Despite the positions of any vested interest, the House of Representatives will ensure that it protects the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is being considered by the Green Chamber, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has said.
Gbajabiamila said though the PIB has been in the National Assembly for decades without much success, the 9th Assembly would ensure that it passes it into law.
The Speaker, who expressed optimism about the process adopted by the House to engage all relevant stakeholders, said he was confident that the Ad-hoc Committee on PIB headed by Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno, would do a thorough job.
Declaring open a 2-day public hearing organized by the ad-hoc committee, Gbajabiamila said the House would do all it can to pass the PIB in April.
He said though it was a national consensus that there should be a comprehensive reform of the oil and gas industry, he bemoaned a situation where “this critical national industry underperforms its potential and our national expectations.”
“For the most part, we all agree on the need for legislative action to make improvements through statutory and regulatory reform. Therefore, it is disappointing and frankly difficult to explain how successive governments have failed to deliver on the promise of reform despite this broad agreement. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity and an obligation to do better, and we will.”
“We are not oblivious to the fact of many contending interests in this sector. These contentions do not need to result in conflict, especially when we know the objective of national prosperity benefits us all. Therefore, the process of engaging with stakeholders will continue beyond this public hearing to accommodate the diversity of interests and ensure all critical views form part of the deliberations that inform the final legislation.
“Regardless of whatever other interests may exist, for this Ad-Hoc Committee and indeed the House of Representatives, Nigeria’s best interest is both our desired outcome and guiding principle. It falls to this Ad-Hoc Committee to engage in a necessary balancing act in the interests of our beloved nation.
The Speaker added that “This bill has been long coming as the chairman said. It has been upcoming in the last 20 years. Because of contending and vested interests, we have not been able to reach the desired outcome over the years.
“A lot of work has gone into the preparation of this Bill, but it’s not strait-jacketed. The idea of a public hearing is to have interests that may have not been accommodated prior to the introduction of the Bill to lend their voices and to understand perhaps the bigger environment where they are coming from.
“So my charge to everyone that will be participating is not to close our minds or our ears to the views and the positions that may be advanced by various interest groups. We are in a world, an economic world, so there must be interest groups, they will be interest groups and we cannot deny that.
“But what should guide the outcome of what we do here as we accommodate more views will be what will be in the best interest of the people.
“More importantly, we intend to pass this Bill by April. That is a commitment we have made. Some may call it a tall order, but we will do it, and we will do it with every sense of responsibility without compromising the thoroughness of the work that will be done,” the Speaker said.
He said the outcome of the Bill will determine a lot of things such as the diversification of the economy, saying “for you to diversify your economy, you have to invest money, and for you to invest money, the resources you would use to invest and develop your economy, as it is in Nigeria for now, comes from the petroleum industry.
“Whether you believe in the finite or infiniteness of the product, the point that needs to be made is that we need to derive as much profit for the time when the product is still available. We need to derive as much profit to be able to diversify into other areas.”
He said the bill would provide an opportunity for the country to “meet the obligations owed to the communities that host oil and gas exploration and transportation activities and pay a high environmental price as a consequence.”
“There have been various prior attempts to meet this obligation. Let us remember those attempts and be motivated by the knowledge that we can now correct past mistakes and fulfil the responsibility we owe these communities once and for all.”