The Senate on Thursday passed the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, almost 17 years after the process started. With the passage of the bill, which is tagged, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB, a new regulatory agency, known as Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NPRC, would take over the functions of Petroleum Inspectorate, PI, the Department of Petroleum Resources , DPR, and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA. The new commission, among other things, will also administer and enforce policies, laws and regulations relating to all aspects of petroleum operations which are assigned to it under the provisions of the Act. With the bill is signed into law, two new companies, Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company and National Petroleum Company, would be established with certain assets and liabilities of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, while the National Petroleum Company, for instance, would operate as a full independent commercial entity. According to the Senate, the move is geared towards unbundling the NNPC and the petroleum industry. In the PIGB, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources would be renamed Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated. In the new bill, upon the recommendations of the new commission, Minister of Petroleum Resources can grant, amend, renew, extend or revoke any licence or lease required for petroleum or production, pursuant to the provisions of the Act or any other enactment. The bill also proposed that when the commission is created, it shall be vested with all assets, funds, resources and other movable and immovable property, which immediately before the commencement of operation of the new commission, were held by the PI, DPR and PPPRA. In the bill, more powers will be vested on the commission, as the President or the Minister of Petroleum Resources, who hitherto had such powers, would no longer have same. The bill has significantly reduced the powers of the President and the Minister of Petroleum Resources in exercising control over the oil and gas sector. The newly passed bill would help promote transparency and accountability in the administration of petroleum resources of Nigeria as well as foster a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations. The Senate is expected to pass two more bills to further regulate the oil and gas sector. Already, the Host Communities’ Bill, which has passed first reading in the Senate, is expected to be passed into law before the end of 2017. Thereafter, the Senate will also commence moves to pass another tranche of the bill that would deal with the fiscal aspect of the oil and gas sector. Corrupt practices’ll be reduced —Saraki In his remarks after the passage, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, noted that the Bill was not only for Nigerians but also investors. He said with the passage of bill, corrupt practices in the oil and gas sector would be reduced to the barest minimum, adding that the inefficiency currently associated with the sector would also be done away with. Saraki said: “The bill will stimulate the oil and gas industry; it will reduce the area of corruption and inefficiency in the oil and gas sector.” The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence before being transmitted to the President for assent.