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Lawyers’ group urges NASS to organize public debate for PIB

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The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates (COPA) has urged the National Assembly to organize a public debate for the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as it passed the second reading at the House of Representatives on November 24.

COPA, a group of legal practitioners suggested the public debate for the PIB after going through the bill during a press conference in Abuja on Thursday.

The group suggested that the public debate for the PIB would give the Nigerian citizen an opportunity ask questions relating to the almost 20 years old Bill.

According to the coordinator of the coalition, Pelumi Olajengbesi, the bulk of their research effort is centered on the failure of the Bill to recognise, situate and provide for the full integration and exploration of the expertise of the non-pool professionals within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

“For proper perspective, the non-pool professionals are specially trained group of experts within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that were recruited sometime in 2008 in preparation for the implementation of the now-defunct Petroleum Industry Bill, 2009 and have been extensively trained as situational experts but whose special skill-sets and expertise are made redundant by an industry regime lacking a legal instrument or provision that statutorily recognizes these group of workers.

“It was hoped that any over-hauling legislation in the petroleum industry would positively identify and treat the systematic redundancy of the Ministry’s non-pool professionals, but it is negligence that has occurred in the much-celebrated new Bill.

“Despite the pace and intent behind a timely passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2020, there is significant value in drawing attention to and redirecting the current discussion on the Bill to the challenge of a neglected professional workforce within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources whose very setup can save certain operational costs and ensure the efficient running of the sector.”

He said the public debate for the PIB is a necessary step to prevent possible implementation and operational challenges that the PIB 2020 may face in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Read also: Nigerian Senate to revisit Petroleum Industry Bill in January

Also, a lawyer with COPA, who is in support of the public debate for the PIB, Olufemi Frank, said “Specifically, the Bill should structure the Ministry of Petroleum Resources into the Administrative and Professional Organ.

He added that “The usual practice of a Minister hiring of external professionals as consultants to give policy support to their offices at all times and the resultant drain of the said professionals during the termination of the Minister’s tenure has not only resulted in an anomaly in the Ministry’s technical and professional makeup but has equally brought about the exclusion and under-utilization of the Ministry’s internationally trained professionals whose potentials are waiting to be explored and maximized.

“We reiterate that as a matter of expediency, the impending legal regime should take deliberate steps to integrate these professionals into the business of the ministry by setting up a viable legal framework for their operational integration thereby justifying the Federal Government’s enormous investments in their training in reputable institutions around the world.”

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