The recent postponement of the 2015 general elections by the Independent National Electric Commission (INEC) is threatening the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly.
After weeks of allegation, and counter-allegation, INEC recently emerged from consultative meetings with stakeholders in Abuja with a decision to postpone the general election by six weeks, citing insecurity in the North-east states, especially Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, where the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, has intensified its six-year old insurgency.
By the new timetable, the Presidential/National Assembly election holds March 28, while the Governorship/House of Assembly election has been slated for April 11.
The elections were initially fixed for February 14 and 28 for the presidential/National Assembly and governorship/House of Assembly polls, respectively.
However, the postponement of the elections, it was learnt, may have dealt a death blow on the passage of the PIB as the lawmakers now have little time to deliberate on the bill before the May 29 handover date.
Two oil industry stakeholders, who spoke to newsmen on the matter expressed doubt on the possibility of the National Assembly concluding the passage of the bill for President Goodluck Jonathan to sign before the May 29 handover date.
Chief Executive Officer of International Energy Services Limited, Dr. Diran Fawibe said after the last election on April 11, results would be analysed and a lot of razzmatazz would follow, which could occupy the attention of the lawmakers.
He said before the postponement of the elections, he had believed in the assurance given by some of the legislators in January that the bill would be passed immediately after the elections and shortly before the end of the tenure of this administration.
“Now, the question is: will there be a chance for this since the election has been moved forward? The last set of election will take place on April 11. The first few days after April 11 will be devoted to analysing the results. So, the issue is whether the National Assembly will convene and whether they will convene after the elections and have sufficient time to consider the bill and pass it before May 29 when the present administration will finish its tenure.
“The President has said that May 29 is sacrosanct and what you are going to see is that the President will have to sign the bill into law not later than May 28. If the National Assembly does not convene to consider it, the passage of the bill is put in jeopardy.
“So, that is the fear and anxiety we have now. But let us leave it to the goodwill of the legislators; there is going to be at least one month. If immediately after the elections, and with all the razzmatazz that will come after the elections, the National Assembly still convenes and the PIB is taken as one of the priority bills to be considered, then, let us hope that it will be passed,” he explained.
Chief Executive Officer of Frontier Oil Limited, operators of Uquo Marginal Oilfield, Mr. Dada Thomas said that he was not optimistic that the law makers would pass the reform bill within the lifespan of this present National Assembly.
“They have been saying that they will pass it but I am not optimistic. They will be distracted by the general elections and their primary elections and you have also got the Boko Haram insurgency in the mix. So, they will be distracted by a lot of things,” he said.
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