Nigeria's Cabinet Approves Bill to Overhaul Oil Sector

Source: Reuters 7/11/2012, Location: Africa

Nigeria's cabinet has approved a final draft of an oil law, years in the making, that will be sent to President Goodluck Jonathan before going to parliament in a few days, the oil minister said.

The Petroleum Industry Bill's passage is needed to unblock billions of dollars of stalled investment into exploration and production, but it has been stuck for about five years as ministers and parliamentarians disagreed on details.

"(Cabinet) approved the final draft of the new PIB. We expect that within the next few days Mister President will forward it to the national assembly," Diezani Alison-Madueke told reporters at the presidential villa.

Industry participants say the PIB is needed to halt a decline in crude production in Nigeria. The bill includes plans to partly privatize and list the state oil company, tax oil company profits at 20 percent for deep offshore and 50 percent for shallow or onshore, and give the oil minister supervisory powers over all oil institutions.

"The new PIB is going to make the oil industry more competitive and accountable. It proposes revolutionary changes in the industry," Alison-Madueke said.

Industry experts have said that the tax terms in the latest bill are more favourable to foreign oil companies like Shell , Exxon, Chevron and Total than previous drafts. There is no guarantee that lawmakers will push through the bill. Powerful interests could block or delay it, as has happened in the past, although Jonathan being explicitly behind it gives this version of the bill a better chance than previous ones.

The PIB would also lead to an overhaul of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The oil minister said that NNPC would be unbundled and an independent National Oil Company would be created, which would be listed and take over current infrastructure owned by Nigeria's government. But the final draft does not make clear which assets the NOC will take over and if it will be given the most valuable production sharing contracts.


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