortable that there were no provisions that covered the fiscal content of the draft law.”

Also, the report said some key ministers the President consulted over the issue, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, refused to support his (Buhari) assent.

The presidency later explained that Buhari withheld assent to the harmonised Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) for constitutional and legal reasons.

The rejected bill was initiated to update the outdated Petroleum Act and replace its provisions with a more comprehensive and current legal framework that aligned with global standards.

Former Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, said the provision of the bill permitting the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to retain as much as 10 per cent of the revenue generated unduly increases the funds accruing to the Commission to the detriment of the revenue available to the Federal, States and Local governments as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

Enang said the President Buhari felt that expanding the scope of Petroleum Equalisation Fund made some provisions of the draft law to be in divergence from his administration’s policy an conflicted with provisions on the Fund.

Also, he said there were some legislative drafting concerns which, the President felt if assented to in the form presented, would create ambiguity and conflict in interpretation of the final law.

Apart from these issues, Mr Enang said there other issues in the draft Bill that required further attention. He did not identify the controversial sections or issues.

The PIGB is one of four parts of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which seeks to update and replace the outdated provisions with a more comprehensive and current petroleum industry law that aligns with global standards.

Also, the PIB sought to empower institutions and not individuals, remove bad governance which leads to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, rent-seeking tendencies, inequity, secrecy and corruption in the country’s petroleum industry.

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