The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has described President Muhammadu Buhari as a jinx breaker with the way he pushed through the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that had been a contentious issue for about 20 years
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, BMO said that only a President with no personal interest can muster the necessary political will to reform Nigeria’s petroleum industry.
“The President’s assent to PIB is indeed one that needs to be celebrated as a major landmark in an oil industry that is notorious for its opacity.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this is a bill that was first mooted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who set up an Oil and Gas Reforms Committee, but it was not until 2008 that the then YarAdua administration introduced it to the National Assembly where it was stuck for four years by all sorts of controversies.
“Two other initiatives by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the first one being in 2012, were also bogged down by personal as well as sectional interests and power play, and consequently the PIB again could not see the light of day.
“In all of this, it was clear that the oil industry and the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) continued to operate in an opaque manner that was outside of international best practices, but there was no real political will to reform the sector as well as ensure that oil-bearing communities were not short-changed.
“So we make bold to say that the fact that President Buhari had no interest, either personal or through proxies, made it easier for him to send a carefully crafted Executive Bill to the National Assembly which also showed rare courage in doing what the last three parliaments failed to do.
“It is a big credit to the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government that the PIB jinx was broken on the President’s watch”, the statement added.
BMO however expressed reservations in the manner some individuals and groups have opted to focus on the three percent Host Community Fund, rather than the key policy framework of the PIB.
“We find it worrisome that people who should be glad that the country’s obsolete petroleum laws have now been replaced with one that comes with more benefit for all stakeholders have been raising dust over the percentage for the host community fund.
“What we see here is unnecessary politics at the expense of national development, especially as these same individuals were known to have complained in the past about the non-passage of PIB and the lack of openness of NNPC which they claimed benefit only one section of the country.
“We know for a fact that the oil reforms under PIB will bring about a restructuring of the state-owned corporation to make it more competitive globally, attract more local and foreign investors to the oil industry, as well as enhance transparency and accountability in a sector that all Nigerians agree needs reform.
“And just like informed industry watchers have said, host communities which had for decades received zero funds from oil exploitation now have access to three percent.
“We also invite Nigerians to note that even before breaking the PIB jinx, President Buhari had taken a bold move to open up NNPC to public scrutiny by ensuring that it publishes its monthly operational expenditure”.
The group again reassured Nigerians that the President is committed to leaving the country better than he met it.