Some Civil Society Organizations have accused the National Assembly of a plot to legalize the appropriation of national oil and gas assets to some powerful private interests with the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill that was recently passed by the Senate.
While the bill has passed third reading at the Senate, it has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
There is expectation that upon return from Sallah vacation, the lower chamber of the National Assembly will also pass the bill for the third reading.
However, the CSOs, coordinated by the Social Development Integrated Center (Social Action), opposed the PIGB at a news conference in Abuja. While they pinpointed several defects in the proposed bill, they argued that the lawmakers failed to adequately address environment issues and rights of host communities.
The House had also passed two other components of oil and gas industry bills for second reading, which will later be harmonized as a single oil and gas industry law.
The position of the group was disclosed in the text briefing read by the Director, Social Action, Dr. Isaac Asume-Osuoka.
He said the bill was an “attempt to legalize the appropriation of national oil and gas assets to some powerful private interests.”
Further speaking, he said, “Specifically, the ill-advised separation of a hitherto comprehensive bill into bits has created a sufficient setback to a holistic and more effective effort to revamp the oil sector in Nigeria for the benefit of citizens.
“On the provisions of the bill proper, it is strange that the Senate is swift to create new institutions in the industry, including the National Oil Company, the Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company, the National Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated, and the Petroleum Equalization Fund etc, without first creating the enabling environment on which these entities will thrive.
“The vacuum of the non-effective and clear-cut provision(s) for health, safety and environment in the bill is disturbing and lamentable.”
The CSOs further alleged that majority of the provisions of the present PIGB were not the same as the original Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that allowed more independence.
“The original PIB had made it clear that the Ministry of Environment shall have overriding authority on environmental matters. This neutrality and independence was necessary to appropriately enforce environmental regulations.
“Worryingly, in the PIGB, all provisions giving the Federal Ministry of Environment powers on environmental issues were struck out. By so doing, the Senate is causing the country to lose out on the opportunity of a new legislation to correct the lapses in our regulation of environmental issues in the petroleum sector.
“The logical consequence of this line of action is the exacerbation of environmental crisis and conflicts in Nigeria. We call on the National Assembly to promptly return to the 2015 version of the PIB as regards to the environment as it has clear and effective environmental protection provisions and regulations for the petroleum industry,” they stated.
The participants included Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center; Zero Corruption Coalition; Socialist Workers League; Global Rescue Mission; and Keen and Care I.