LONDON/ABUJA - Nigeria moved closer to turning the first part of a long-awaited oil industry bill into law after the lower house passed the same version of the legislation approved by the Senate last year, a lawmaker in the House of Representatives said on Thursday.
It is the first time both houses have approved the same version of the bill. It still needs the president's signature to become law.
The legislation, which Nigeria has been trying to pass for more than a decade, aims to increase transparency and stimulate growth in the country's oil industry.
Under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration, the Petroleum Industry Bill was broken up into sections to ease passage.
The House of Representatives passed the first part called the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) on Wednesday.
"The PIGB, as passed yesterday, is the same as passed by the Senate. We have harmonized everything and formed the National Assembly Joint Committee on PIB," Alhassan Ado Doguwa, a lawmaker in the House of Representatives, told reporters in the capital Abuja.
"Every consideration of the bills is now under the joint committee. We have broken the jinx after 17 years. We are working on the other accompanying bills."
Doguwa is the chairman of the lower house's Ad-hoc Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as well as of the National Assembly Joint Committee on PIB.
The joint committee is working on two more bills as part of the PIB.
The governance section deals with management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Uncertainty over terms affecting taxation of upstream oil development has been the main sticking point holding back billions of dollars of investment for the oil industry. This will be addressed later in an accompanying bill.
Shell, Chevron, Total, ExxonMobil and Italy's Eni are major producers in Nigeria through joint ventures with the state oil firm NNPC.
The PIGB would create four new entities whose powers would include the ability to conduct bid rounds, award exploration licenses and make recommendations to the oil minister on upstream licenses.
"It's an unprecedented step forward. The PIB is something that has defied the last two governments," Antony Goldman of PM Consulting said.
"The detail of what is agreed will determine the extreme to which the bill takes politics out of the sector and tackles systemic corruption."