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Parliament opens debate on oil sector overhaul bill

28 September 2012, 07:20

ABUJA - Both houses of the parliament have finished a first reading of a bill meant to overhaul the oil industry in Africa's top energy producer, opening the way for lawmakers to debate the long awaited legislation, the speaker said.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is meant to address issues across the sector, from fiscal terms to the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC).

Its comprehensive nature has led to various disputes between lawmakers, ministers and the major oil companies that have held it back for more than five years.

The lower house read the bill on Thursday, speaker Aminu Tambuwal said, while the Senate read it last week.

A previous draft never got through parliament, although this time the bill has explicit backing from President Goodluck Jonathan, who approved the latest draft last month.

Oil majors like leading operator Royal Dutch Shell are concerned about the taxes in the bill, and are likely to lobby hard for it to be amended.

Shell Nigeria's Managing Director Mutiu Sunmonu said this week they are so uncompetitive they risk rendering offshore oil and gas projects unviable.

Others fear the terms are too generous to the oil majors.

Nigeria exports more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil but firms say regulatory uncertainty while the bill remains unresolved has discouraged investment needed to maintain output.

- Reuters

Tags oil

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