Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nigerian parliament postpones debate on oil reform bill

Lagos (Platts)

Nigeria's House of Representatives on Wednesday postponed deliberations on the long-awaited oil reform bill as lawmakers called for more time to consider the provisions of the legislation.

But civil rights organizations Thursday condemned the failure of the parliament to debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, or PIB, adding that this could further delay the passage of the bill.

The lawmakers said they were not ready to rush through a clause-by-clause debate on the bill, an indication that the legislation may not be passed before the end of the tenure of the current parliament next week.

"The conditions are just not right to pass bill, why are we rushing to pass the bill," Deno Melaye, of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party said at the session that was broadcast by a Lagos-based private television station.

"This is a bill that will impact on the well-being of 150 million Nigerians, so we need more time," another lawmaker Independence Ogunewe said.

However, the head of the coalition group campaigning for the quick passage of the oil bill, David Ugolor said the lawmakers by their actions, have disappointed Nigerians who were expecting that the bill would be passed before the end of May.

"It's terrible. They [lawmakers] don't look out for the common good of Nigeria. So far only the first clause has been read, how are they going to see through the bill before they end their tenure next week," Ugolor said.

The bill, which has been with parliament since 2008, has suffered repeated delays sue to incessant revisions and disagreement.

Nigerian government officials have repeatedly assured that the bill, which seeks to radically overhauled the country's oil and gas industry, would be passed before the end of the current administration on May 29.

Nigeria hopes the bill will tackle issues including funding shortfalls in its joint ventures with foreign firms, insecurity in the Niger Delta, increasing local involvement in the industry and production of more gas for domestic power.

Uncertainty over the reforms, which could significantly increase the cost of operating in Africa's biggest crude exporter, have put billions of dollars of potential investment on hold, according to oil company executives.

Official estimates put Nigerian oil production capacity at 3.0 million b/d, but unrest in the main producing region, the Niger Delta, as well as poor funding have prevented the OPEC member from reaching its full potential.


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