Since President Mohammed Buhari signed the Petroleum Bill into law on August 16, 2021, there has been growing unease among oil industry workers, most of whom are anxious about what the future holds for them in the immediate.
Petroleum Resources Minister, Chief Timipre Sylva, in order to douse the tension occasioned by some aspects of the newly enacted Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), took it upon himself recently to address the concerns of Staffers of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board.
At each stop, he explained that workers have nothing to fear as their jobs, emoluments and entitlements are protected by law. He also assured all that all assets and liabilities of the now-defunct Agencies would be absorbed by the two newly formed Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), in line with the provisions of the Act.
Chief Sylva also seized the moment to assure contractors that all subsisting obligations with the now outed Agencies would be met and there was no need for the seemingly panic blitz spreading over certain areas of the oil industry.
Industry observers have commended the Ministers move to a large degree as workers could now heave huge sighs of relief given the fact that they are not about to be thrown into the unemployment market. It was also reassuring that the Chief Executive Officers of the NUPRC and NMDPRA – Engineer Gbenga Komolafe and Alhaji Farouk Ahmed respectively – accompanied the Minister on the visits with other important Executives of both organisations also present.
To be sure, the PIA has been long in coming and most industry stakeholders have lauded its enactment; engineered to bring a sound legal, fiscal and regulatory framework to bear on the business activities within the Nigerian petroleum industry.
No sooner was the bill signed into law that President Buhari sought an amendment to the PIA through the National Assembly, on the administrative structure(s) of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA). The President requested an increase in the number of non-executive members on the boards of both institutions from 2 to 6 apiece.
“I am of the view that this membership limitation does not address the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country. I, therefore, pray for the intervention of the Ninth National Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of national unity” he said in defence of his position. He went on “…if this amendment is approved, it will now increase the number of non-executive members from two to six. That is one person from each geo-political zone.
The Commander-in-Chief further proposed to remove the Petroleum and Finance Ministers from the boards of the NUPRC and NMDPRA. According to him, “the two Ministers already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or intergovernmental relations that will continue to perform such roles without being on the board…”
To underscore the seriousness the Buhari administration places on the speedy implementation of the PIA, the President was presented with the Certificate of Incorporation of the newly minted Nigerian National Petroleum Company in line with the provisions of the new law, on October 8th, by the Group Managing Director of the extant Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Alhaji Mele Kyari, at the State House, Abuja.