The oil and gas industry has a significant impact on the Nigeria's economy. Though the industry contributes less than 10% to the country's gross domestic product, it contributes about 90% of the foreign exchange earnings and 60% of total income. Consequently, any adverse change in the industry will have a big and long-term impact on government finances. This is the reason why successive governments have remained focused on the sector despite various discussions on diversifying the economy.
For the past 20 years, there have been various attempts at reforming the industry. However, none of these efforts has yielded any tangible result until the introduction of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) 2020. Prior to now, there were various iterations of the PIB. The PIB started as an omnibus bill and was later divided into 4 separate bills before emerging in 2020 as a consolidated bill.
It is a fact that previous attempts at passing the PIB in 2009, 2012 and 2018 failed because of factors such as lack of ownership, misalignment of interests between the National Assembly and the Executive, perceived erosion of ministerial powers, stiff opposition by the petroleum host communities and push back by investors on the perceived uncompetitive provisions in those versions of the bill. The PIB 2020 is set to address all the issues to the extent possible. It should be noted that the present administration has demonstrated unparalleled commitment to passing the bill. However, it is important that we do not just pass any law but a law that is competitive, balanced, fair, reasonable and realistic.
The jury is out on whether the PIB will achieve these objectives. One thing is clear – government has tried to strike a balance between immediate revenues demands and the need to attract long-term investment for the industry. This has become extremely crucial when one considers the fact that only 4% of the $70billion investments made in Africa's oil and gas industry between 2015 and 2019 was in respect of Nigeria even though it is the biggest producer and has the largest reserves on the continent. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, only $53.5m or 0.55% of total invest-ment of $9.680billion in Nigeria in 2020 was made in the industry.
If we must achieve our ambition of 40 billion barrels of oil in reserves and 4million barrels of oil per day, we need to attract new investments into the sector. This task has even become more daunting in the light of the various challenges facing the industry, especially with respect to the renewed focus on renewables and energy transition. The oil in the ground is of no use to the country if it cannot monetize it. Therefore, the PIB must lead to a massive transformation of the industry and succeed in attracting the desired investment required to reposition the industry. Otherwise, Nigeria's production will continue to decline significantly.
Hopefully, the provisions of the PIB will be enough to stimulate the desired investment though it has not addressed the issue of energy transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. The key question is whether those investments would pay off or would they be a risky bet?
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