FORMER Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Minister, Malam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, yesterday, said the powers of the President and Minister of Petroleum to award oil blocs should be curtailed.
El-Rufai, who spoke at the final public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, organised by the House ad hoc Committee on the PIB, said Nigerians should be given the opportunity to freely bid for available oil blocs, instead of arbitrarily awarding same to select individuals by the President.
He said: “Today, Nigeria has a track record of attracting a billion dollars in fees from frequency spectrum. If we can sell something, which is scarce, like the spectrum for that kind of money, why can’t we bid out oil blocs? I think you should put in the PIB a requirement that every oil bloc in Nigeria, whether onshore or offshore, be publicly advertised, and everywhere in the world, Nigerians and foreigners, be given the opportunity to bid for it, and whoever bids the highest price should win, even if you have some provisions that Nigerians can win, if they bid 10 or 20 percent lower. But no one, not even the President should have the discretion to allocate oil blocs without rules”.
El-Rufai argued that there should be a government framework that encouraged independence of the regulators in the sector, insisting that the regulators should not be made to report to the Minister of Petroleum.
He said: “I think that as you are doing this legislation, we must have independent regulators. Independent regulators mean that they don’t report to the minister. They are independent of the minister. The minister focuses on policy, the regulators have freedom to regulate independently without any control of the minister, which means, for instance, that we should not live in a country in which the oil bloc can be allocated based on discretion.”
Speaking as a director of the Centre for Africa’s Progress and Prosperity, CAPP, El-Rufai suggested that the joint ventures should be incorporated and put on the stock exchange, so Nigerians could buy shares in the JVC’s. The former FCT helmsman also advised that more Nigerians be encouraged to participate in the petroleum industry. On oil host communities’ fund (PHCF), he applauded the initiative, saying it was assailable but, however, called for a governance framework.
Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said to ensure transparency in the industry, the PIB should provide for an allocation process that was clear and transparent, and openned to the general public.
She maintained that there should be a clear description of the process for transferring or awarding oil licence.