NLC commends NASS for passage of Petroleum Industry Bill

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has commended the National Assembly (NASS) for passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba gave the commendation in a statement issued to newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress received with relief the news of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the two chambers of the National Assembly.

“The PIB with 319 clauses, 5 chapters and 8 Schedules is promoted by government as an instrument for increased transparency, services delivery and global competitiveness for Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

“It is remarkable that after about twenty years of wait, since President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua first submitted the PIB to the National Assembly, the PIB, is finally becoming a reality.

“We commend the Senate and the House of Representatives for rising to the occasion. We know that the process of making the PIB a law has not been completely consummated,’’ he said.

According to him, the passed bill will still need to be harmonised by a conference of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Wabba noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is also expected to sign the bill into law, adding that definitely, there are few more hurdles to cross.

The Congress, he said, further wishes to draw the attention of the National Assembly to the need to handle with utmost care, the very sensitive issue of the unbundling of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“The bill as passed by the upper chamber of the National Assembly retained the recommendation of the Joint Committee in Clause 53.

“This empowers the Minister of Petroleum Resources to incorporate the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation as a limited liability company to be known as NNPC Limited.

“This is expected to take effect six months after the commencement of the Petroleum Industry Act.

“Clause 53 mandates the Minister of Petroleum Resources at the incorporation of NNPC Limited, to consult with the Minister of Finance.

“This is to determine the number and nominal value of the shares to be allotted, which would form the initial paid-up share capital of NNPC Limited,’’he said.

Wabba also noted that consequently, the Senate approved ownership of all shares in NNPC Limited to be vested in the Government at incorporation and held by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated on behalf of the Government.

He said that the congress as part of its input to the PIB, during the public hearing canvassed that the NNPC should be transformed into a Public Liability Company where every Nigerian would own shares.

He added that the desire to make the Nigerian people stakeholders in the commonwealth of the country appears to have fared quite well in the Senate’s consideration, and this was commendable.

Wabba said the congress was, however, concerned that unlike the Senate representation of Clause 53, the PIB as passed by the House of Representatives in respect to the Clause does not seem to sufficiently capture this desire of the Nigerian people.

“This is a major blight in the PIB. It is not good enough,’’ he said.

He said the congress also noted the serious concerns and agitations by oil bearing host communities on a number of issues.

The NLC president said that the most topical concern appeared to be the percentage of revenue proposed in the PIB to go to oil producing communities.

“It is important that the Conference Committee of the National Assembly ensures equity in the harmonisation of the three per cent proposed by the Senate and five per cent by the House of Representatives.

“This is especially in a manner that gives a sense of justice, fairness and inclusion to oil bearing and oil producing communities in the country.

“This is because these communities bear the impact of crude oil exploration and production,’’he said.

Wabba said the congress also observed the non-inclusion of workers in the governing structures of the proposed commercial and regulatory institutions and organisations that would emerge from the unbundling of the NNPC.

“This is especially NUPENG and PENGASSAN should be included in the administrative structures in the proposed regulatory and commercial organisations in Nigeria’s oil industry.

“The congress also hopes that the proposal for the setting up of the Downstream Regulatory Agency is not euphemism for abdication of government responsibility to fix our public refineries.

“Halt incessant hike in the price of refined petroleum products and reverse the surrendering of our oil wealth to rapacious market forces. Nigerian workers will always resist such enslavement of our people,’’ he said. (NAN)