Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources says the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), presently before the National Assembly, will unlock several midstream gas opportunities when passed into law.

Sylva spoke on Tuesday at the virtual 2020 Businessday Energy Series - Fuel of the Future (Gas) Summit - with the theme, "Nigeria at 60: Harnessing Nigeria's Energy Potential for the Future".

He said it would also enhance domestic gas utilisation, which was a key area of focus of the Nigerian government.

The minister said, "Our efforts will continue to focus on gas to transmute Nigeria from the conventional dependence on white products for prime movers to a cleaner, more available, accessible, acceptable and affordable energy use in gas.

"This will not only cushion the effects of current deregulation, but also create enormous job opportunities for Nigerians.

"The proposed PIB now before the National Assembly, when passed into law, will also unlock several midstream gas opportunities to further enhance domestic gas utilisation."

According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic and progressive decline in crude oil prices in 2020 has made it imperative for Nigeria to aggressively pursue the development of non-oil economy and diversification of revenue sources.

The minister said the country was bracing for a possible lower-for-longer crude oil price era, adding that the government was factoring the current realities in its reform agenda.

"Therefore, we are developing strategic survival measures to ensure economic sustainability and job security.

"All these will be anchored on energy availability, accessibility and security.

"Let me assure you that we have come to terms with the application of domestic gas as a platform to drive a truly sustainable economic diversification," Sylva said.

He said the government had demonstrated its commitment towards this objective through policies and projects like the National Gas Expansion Programme, autogas policy and the construction of the 614km Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline.

Also, Mr Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) commended the organisers for providing a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on how to maximise Nigeria's petroleum resources.

Kyari said the NNPC had keyed into the declaration of the Year 2020 as the "Year of Gas" by President Muhammadu Buhari's administration and was committed to the implementation of the Nigeria Gas Master Plan.

He said the policy would curb gas flaring and protect the environment as well as create commercial and business opportunities that would contribute to socio-economic development.

The NNPC boss also stressed the need for proper legislation for the petroleum sector, adding that he was delighted that the PIB had been sent to the National Assembly.

"NNPC will continue to support any legislation that will bring transformation to the industry across the value chain," he said.

In his panel presentation, Mr Justice Derefaka, Technical Adviser on Gas Business and Policy Implementation to the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, said the world was gradually turning away from crude oil to gas to drive economies.

Derefaka said, "Our collective efforts and putting all machineries in place to make gas a critical catalyst to our economic development should be a priority.

"Approach should include the diversification of our economy, efficient management of revenues, commitment to local value addition in the gas industry.

"Nigeria needs to use gas and invest in critical sectors of our economies such as education, health, infrastructure and agriculture to provide a solid base for industrialisation, local value addition, economic development and sustainable growth."