THE Director General/CEO of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Comrade Issa Aremu, has described the recent signing into law the Petroleum Industry Bill into an Act by President Muhammadu Buhari as “a singular historic transformational legislation in public corporate governance” since the return of the country to democracy in 1999.

President Buhari signed the bill making it the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) on 16th August 2021, following the bill’s passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier on July 5th and 6th 2021 respectively.

Comrade Aremu made the observation in Ilorin last Tuesday, August 31, 2021, at the opening of a 3-Day Strategic Leadership Skills workshop for trade unionists drawn from Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) across the country.

Recalling that the preceding act which PIA replaced was passed in 1969, Comrade Aremu observed that it was the commitment and focus of President Muhammadu Buhari that made the enactment of the hitherto impossible legislative framework a reality despite outstanding challenges associated with the new law.

According to him, PIA has introduced “timely and pertinent changes to the governance, administrative, regulatory and fiscal framework of the Nigerian petroleum industry. He added that PIA would promote transparency, strengthen the governing institutions and attract investment capital, as well as create new jobs.”

While describing as healthy the current controversies over the perceived imperfections of the new law with respect to host community’s take and Frontier Exploration Fund, Aremu asserted that any developmentalist law is “legislative work in progress.”

“It’s good to jaw-jaw on development and transformation which PIA represents than the unhelpful shouting discordant voices over divisions and violence of no value. President Buhari has commendably changed the national narrative in the positive direction of development by signing PIB into law,” Aremu said.

The Director General noted that the signing of PIA on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence assumes special importance because PIA “would moderate the unacceptable dominance of the petroleum industry by the international oil companies (IOCs) and make Nigeria and Nigerians dictate the pace and pattern of the development of the industry according to the objectives of the new National Development Agenda 2050.”

He added: “If we add the recent bold move to reactivate the Port Harcourt Refinery, landmark 2019 historic assent to the Bill amending the Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act which commendably balanced the corporate greed in oil and gas sector with urgent national needs in terms of revenue, prosperity would record it that President Buhari is championing petroleum sector development renaissance after decades of neglect.”

On critical labour issues associated with PIA, Comrade Aremu called for “a just transition” for a gradual sector reform such “that companies operating in the Nigerian oil and gas industry comply with all international labour conventions ratified by Nigeria; the collective agreements with the labour unions and the extant labour laws as a minimum in all their dealings with Nigerian workers and their representatives.”

He called for engagement between the unions in the sector; PENGASSAN, NUPENG and government “that proper arrangement be made that the liabilities of the NNPC and other agencies to their staff such as pensions to retired and existing employees are adequately provided for prior to the effective commencement date of the PIA”.

Aremu disclosed that arrangements have been concluded to popularise the new Petroleum Act amongst stakeholders in the sector.

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