Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has expressed deep dismay and bewilderment at President Buhari’s decision not to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB, into law and has urged him to reconsider his stance in the interest of Nigerians.
Presidential assent to the PIGB has been withheld on the grounds that what has been permitted as accruals to the petroleum commission has the tendency to reduce what then gets to the three tiers of government. In addition, there are concerns within the echelons of power that expanding the scope of petroleum equalization fund conflicts with provisions on independent petroleum equalization fund.
“But these are tenuous reasons being adduced for Mr. President’s refusal to sign this bill. ANEEJ believes that rather than dwell on the technicalities inherent in the bill, Mr. President needs to rise up to the occasion and do the needful by exploring other ways and means of resolving these technicalities than an outright dissent. If the bill will effectively checkmate the three tiers of government from the habit of going cap hand to Abuja to pick up monthly handouts from the centre so be it. In all of the 17 years wherein the bill has been with the Legislature, it has been so balkanized and scrutinized to the extent that it has nearly lost of all its substance and relevance”, ANEEJ executive director, the Rev David Ugolor stated in a statement to journalists.
The broad overview of the Petroleum Industry Bill was essentially to give the Nigerian people ownership of a key extractive sector of the Nigerian economy. The Bill also sought to take into consideration the interests of the local communities that have suffered despoliation, pollution and degradation because of the activities of multinational companies in Nigeria.
“Recall that another bill, the Freedom of Information, FOI, also suffered same kind of fate until eventually passed in 2011. Its state today is a product of the many unfortunate reviews it passed through, and which led to the several lacunas inherent in it. For the PIB not to suffer the same fate as the FOI, ANEEJ implores Mr President to set up an extraordinary committee involving stakeholders to resolve issues related to the fears concerning accruals.
“We are persuaded at ANEEJ that withholding assent after a bill has been debated and reviewed for 17 years ordinarily pits Mr President against the Nigerian people and presents him in egoistic terms.
Conflicts are resolvable and perceived conflicts related to provisions of an independent equalization fund are resolvable and cannot be the basis for Mr. President to refrain from signing a forward-looking a bill as the PIGB into law; the Rev Ugolor said.