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Nigerian businesses urge parliament to pass key oil reform bill


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Nigerian businesses on Monday called on the country's parliament to urgently pass a landmark energy bill, saying the legislation holds the key to solving corruption and other forms of fiscal problems in Africa's biggest oil producer.

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The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), designed to radically overhaul Nigeria's oil and gas industry, from fiscal terms to restructuring state oil firm NNPC, has been stuck in parliament for more than five years because of disputes between the government and foreign oil firms.

"Enacting a competitive, inward looking Petroleum Sector Act, the PIB by the Federal Government of Nigeria is germane to curbing corruption and other forms of fiscal leakages in the oil and gas industry," the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an umbrella group for Nigerian businesses, said in a statement.

"While we note that the passage and implementation of the PIB will not entirely eliminate the problem, it would expand investment, curbing corruption and other forms of fiscal leakages, further stabilizing the economy."

The chamber expressed concerns over the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria's oil sector due to "structural gaps in its regulatory, fiscal and business practices which have supported high [levels of] inefficiencies."

The chamber, one of Nigeria's most influential economic pressure groups, has membership drawn from all sectors of the economy, including foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria, such as Shell and ExxonMobil.

Lawmakers held a public debate on the PIB in July, which threw up sharp disagreements among legislators in two key areas, namely a special fund for communities hosting oil fields and facilities, and extra powers granted to the oil minister.

Oil executives have said the continued delay in the passage of the bill has brought uncertainty to businesses and has held up billions of dollars of investments in exploration and production.

Meanwhile, UK-based country risk monitor Business Monitor International has projected that the PIB could be passed by the first quarter 2014.

"Adoption of the Petroleum Industry Bill, which we expect around Q4 13-Q1 14, would be a strong signal for investors that Nigeria's hydrocarbon sector is ready to move forward," BMI said in its latest report on the Nigerian oil industry.

--Edited by Jonathan Fox,