President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to the bill sent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) transmitted to him last month by the National Assembly.
The President hinged his refusal to assent to the bill on the fact that the bill would substantially vitiate his power as the president and that of Minister of Petroleum Resources as well as that of the Minister of State, if assented to in its present form.
In separate letters to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Buhari queried the enormous powers transferred to technocrats in the petroleum industry by the bill, promising however that his refusal to sign the bill would not negatively affect the fiscal policy thrusts of his administration.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, stated that he would speak in detail over the matter on today after consulting his records and principal.
It would be recalled that the PIGB, which was initiated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua and sent to the 6th National Assembly headed by Senator David Mark in 2008, was passed by the National Assembly in March, 2018 and later transmitted to President Buhari by the National Assembly last month.
The bill has not only gone through the extensive and elaborate deliberations and subsequent amendments of its provisions over the past decade, yet the provisions remain still enmeshed in controversy.
The Senate had on March 28 this year passed the PIGB having adopted the report of the conference committee of the PIGB, which harmonised the versions earlier passed by both Senate and House of Representatives.
In its current provisions, the harmonised version of the bill seeks to unbundle the NNPC and merge its subsidiaries such as Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) into one entity, amongst other aims.
The PIGB also has as its objectives, transforming the administration of the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the Nigerian petroleum industry. It also creates a framework that will free up acreages that are not being developed by current licensees and lease holders
The bill also ensures effective management of the environment by petroleum operators and administrators. It provides a framework to unleash midstream activities which will open up the market for the supply of gas and other downstream products, for economic growth and provides much needed legal backing for the deregulation of our downstream petroleum sector.
Industry analysts believe that when enacted into an Act, the PIGB will create opportunities for new investors and attract substantial new investment to the nation’s oil and gas industry.