Home Oil and Gas LCCI tasks NNPC on legal backing for reforms in petroleum downstream sector

LCCI tasks NNPC on legal backing for reforms in petroleum downstream sector

by Business News Report

Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has tasked the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on legal backing to consummate its process of reforming the petroleum downstream sector through an appropriate legislative framework. In a statement signed by its Director General Dr. Muda Yusuf it said that with a legal backing, the reform would not be like the previous dead initiatives. Dr. Yusuf, noted that, if implemented, the reform policy would be a game changer for the oil and gas sector and the economy as a whole.

He said “The decision of the NNPC to put an end to the subsidy/under recovery regime is a welcome development. It will be a game changer for the oil and gas sector and the economy as a whole. The impact on the economy would be invaluable. However, it is vital to ensure that this new policy direction will be entrenched so that there will be no contemplation of any form of reversal. We are aware that similar attempts to undertake this crucial reform in the past have not been successful. However, we are confident that in the current dispensation, this will not be the case.

Meanwhile, we request that urgent steps be taken to consummate the reform process with an appropriate legislative framework. Such a legislative review would reconcile the initiative with some extant laws. Examples of such legislations are those setting up the Petroleum Subsidy Fund (PSF), the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency [PPPRA] and the Petroleum Equalisation Fund [PEF].

“It is imperative to ensure clarity on access to foreign exchange for petroleum marketers to import petroleum products. Operators [who are currently in a quandary on this matter] are eagerly awaiting guidelines from the central bank of Nigeria on this critical aspect of access to forex for the importation of petroleum products. The Chamber commends the NNPC’s pronouncements on the future involvement of the private sector in the operation of the country’s moribund refineries. This is another laudable initiative which will ensure that these national assets are put to use for the growth and development of our economy. One of the critical elements of the Oil and Gas Sector reform, particularly the downstream sector, is the complete deregulation of the sector. This was the spirit of the Petroleum Industry Bill which, regrettably, has got stuck in the legislative processes for close to two decades. The reform of the downstream oil and gas sector would create a number of advantages for the economy.

“It will free resources for investment in critical infrastructures such as power, roads, the rail systems, health sector, education sector etc. The deficits in all of these infrastructure areas are phenomenal. Fixing infrastructure will greatly improve productivity and efficiency in the economy and impact positively on the welfare of the people. It will unlock the huge private investment potentials in the downstream oil sector especially in petroleum product refining. This will ultimately reduce importation of petroleum products and ease the pressure on the foreign exchange market as well as the burden on our foreign reserves. It will eliminate the patronage, rent seeking activities and corruption that currently characterise the downstream oil sector. It will create more jobs for the teeming youths of the country in the downstream oil sector as investment in the sector improves.

The investment opportunities in our Oil and Gas sector are huge, considering our crude oil reserves and the even bigger prospects in respect of our gas reserves. We have a population now estimated at close to 200 million people. That is a big domestic market for energy, presenting huge opportunities for downstream investments. We thus have a strong competitive advantage in oil and gas.

“The abundance of investment opportunities is not in dispute, but investors are constrained by the policy, governance and political environments. These have slowed down the pace of development in the sector. Nigeria has been in the business of oil for over 50 years, but we don’t have any private refineries operating on a commercial scale. This is a big issue. No oil producing country imports refined petroleum products on a scale that we do in Nigeria. It is inexcusable. Pipelines are very critical infrastructure for refineries and for the sector, but the current ones are ageing and have deteriorated due to poor investment and maintenance. Again, this is because the pipelines are in public sector space. The story of the petrochemicals and fertiliser plants are not different, although the latter has witnessed some measure of privatisation. The summary is that the dominance of the public sector in this space has significantly slowed down the progress and development of the oil and gas sector. The sector is so strategic that it could easily have provided the lever to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy.”

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