As the House of Representatives, prepares to consider the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, (PIGB), there are calls that the new entities created, the Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company (NPAMC) and the Nigerian Petroleum Corporation (NPC), with the bulk of their shares belonging to the Federal Government will create conflict of interest.
While private investors seeks to maximize financial returns on their investment, government has a political objective, primarily to serve the public interest, stakeholders fear mixing the shareholding structure of these entities will bring conflict. The contention is how to align the contradictory ends.
This is why they are urging the House of Representatives to reduce government stake in the new entities that will emerge from the ashes of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and list the bulk of their shares on public exchanges.
“The potential for conflict of interest between private and government shareholders is evident: while private investors presumably seek to maximize the financial returns on their stock, the government also has political objectives to fulfill– be they either benign (serving the public good) or malign (the product of rent-seeking).” said Emeka Duruigbo, a professor at Texas Southern University in a presentation for Centre for Petroleum Energy Economics & Law, Ibadan.
On May 25, Nigeria’s upper legislative house, the Senate, passed the PIGB bill which dissolved the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into two entities NPAMC, which will be vested with certain liabilities and assets of the NNPC, and NPC which shall be responsible for the management of all other assets held by NNPC, except Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs).
Section 38 of the PIGB provides that the shares of the NPAMC at incorporation shall be held 20% by the BPE, 40 % by the Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated and 40% by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated on behalf of the federal government. Section 61 contains a similar provision for the NPC.
Section 66 provides that within 5 years of incorporation of the NPC, the federal government shall divest not less than 10% of its shares and within 10 years of incorporation not less than an additional 30% of its shares to the public in a transparent manner.
Chuks Nwani, an energy lawyer based in Lagos, shared the view that the proposed legislation leaves room for abuse. He confirmed to BusinessDay by phone that only if the PIGB provides that the new entities: NPAMC and NPC operate in the same manner as the NLNG will the country achieve the objectives it set for them.
Similarly, oil and gas sector experts at a seminar organised by the Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), at the University of Ibadan on August 30, urged the government to hold a lesser stake in the new entities as this will make the NPC run more efficiently just like the NLNG.
“Government should retain 40 per cent of the shares in the NPC and transfer the other 20 per cent to a Trust that will hold the shares on behalf of oil-producing communities,’ said Duruigbo.
NLNG was incorporated in 1989 as a limited liability company to produce LNG and natural gas liquids (NGL) for export. Nigeria through the NNPC has 49 percent stake in the NLNG while Shell Gas B.V. owns 25.6%, Total LNG Nigeria Ltd owns 15% and Eni International owns 10.4%.
Through efficient management of the company, Nigeria has earned $15billion in dividends and for the past 6 years, collected over $5billion worth of taxes. NLNG has employed 2000 Nigerians directly and another 18,000 through vendors and contractors. NLNG contributes 4% to Nigeria’s GDP.
While there have been successful state-owned enterprises such as Saudi Aramco, Petronas and Statoil, which undertake expansive operations and assume high levels of risk, much like large international extractives companies in the private sector, Nigeria has a poor history managing state owned firms.
Duruigbo said there is risk of potential mismanagement of the firm where the government pursues political goals that are inconsistent with shareholder wealth maximization. Cronies are hired to placate political constituencies wihch sets in corruption conflict of interest.
The Natural Resource Governance Institute, (NRGI), an extractive sector transparency watchdog carried out a comprehensive analysis of NNPC’s oil sales, and found that while trying to resolve deep structural problems, NNPC improvises with poorly designed policies, unilaterally spends money without appropriation and retains funds that should have been transferred to the treasury.
Duruigbo in his presentation said there are benefits to mixed corporations which includes better success in raising funds, risk sharing, improved managerial accountability, creating financial autonomy and providing opportunity for investors to share in the country’s oil wealth.