Finally, Senate Begins Debate On PIB

The Senate on Tuesday finally began the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The bill was supposed to have been debated in December 2012 before lawmakers went on Christmas holidays but was stood down as soon as the motion was moved by the Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egbe.

The bill was sent to the National Assembly last year by President Goodluck Jonathan and the lawmakers gazetted it immediately to avoid its duplication.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, and officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had twice briefed federal lawmakers last month as part of government’s efforts to lobby the National Assembly to pass the bill.

During the debate on the bill on Tuesday, the Senate first gave the floor to northern federal lawmakers, who expressed deep reservations about a section in the bill which stipulates that 10 percent of funds should be paid to oil-bearing communities.

A federal lawmaker, Senator Ahmed Lawan faulted the section, saying the host community development fund has no place in the PIB and that the 13 per cent derivation given to Niger Delta states is sufficient.

Senator Lawan also blamed leaders in the Niger Delta for failing to utilise all the allocations given to develop the region.

But Senator Ifeanyi Okowa faulted this argument, saying the host community development fund is to be gotten from 10 per cent of the net worth of the oil companies and would not in any way shortchange other states in the country.

The Senate President, David Mark had on Thursday announced that three days had been scheduled this week for the second reading of the bill.

The debate continues on Wednesday.

Accept higher taxes, Alison-Madueke tells oil companies

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke on Tuesday urged foreign oil companies in Nigeria to accept higher government revenues from crude production outlined in a draft Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) being debated in National Assembly.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke

Speaking at an economic summit in Abuja, Mrs Alison-Madueke said fiscal reforms in the proposed PIB, if passed, would be the most comprehensive in four decades.

She described the increased government takes from oil revenues in the PIB as small and said they were fair, given sustained higher oil prices.

“Nigeria is not alone in the tightening of fiscal terms,” she said. “The goal has always been to find a fair balance between the government and the contractors’ shares.”

President Goodluck Jonathan presented the bill to the National Assembly in August and it is still being discussed.

Oil majors have cried out about proposed tax terms in the bill, with Shell and ExxonMobil saying they would make exploration deep offshore, which is the key to growing Nigeria’s reserves, non-viable.

Nigeria’s tax and royalties regimes are complex and often highly secretive. Little is known about existing terms on offshore contracts, but oil majors say the PIB has worse terms than existing ones.

“The government is not in the business of oil and gas to make a loss for the country. At the same time, the intent is to remain competitive to attract investment,” Mrs Alison-Madueke told delegates at the conference.

She has said after the changes were made in the PIB, Nigeria’s “government take” on offshore projects would be around 73 percent, lower than in rival producers Angola, Norway and Indonesia.

“The PIB has been 12 years in the making. If it was such an easy bill, it would have been hashed out a long time ago,” the Minister said.

“I don’t think any position you take on a bill such as this could be perfect … but I think we did a fairly equitable job.”

The PIB’s comprehensive nature — comprising everything including fiscal terms, reform of the state oil company, penalties for environmental infractions and funds for communities living on oil fields — is partly why it has been so hard to agree on.

In a speech, the head of local operator Seplat Petroleum suggested the fiscal regime be hived off from the rest of the bill and quickly passed, to end uncertainty holding back billions of dollars of investment.

Mrs Alison-Madueke said this had been considered and rejected in the drafting of the bill, which would remain comprehensive.