By Codratus Godson
A coalition of top Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media has expressed dismay over the loss of 18 solid years since the kick-off of a massive effort to reform the oil and gas industry through the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now broken into four different Bills.
The CSOs/Media coalition began with strategic engagement on the recently approved oil/gas policies by the Federal Government in March 2018 in Port Harcourt. The coalition is meeting now in Lagos for three days to hone skills and prepare final strategies on how to effectively close the gaps identified in the four bills especially the three others yet to be passed by the National Assembly (NASS). They include the Petroleum Industry Administrative Bill (PIAB), the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB) and the Petroleum Industry Host Community Bill (PIHB).
The Port Harcourt workshop had extensively loked at the already passed Petroelum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and pointed lapses but resolved to press for early assent by the president to reduce further loss of time because of the realization that since Nigeria announced to the gobal oil and gas investing community that it intended to change its oil laws, no single new big-ticket investment has come to Nigeria. Experts had earlier estimated investments that eluded Nigeria in the period to over $80Bn so far, and counting.
The strategic workshops have been supported by FOSTER (Facilitator For Oil Sector Transformation), which says its objective is to promote basic understanding of the oil and gas industry policies and laws to foster citizen and community participation towards a more acceptable outcome that would engender stability in the oil industry.
FOSTER brought top industry lawyers and other experts to enlighten and promote deeper understanding of the newly approved Oil Policy, the Gas Policy, the PIGB, the PIAB, the PIFB and the PICB in very detailed formats.
The CSOs and media have been able to pick out the gaps and likely areas of weakness that may bug down the new policies and Bills.
At the Protea Hotels in Kuramo Water, Victoria Island in Lagos, two erudite industry experts and lawyers, Israel Aye (senior partner of Primare Africa Legal group) and Prof Lucky Worika of the University of Port Harcourt, who both have been deeply involved in various works in the industry around the world, took the enthusiastic CSOs and media through the landmines and green fields of the new pieces of legislations.
The coalition is now putting finishing touches to its position paper ponting out various lapses and weak points that the lawmakers must retouch to get a better law for Nigeria to move faster. It was made clear that countries such as Venezuela with the largest oil reserves that allowed excessisive pride, (hubris), lethargy and resource nationalism to overtake their sense of resposnbility and sense of global competition have today sunk to beggarly levels.
The coalition has resolve to help Nigeria’s oil and gas industry get better set of laws at the NASS public hearings slated three days each in May at the House of Representatives and the Senate in the third and fourth weeks.
The coalition has since been split into Oil Group and Gas Group to achieve greater scrutiny and air-tight resolutions that would help the lawmakers do justice to the laws and help the regulators to deliver better.