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THE PIB : What does it hold for Edo State By George Omo-Idehen

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THE PIB : What does it hold for Edo State
By George Omo-Idehen

There have been numerous unsuccessful attempts at passing an acceptable Petroleum Industry Bill for the past 20 years. Finally, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, with last week’s passing of two versions of the preliminary bill by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
While both versions differ a bit, we must not just pass any law, but one that is equitable, viable, reasonable, and realistic. So, a reconciliation and harmonization of both versions are mandatory, and carefully listening to the objectives raised so far to these bills, before a final carefully revised version is forwarded to the President for assent.

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The jury is still out on the objectives and provisions of this bill with its present contents of 5 sections and 318 clauses and how they affect the lives of Nigerians, more so the indigenes of the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Though the oil industry contributes less than 10% to the country’s gross domestic product, it contributes a whopping 90% of our foreign exchange earnings and 60% of the country’s total income. Therefore, any adverse change in the industry will have a vast and long-term impact on government finances, which is the reason why the PIB is necessary today.
Virtually all petroleum-related decrees and laws, as well as the Petroleum Act of 1969, had become irrelevant and non-competitive in the present-day global village. In other words, with technological advancement, the instability of oil prices, and global warming affecting the global economy, it has become necessary to re-examine the extant laws to bring them current.
The PIB, in a nutshell, will streamline how the energy resources and revenues are run. Therefore, its contents must be acceptable to all concerned parties. Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, along with the other Niger Delta Governors, has rejected this bill in its present state. The two most contentious issues are; the 3% and 5% equity shareholding respectively to the oil and gas producing communities in both versions of the National Assembly. And the prescription of 30% of NNPC profits to fund exploration activities in “frontier basins”.
The agitation for an upward review of the equity sharing to the initially proposed figure of 10%, is quite plausible. While the exploration funds are reduced from an exorbitant 30% down to an acceptable 15%. And the accrued difference of 8% is added to the management funds of the interventionist agency the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC to facilitate additional projects.
This is one of several ways Edo State will benefit from the PIB.

Increasing the available funds for NDDC will increase the share accrued to the state and increase the number of projects and their delivered quality. Governor Obaseki sometime ago had decried the poor quality of work being delivered by the NDDC contractors and immediately place an embargo on all NDDC projects in the state, pending a review of their activities.
Edo State will be a beneficiary of the creation of a Host Communities Development Trust since the oil operators are obliged to incorporate a trust for the benefit of the host communities and shall make an annual contribution, based on a certain percentage of their yearly operating expenditure.
Another benefit to the state is the restructuring of oil institutions, which will attract local and foreign investors, such as the two new refineries presently being built in the Ikpoba-Okha Local government area of the state. With our Governor’s governance style of transparency and accountability, which has disrupted the political class, the oil and gas industry will find a more attractive environment to operate.
Overall, for the PIB to create an immediate effect in the lives of the Niger Delta indigenes, interventionist agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, the NDDC must be reformed and strengthened, rejecting political influences, to better manage the accrued royalties to make a lasting, life-changing impact in the region.

 

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