Senate Seeks Near Completion of Oil Bill Essentials by Year-End

Source: Reuters 11/3/2016, Location: Africa

Nigeria's Senate will nearly complete work by year end on two major areas of long-delayed legislation to tackle problems in managing the nation's oil wealth, Senate President Bukola Saraki said. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), stuck in parliament for a decade, aims to tackle everything from an overhaul of state oil company NNPC to taxes on upstream projects in a sector riddled with corruption.

On Wednesday, the Senate, parliament's upper house, gave initial approval in the second reading to a draft plan to overhaul the state oil industry, a procedural move that allows the bill to move forward. "For many years now the PIB has been stalled at different stages for one reason or the other," Saraki said in a statement.

"At this point, the Senate is ready and willing to do everything that it takes to get Nigeria's economy out of this recession -- and the efficient and effective management of our oil resources is a key component of this."

The part of the bill debated on Wednesday dealt with "a governance and institutional framework for the petroleum industry", Saraki said as Nigeria seeks to restructure state oil firm NNPC.

In a draft seen by Reuters in April, Nigeria planned to split NNPC into two to help ease a planned stake sale in the coming years. Saraki said the Senate should next work out rules for communities hosting oil firms -- one of the most contentious aspects as militants and villages in the impoverished Niger Delta demand a greater share of the oil revenues it generates and a cleanup of oil spills.

"Work on the passage of the two key bills will be nearing completion stage before the end of the year," Saraki said. The next step is for parliamentary committees to provide a report within four weeks after which the Senate will go clause by clause through the final version, lawmakers said. No more details were immediately available.

Saraki and Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu have repeatedly said the bill would be split to speed up approval but not given details yet of the bill, central to President Muhammadu Buhari's reform of the sector. The inability to pass the bill and uncertainty around taxation and government funds during a slump in oil revenue has stunted investment, particularly in deep-water oil and gas fields.

Nigeria's oil output has risen to 2.1 million barrels a day, Kachikwu said on Tuesday, after plunging due to militant attacks to 1.37 million barrels per day in May, the lowest level since July 1988, according to the International Energy Agency. Seeking to pacify the region, on Tuesday Buhari met Niger Delta leaders who presented a list of 16 demands, such as making oil firms move their country headquarters to the southern region and an army withdrawal from the area.

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