Foreign firms get big break under Nigeria’s new oil law
Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network
NIGERIA — Nigeria’s long-awaited oil reform bill is a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies for the multinational oil companies who have been feasting for years on the nation’s rich supply of crude oil.
Provisions that would have forced the government to publish how much oil it pumps and all the payments it receives from oil firms — in an industry where secrecy is blamed for corruption —have been stripped from the bill.
“I expect the petroleum industry to be happy. I expect many Nigerians to be upset,” said Pedro Van Meurs, an oil and gas expert, in a press interview.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, stuck in committee since 2009, was fast-tracked this year by President Goodluck Jonathan. Under the new law, anyone who “interferes” with the oil minister will be fined or imprisoned. And it allows the oil minister and the directors of state institutions to receive gifts, which will not please civil society groups calling for an end to graft.
Meanwhile, tempers are flaring over the failure of President Jonathan to punish those who orchestrated the $6.8 billion fuel subsidy scam, uncovered in a probe whose findings were released last month.
“We just cannot continue with this kind of massive corruption — especially in a sector that is very important to the stability of this economy,” warned financial analyst Bismarck Rewane.
Professors at Ahmadu Bello University picked up the warning. In a press release posted May 29, they expressed “shock, profound indignation and total condemnation of all individuals, corporate firms and government agencies or departments that connived to defraud the government and people of hundreds of billions between 2009 and 2011 in the name of fuel subsidy claims.”
“This despicable and ungodly act has visited incalculable damage on the Nigerian economy, threatening the survival of millions of our countrymen and pushing our nation to the edge of near moral and financial bankruptcy.”
“We, as concerned citizens of this country, have decided we cannot afford the luxury of remaining silent on a matter which endangers the survival of our country.”