A petroleum industry bill for Diezani

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IT must be, arguably, the most anticipated Bill,as far as legislation goes in Nigeria. That is the much-vaunted Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); and talking about the typically Nigerian hype, the PIB was hyped! It is described as panacea for every problem associated with Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

You could literally close your eyes and see the PIB, rather like a magician’s wand, in Diezani Allison-Maduekwe’s hands: she waves it around and corruption disappears from oil fields; oil thieves are out of business; transnational oil giants retain absolute control; Nigeria’s comprador oil bourgeoisie is in business; more money flows into oil bearing communities, ensuring a bigger slice from Nigeria’s oil revenue; the North pays more for fuel, with the scrapping of the petroleum equalisation regime (afterall, Diezani on behalf of the South-South, can say “it is our oil” so let them pay more!), and so on.

To underline PIB’s importance, Nigerians were inundated with tales of various versions of the Bill: a patriotic version, aimed at strengthening a nationalist regime in the oil industry, drafted by patriots in the industry. For their effrontery as patriots, they were allegedly side-lined and eventually weeded out of the NNPC.

Then a version, preferred by oil majors, with the express intention of ensuring that in the long run, the patriotic version of the PIB, didn’t see the light of day. And finally, Diezani’s version of the PIB! Whichever one chooses, there can be no gainsaying the fact that PIB hopes to change the management of Nigerian oil resources forever. What we might not be able to vouch for is whether in the long run,a restructured oil industry will be in Nigeria’s best interest.

Don’t get me wrong please; a few people will continue to feed fat on the huge returns that oil industry brings; but the question is whether we want to entrench a few rich men and women in the oil business at the expense of the rest of us. Whatever the touted merits of the PIB, it must be appreciated in the context of the broad neo-liberal capitalist economic choices made by the ruling elite since 1999.

They are not policies in the best interest of the Nigerian people; Diezani’s PIB cannot therefore be isolated from economic choices foisted on our country since the PDP came to power.

If an individual can become the face of a particular law in Nigeria, then Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, is the face of PIB. And she is quite besotted with it; at least with her own version! I last saw Diezani on the night of June 24th, 2012,at the Aso Villa, soonafter the Presidential Media Chat. She spoke like an enthusiastic salesperson attempting to sell a product (genuine or fake didn’t matter!).

She said the PIB was the next great assignment of her job as Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister; without doubt, the most powerful minister of the Jonathan regime and as many people believe, the only minister with a secure tenure. Lucky lady that one! In the past week, Diezani’s version of the PIB was adopted by FEC and submitted to the National Assembly just as it was going on recess.

But the little we have seen of Diezani’s PIB, titillates, rather like the proverbial lady’s skirt: long enough to cover essentials but short enough to be suggestive! Diezani has drafted a Petroleum Industry Bill around her own very ambitious and tall ego indeed! As DAILY TRUST, of Friday July 20th, 2012 noted, the new PIB will make Diezani “more powerful than she already is”, if passed by the National Assembly.

Why? She “will become chairman of the boards of plum parastatals in the ministry and also have powers to scrap the Petroleum Equalisation Fund which ensures the uniformity of petrol prices allover the country”.

Absurd and self- serving provisions

How the obviously absurd and self-serving essence of these provisions was allowed to pass by FEC remains a mystery. But it is clear, that if passed, as is, Diezani will literally become the petroleum industry itself! The PIB provides that Diezani will become chairperson of PTDF; the National Petroleum Assets Management Corporation and Petroleum Equalisation Fund and aside from chairing the agencies, she will “be responsible for recommending to the President who to appoint as chief executives and as board members. Diezani will similarly directly supervise “the activities of the Petroleum Technical Bureau and the Upstream Petroleum Inspectorate, and also recommend its officials for appointment”.

It is incredible that Diezani’s PIB plans to make a superhuman out of a lady who runs the industry largely because she is close to the President and is from the Niger Delta! It is also the intendment of Diezani’s PIB, to set up a Petroleum Host Community Fund; with it, all oil companies will pay 10 person of their profit from upstream activities.

The hundreds of billions expected will go solely to the Niger Delta, along with funds already provided through Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Ministry of Niger Delta and 13 percent Derivation! Instructively, President Jonathan’s letter to the National Assembly asked for “expeditious passage”.

Diezani’s PIB is tall enough to fit her ego while giving more funds to the Niger Delta. As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail. People continue to lament that Ghali Na’abah’s House of Representatives was heavily bribed to pass the law that abrogated Onshore-Offshore oil dichotomy.

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