The United States of America has declared its interest in the passage of the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in order to provide a clear roadmap for the Nigeria’s oil and gas sector as well as stakeholders. This is coming as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, stated that it is in the interest of the global community to ensure a peaceful Nigeria.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, gave the indication in Abuja, yesterday when she paid a courtesy call on Akpabio.
The envoy observed that making the PIB a reality was of interest to her country to ensure that clear-cut conditions for entry into the petroleum industry as well as operational guidelines are spelt out.
She said: “I think that we are all looking forward to the Petroleum Industry Bill becoming a reality so that there can be a predictable basis for entrance for companies entering or operating in the industry, and sort of predictable expectations for the population of the Niger Delta in that regard.”
The envoy stated that she had visited Akwa Ibom State last week to be acquainted with some of the activities of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, noting that she was aware of a roadmap for the region that was supposed to come on stream in 2020, but may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leonard stated that: “I know there had been a roadmap that was supposed to take place in 2020. Many of us had experienced our plans for 2020 not going exactly how we planned given the global pandemic. So, it is great to hear a little bit on how that timetable and activities would be revised to reach all the important goals of development, infrastructure and security for this very important area.”
She noted that the completion of the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was a good moment, adding that she had a robust discussion with the minister on areas of intervention in the Niger Delta region.
The US embassy, she said, would collaborate with the ministry in addressing areas of concern, including development, infrastructure, youth empowerment and unemployment.
Thanking the ambassador for the visit, Akpabio expressed sympathy to the United States for the huge toll the COVID-19 pandemic exerted on the country.
He said: “Firstly, let me express our deep sympathy to you or through you to the president of the United States of America and the good people of America over the ravaging scourge of COVID-19. It affected a lot of Nigerians who are resident in the United States. I don’t want to be political, but to also say that we are facing a lot of restrictions, not just on immigrants.
“The US is opening up once again to becoming the global brother that it has always been to the world. We’re happy you are returning to the table on the climate change issue and also to the World Health Organisation among others. I believe strongly that this will lead to a better world because an isolated United States of America simply means a world without direction.”
The minister stated that the global community looks up to the US for leadership.
Turning to the ambassador, Akpabio said: “For the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, we have decided to have you, even if we don’t have any other thing to discuss, we just give you our package of problems and challenges and you take those challenges back to the embassy. I believe that you will assist us in all spheres.”
While appreciating the US for all the assistance rendered to the Niger Delta region, he noted that a lot of American companies are operating there, and called for more investments.
Soliciting for more investments in housing, flood control, power and job creation, the minister lamented the difficult challenges facing the area.
But he noted that the Niger Delta region is probably one of the most peaceful parts of the country, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated him to work very hard to ensure that the prevailing peace is sustained. On the issue of the PIB, he noted that the National Assembly is addressing that very seriously.