Global news platform, Al-Jazeera recently put out a micro-documentary that caught our interest. At 7 minutes long, the explainer manages to break down in simple terms; the perennial problems that have crippled Nigeria’s petroleum industry and kept it from becoming a truly valuable resource to the nation.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy – but over 90 million live in extreme poverty.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 5, 2020
But the one thing that the documentary fails to expand on, is the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill. The Petroleum Industry Bill has been in conversation since the country transitioned to democracy but has never come this close to being passed. The PIB is a blanket term for four iterations of reform bills that target specific parts of the industry, legalizing new processes and reforms. The Bill proposes a number of things as checks and balances to sanitize the Nigerian petroleum industry, including reforming the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the public/private partner corporation expected to engage private players in the industry while regulating processes within the industry. Critics have argued that having NNPC play both regulator and marketer presents a conflict of interest that prioritizes wealth creation over sustainability.
In 2018, President Buhari rejected the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), an amended version of the bill that passed two readings at the senate, citing that it limited the presidency’s powers in influencing the petroleum markets. His reasons for rejecting the bill gave hope to promoters of the bill and work is currently underway to rework the bill and represent it to the senate and the presidency.
But so far, the evidence suggests that the PIGB will experience as much difficulty gaining acceptance as all the other previous bills. We are in dire straits and with countries like Iran contemplating conflict with the United States, countries like Nigeria will be drawn into these situations and its oil will become more contentious. The quicker we make our oil less political, the better for all of us.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.