The number of active oil rigs in the country fell by 23.8 per cent to 16 in April amid the coronavirus-induced collapse in prices and demand for crude.

There are indications that oil exploration has dropped by 150 per cent in Nigeria in the past year, due mainly to the prolonged delay in the passage of the nation’s Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, into law.

The PIB, still before the National Assembly aimed at restructuring the industry as well as putting in place competitive legislation, targeted at encouraging investment in the industry.

But a copy of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, February 2021 report, obtained by newsmen, showed that the rig count, a major index of measuring activities in the industry, stood at six in January 2020, indicating a drop of 150 percent when compared to 15, recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.

This showed that operators, including the International Oil Companies, IOCs, and their indigenous counterparts have not invested much in exploration, which could have resulted in the making of additional oil and gas finds, reserves, and production capacity.

Consequently, the nation’s oil reserves remain unchanged at 37 billion barrels per day, against the 40 billion barrels target by 2025.

However, The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had recently promised that the PIB would be passed in April 2021, barely two months away to enable the government to achieve set objectives, including attracting new local and investments into the industry.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had also announced that the bill would be passed in April 2021, adding that consultations on the bill will transcend the public hearing.

Nevertheless, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Director, Spaces for Change, who also stressed the importance of the early passage, said: “The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) 2020, a proposed law seeking to introduce far-reaching industry reforms in the Nigerian oil and gas sector. Among other objectives, the bill aims to establish good governance, best practices, and ease of doing business in the industry by clarifying roles and responsibilities of officials and institutions, enable frontier exploration, mandate improved environmental compliance, and transform NNPC into a commercially viable enterprise.”

She added: “The laws regulating the oil and gas industry date back to pre-independence and pro-democracy rule in Nigeria when laws were made without inclusion and in the light of the peculiarities at that time. With the advancements in technology, the volatility of oil prices, climatic changes influencing the driving forces of the global economy, it has become imperative to review extant laws to bring them in alignment with current realities.”

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