Mixed reactions trailed Monday’s assent into law of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) described the assent to the PIB into law as “a historic development”, the leading opposition political party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the signing into law of the draft PIB is “a display of disdain by President Muhammadu Buhari for the people of the Niger Delta region.”
The President gave assent to the harmonised draft PIB on Monday few days after his return to the country from his trip to London.
The Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, who announced the signing of the Bill into law, said the new law was not only the President’s determination to fulfill his constitutional duty, but also to demonstrate his commitment to give the country a new petroleum industry law.
It was the second time the President had the rare opportunity to write his name in golden letters by giving the country’s petroleum industry a new law.
In August 2018, the President squandered the first opportunity, when he declined assent to the harmonised draft Bill sent to him the eight Senate for his final signature.
He queried some provisions in the draft law he said required revisiting.
But, the president declined assent to the draft law initiated to update the outdated Petroleum Act and replace its provisions with a more comprehensive and current legal framework that aligned with global standards.
In its reaction shortly after the announcement of the assent to the new law, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said the new law has ended decades of uncertainty concerning the future of the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
“The new law has opened a new phase of wider opportunities in the oil and gas industry,” Orji said in a statement in Abuja.
For NEITI, he said: President Buhari has broken new grounds, created new business horizon built on healthy legal frameworks that would push the boundaries of reforms in the sector with realistic optimism for inflow of investments, revenue growth and job opportunities.”
On the signifance of the Presidential assent to the Bill, Orji said NEITI was looking forward to it playing an active role in designing a new future for Nigeria’s oil and gas industry under the new Petroleum Industry Act.
“The signing into Law of the PIB has demonstrated the government’s resolve to strengthen governance processes and systems in the country, especially in the extractive industry, through an institutional and legal framework. NEITI is encouraged by the development.”
The new Petroleum Industry law, the NEITI Executive Secretary said, would provide the dynamic legal, governance framework required to re-position Nigeria’s Petroleum industry to fully embrace competition, openness, accountability, professionalism and better profit returns on investments to both companies and government.
He called on companies, government agencies and civil society involved in the oil and gas sector governance to give the new law a chance to succeed.
As an agency with legitimate interest in the New law, Orji said NEITI would carefully study its contents and work closely with national and global partners, especially the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), to use the law to open up the Nigerian oil and gas sector for transparency, accountability and inflow of foreign direct investments.
“NEITI is hopeful that with the new Petroleum Industry Law in place, the huge revenue losses, which Nigeria has witnessed over these years as a result of process lapses and weaknesses in previous Laws governing operations in the sector, will be strictly checked, while restoring investors’ confidence in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector,” Orji said.
For the PDP, the signing into law of the PIB 2021 by President Buhari was offensive, repugnant and anti-people.
Buhari’s endorsement of the harmonised Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly showed he and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have “no iota of respect for the people (of the Niger Delta region) as well as the tenets of democracy as a system of government.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement on Monday that the signing into law of the PIB, despite widespread public rejection, amounted to an endorsement of imposition.
“The PDP berates President Muhammadu Buhari for ignoring the outcry by Nigerians across board not to sign the offensive, repugnant and anti-people Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as passed by the National Assembly into law.
“The party notes that the signing of the law, despite widespread public rejection, amounts to an endorsement of imposition and further confirms that President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress have no iota of respect for the people as well as the tenets of democracy as a system of government.
“By his action, President Buhari has only authenticated that he is not a listening leader and that the APC and its leaders are only out to trample on the will of Nigerians for their selfish interests.
“In putting his hands to endorse the obnoxious Bill, even with its distasteful, paltry and provocative 3 percent revenue to oil-producing communities, President Buhari and the APC have again displayed disdain and insensitivity to the sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The PDP holds that such is the height of contempt to oil-producing communities, particularly in the face of the challenges which they face as a result of oil exploration.
“Mr. President could have returned the Bill to the National Assembly with a request that it is made to address the demands of the oil-producing communities
“The party fears that the new law cannot guarantee the desired stability and development in the oil and gas sector as well as respite in the Niger Delta region.
“If anything, the Act, as signed by President Buhari, is a dangerous recipe for avoidable crisis in the sector.
“The PDP calls on President Buhari to salvage the situation by immediately forwarding an amendment Bill to the National Assembly to reflect the true wishes and aspirations of every segment of our nation.”