Andy Esiet, Calabar
The recently passed Petroleum Industry bill (PIB) has attracted lots of criticism most especially from the Southern part of the country. In view of this, the Chairman of the Cross River Caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Gershom Bassey representing Cross River South Senatorial District, in a telephone interview threw more light on the bill and the upcoming Electoral Amendments bill, Excerpts:
The PIB has just been passed by the Senate, what is your take on this Distinguish?
The PIB is a living document, while I give kudos to the National Assembly for achieving a PIB, after 15-20 years of trial, the bill is not perfect, but as we go along, it will be fine-tuned so I give kudos to the Country, the Senate, House of Representatives and the National Assembly for passing a PIB bill which will ensure investments in Nigeria. This bill will continue to be perfected as it is used.
Issue of Electronic Transmission of election results by INEC is said to have been expunged by senate review committee, what do you say on this as we expect better elections in Nigeria as we progress?
We are yet to see the INEC bill, all we have heard are rumours so we are waiting for the bill to be laid on the floor this week. Once it is laid, we will be able to x-ray the bill and know what is inside the bill and what is not inside the bill, and for sure electronic transmission of results is a key element to ensure free and fair elections. So for now we are going to wait for the bill and when the bill comes, we will be able to x-ray it and see what is in it. Lets be patient and see . But I am on the same page with southern Governors.
With the PIB bill, Pipelines passing through some areas now make many states especially the northern states oil producing areas and will subsequently get benefits from the centre, what is your reaction?
On the pipeline issue, one of the key elements in looking at the bill was the issue of security of pipelines and pipeline vandalization. The thinking was that if host communities and places where pipelines pass through have an interest in the security of that pipeline, then they will ensure that those pipelines are secured and of course the security of pipelines goes to the revenues that come into our country, so that was the reason why the host communities were defined the way they were defined. So I think it makes a bit of sense because it is important that pipelines are preserved and not vandalized. Its possible to have better ways of protecting the pipelines and that is why I say it is a living document. New ideas may come in future .
The Senate has given three percent to oil bearing communities, is this okay considering the environmental impact they suffer?
For me I think five percent is what we all requested. You heard the Deputy Senate President on the floor, in fact he said five percent and a little bit more. So we hope that when they go to conference that we will go with the House of Representatives recommendation of five percent.
PANDEF has called for a reversal of the PIB bill as passed by the Senate to reflect 10 percent for oil bearing communities and the 30 per frontier production fund and others should be dropped else oil activities will be disrupted. What’s your take?
Well for me I can’t really comment on PANDEF’s request because I haven’t read it. But if you are asking me to comment on host community benefit, I have already told you I think they should increase the amount going to host communities because it’s only fair. Despite all the arguments on investments and so on, I think that investments can still carry five percent as passed by the House of Representatives at least. On the frontier exploration, what we managed to achieve in the bill was to define frontier to cover the entire country and not just certain parts of the country; so for me in Calabar, frontier covers the Calabar basin and we need to have in Cross River State exploration going on in our state. So that’s my own take. So far as frontier funding is applied evenly across the country in all the basins, Dahomey basin, the Cross River basin, Chad basin and so on, we can have a level of fairness and equity in frontier exploration
In all do you think this PIB as passed is a fair deal for the South?
It could be better; the PIB as passed encourages more inflows into the country through the Oil & Gas sector. These types of inflows in exploration and production are things that will benefit us in the south because for the past fifteen years, there has been minimal investment in the oil and gas industry. There has only been one bid round and the bid round was not very successful, and we have had bid rounds in the marginal fields, which has not been realizable and these are all directly attributable to an unpredictable oil and gas environment. What the PIB does is to bring predictability to the oil and gas environment and with predictability comes investments. So ultimately, it may not be a perfect bill, and I don’t think it’s a perfect bill but it is a bill that we can work with to ensure that there’s investments in the oil and gas industry. In some countries, just by signing off on bill, you see huge amounts 100 billion dollars, 200 billion dollars, worth of investments coming in to that country just by signing off on a PIB bill. I am sure we can have huge investments in the country as a result of the predictability we have brought to the oil and gas industry.