BELIEVING that the actualisation of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would guarantee them more resources, governors from the oil-producing states may have begun moves to persuade lawmakers from their areas to ensure its speedy passage.
The Guardian gathered in Abuja Sunday that those who are opposed to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on the bill are now in two folds.
They are those who are looking for ways to ease her out of office in a possible cabinet reshuffle, and those disenchanted with certain provisions in the PIB seeking to delink the fiscal terms of crude oil from gas.
Meanwhile, the International Oil Companies’ (IOCs) dream of frustrating the bill in the National Assembly is fast receding because governors are said to have continued to mount pressure on their legislators to sustain the fiscal regime envisaged by the Bill.
A source said: “Governors want more money from the Federation Account. They see the PIB’s fiscal regime as a way of boosting their monthly allocation and are not buying any of the scaremongering by the IOCs.”
Presidency sources say that “since stories of a suspected reshuffle surfaced, some interests have consistently included the petroleum minister’s name in sponsored stories in some publication in an attempt to hoodwink the public. Their tactics has been to focus on the crime of oil theft without acknowledging the gains recorded against the vandals in the past one year. It is a fact that a lot of the infrastructure is ageing and was built above ground thereby making it easier for criminal elements to breach pipelines and carry out illegal activities. And the report ignores the gains made in recent times against these criminals.”
It was also learnt that government is spearheading the fight against crude oil theft in imaginative ways. They include reaching out to governments across the world to treat stolen oil much the same way as are blood diamonds.
The source further wondered why a minister who is not in control of any of the security organisations would be held responsible for security breaches.
Also, an industry source stated that the fiscal regime envisaged by the bill makes oil less of the cash cow.
The country’s gas reserves are about three times those of its crude oil. And apart from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) and the Escravos gas project, much of the gas is either flared or locked in.
Linking this move to a recent publication damning the industry regulators, the source maintained that “it’s all part of a scheme to rubbish the leadership and thereby whittle down appetite for the PIB.”
Speaking recently at an industry event, the Managing Director of ExxonMobil, Mike Ward, argued that the IOCs opposition was not about profits but about viability of investments.
He said: “It is not about profit. At the end of the day, it is about viable economic returns that any investor can make, whether it is a big investor or a small investor.”
Reminded of Shell’s increasing divestment in the shallow waters of the Niger Delta, the source said there was no cause for concern, stressing: “Once again, an attempt is made here to distort the facts. Yes there has been some divestment by some of the companies operating in Nigeria but again, this ignores the obvious fact that others are stepping in to pick up these assets and run them profitably.
“In addition, a lot of these assets are being picked up by indigenous firms thereby creating huge employment opportunities for Nigerians while giving them a stake in the industry. Some of these indigenous companies are indeed beginning to compete on equal terms with the international companies.”
The source defended the NNPC’s own foray into crude oil production, stressing that it has paid real and verifiable dividends.
He added: “Again, this shows the bias of our accusers as they specifically appear to be targeting an agency of government that is seen by all objective observers as a success story.”
Source: Guardian Newspaper
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