Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi; business magnate, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar, Thursday warned that unless the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is quickly passed into law, Nigeria may be heading for a disaster.
The trio, in their separate speeches at the third quadrennial delegates’ conference of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in Port Harcourt, also linked the future of Nigeria’s economy to reforms in the oil and gas sector.
Addressing the conference as the host governor, Amaechi said the country was facing a gloomy future, unless the PIB was passed into law so that the nation could add value to the crude oil production.
Amaechi, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Tele Ikuru, added that Nigeria was fast losing its dominance of the oil industry in the West African sub-region with the discovery and exploitation of crude oil in some African countries.
He also said the United States’ strategic plan to reduce its oil imports by about 75 per cent soon was a threat to Nigeria’s economy because of the nation’s dependence on oil as the mainstay of the economy.
“It follows, therefore, that unless the National Assembly passes the PIB into law and Nigeria commences the process of adding value to the over two million barrels of crude oil produces daily, the country will get to a point when it will be holding black gold that is almost worthless,” he said.
He chided NUPENG for its indifference to the clamour for the passage of the PIB and urged the union to apply all acceptable methods of labour, including strikes, to press for the passage of the PIB.
“If you have to go on strike, go on strike; if you have to go on riot, go on riot; if you have to demonstrate, please demonstrate because the time has come for this country to change strategy.
“And the only way to change that strategy is to ensure that we pass the PIB which will attract full investment and will enable those who have the resources to begin to add value to the things we produce,” Amaechi said.
In his own address, Dangote, who was the chairman of the occasion, described the PIB as a bold step that would address the issues of corruption in the sector and ensure transparency.
Dangote, represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr. Joseph Mankoju, stressed that the desired reforms in the oil and gas sector would only be achieved if the federal government could muster the required political will to drive the process to its conclusion.
According to him, “The PIB is a bold step that was initiated to correct perceived flaws in the petroleum industry as it is intended to address structural, policy and managerial issues in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
“The PIB is key to the survival of the Nigerian economy because it has the potential to attract investment and boost local capacity in the oil and gas industry.”
He expressed optimism that by the time his refinery, with the capacity to refine 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, comes on stream, it should be in a position to meet 100 per cent of the nation’s domestic demand.
He explained that 25,000 jobs would be created during the four years period it would take to construct the refinery, while 3,500 permanent jobs would be created on completion of the project.
In his speech, Omar accused the federal government, the National Assembly and multinational oil companies of frustrating the passage of the PIB.
He said: “The dark forces in the polity, particularly in the executive and legislative arms of government, as well as multinational corporations have been frustrating the passage of the PIB. These dark forces are existential threat to this country.”
He observed that crude oil production in the country had dropped in recent times, and urged the federal government to take decisive measures to end the menace of oil theft instead of lamenting haplessly.
NUPENG President, Igwe Achese, said the delay in reforming the oil and gas sector had forced some companies to leave Nigeria for other African countries.
He added that the federal government had to take necessary steps to stem the tide to avert adverse effects on the economy.