- Clark warns Niger Delta youths getting restive over underdevelopment
The National Assembly on Friday said it had finally transmitted the final harmonised copy of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent, making it the second time it has claimed to do so in about one month even though the presidency denied receiving the bill at the first occasion.
This is as Leaders of oil and gas producing communities in Delta State have vowed to resist any attempt by the National Assembly to further enslave and impoverish host communities in the controversial provisions in the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Bill, warning that implementing them would plunge host communities into crises.
Also, Elder statesman and National Leader of led Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Chief Edwin Clark yesterday raised the alarm that youths of the Niger Delta were becoming restless over continued flagrant deprivation and neglect of the region by the Federal Government.
Both Hon. Victor Nwokolo, who is the Chairman, Petroleum Upstream of the House of Representatives and Hon. Akinlaja Joseph, who is the Chairman, Petroleum Committee Downstream in the House told journalists in Abuja that President Buhari would have received the bill by now.
The harmonised PIGB was passed by both Chambers – Senate and House, in March 2018, and reportedly transmitted to Buhari.
However the presidency through Mr. Ita Enang, a presidential parliamentary aide, debunked claims the bill was with Buhari.
Reports subsequently emerged that it was not transmitted to the president by the Clerk to the National Assembly due to a legal advice received from the National Assembly Legal Services Directorate, which observed some grey areas in the versions passed by the two chambers.
Nwokolo who doubles as Deputy Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on the PIB however said: “Everything has been cleared, it should be at the president’s table today bearing in mind that we are going on break today.
“It has gone through all the processes and the issue raised by the legal department has been properly taken care of. So, there is no hindrance anymore. All that is left is for the assent of Mr. President,” he added. The lawmakers spoke on the sidelines of the Rotary District 9125 9th District Conference.
“We have finished everything about the PIGB. It should be on its way to the president,” Akinalaja, in his remarks said, adding that the three remaining aspect of the omnibus Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) from which the PIGB was created would be passed before the end of the current eight Assembly.
“After the recess, we will bring back the bills to plenary on both chambers and then there will be concurrence and it will be passed,” he said.
The PIGB is one part of the PIB that had been split into four, it will when assented to by Buhari, seek to rebirth the governance framework of Nigeria’s petroleum industry which experts say was archaic and unfit for the progress of the industry.
The position of the leaders of the oil producing areas is contained in an open letter by Gbaramatu-Egbema-Ogulagha Coastal Communities Front (GEOCCF) to Senate President, dated 4th June, 2018, and signed by Hon. George U. Timinimi (MIoD, MCIArb), President, Chief Bright Abilo, Fredrick Igere, Shandors Tortor, Philemon Ugedi, Chief Freason Dose, Ekio Youpele.
They insisted that the Petroleum Host Communities Fund should be maintained at 10 per cent monthly profit of oil companies as was initially proposed and totally rejected the paltry 2.5 per cent proposal and enormous powers and functions given to oil companies under the instant bill.
“Any attempt to use the instrument of legislation to alter the present structures would result in instability in operations of Chevron Nigeria Limited and other oil companies. The oil companies have no business in determining the emergence of community representatives who manage the host and impacted communities fund.
“We state clearly that giving oil companies the right to choose those that would be saddled with the responsibility of administering host communities fund would lead to unnecessary meddlesomeness by the companies (settlors) in the internal affairs of communities with the attendant and unthinkable negative consequences,” they maintained.
They recalled that the desire to meet the peculiar needs of the host communities propelled the governments of ex-Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan to propose The Petroleum Industry Bill in 2009 and 2012 respectively wherein the Host Communities Trust Fund was created.
“Section 118 of the proposed PIB 2012 clearly states that 10 per cent of the Oil companies
(Hereinafter ‘’OCS’) net profits should be remitted for the benefit of the host communities.
“The proposed bill is only geared towards making the Oil Companies overlords, emperors, tyrants and colonial masters over and above the indigenous occupants of these communities. In fact, a further perusal of the Bill reveals a collaborative, joint-venture sinister move by our
legislators and the Oil Companies to enact the slavery of the host communities that was hitherto stopped by the doggedness and foresightedness of William Wilberforce who was instrumental to the abolishment of slave trade in the 19th /18th century.
“It is strange, unthinkable and undemocratic for oil companies to be saddled with so much powers and responsibilities with respect to the internal governance of oil producing communities in the instant bill before the National Assembly.
“There is no basis at all for persons from outside oil producing communities to be involved in the management of the host and impacted community’s funds. The oil communities should be allowed to exclusively govern themselves because all the host and impacted communities have capable men of integrity who can manage their own affairs.
“The bureaucratic governance structure for the Host and Impacted Communities Fund proposed in the bill comprising of: Settlors (Oil Companies) Board of Trustees, Management Committee, Advisory Committee, is unnecessary and unacceptable. The effect of this bureaucratic structure
would be that all the time resources would be spent on bureaucracy at the expense of the speedy development of the host and impacted communities.
“The host and impacted communities do not need Settlor (oil companies), board of trustees, management committee and advisory committee in order to manage the funds towards the development of the communities”, they said.
Clark said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration should be held responsible should the people of the region, particularly the youths, were provoked to adopt unorthodox means to pursue their legitimate and unalienable rights as Nigerians.
Chief Clark, who addressed a press conference at his Kiagbodo residence in Burutu Local Government area of Delta State lamented that a 16 point agenda presented to President Buhari was yet to be addressed over two years after.
He noted that the only tangible item that was attended to was the take-off of the Maritime University at Okerenko in Delta State.
Reeling out statistcs of federal budgets between 2016 till date, Chief Clark said nothing significant was appropriated for the development of roads and infrastructure development, railway and power development as well as agyew6!riculture in the region.
“Let me note that the total federal budget in the last three years has been as follows: 2016 N6.07 trillion; 2017 is N7.44 trillion; Now N9.1 trillion has been appropriated for 2018.
“Similarly, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced few days ago in Abuja that the Federal Government has so far invested N500 billion (about N360 billion) on infrastructural development in the last three years. Let me also recall a recent statement by the Minister of
Finance that the 2017 budget has been over spent by a large sum of N1.6 trillion.
“Can the Federal Government in truth and good conscience tell us how much of this mammoth sum came to fund projects in the Niger Delta. Is this fair, just and equitable? Is this how people who contribute so much to sustain national economy should be treated?”, he asked.
The Ijaw leader recalled that it was the elders, leaders, youth and women of the Niger Delta that worked ceaselessly to ensure return of peace to the region in the aftermath of the resumption of conflicts and attacks in critical economic infrastructures by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other aggrieved groups.
He said since that spirited intervention and entreaties by the leaders of the region, the various groups declared unilateral ceasefire on August 21,2016 and that no major destruction of oil and gas activities had occurred inspite of unnecessary military provocation and questionable military exercises.
Chief Clark insisted that it was the patriotic disposition of the people of the region that had continued to help the national economy and contributed substantially to its exit out of recession.
“From a drop in oil production to 800,000 barrels per day in 2016, today the NNPC is producing over 2.3 million barrels a day, a fourfold increase. At current global oil prices of about $78 per barrel, our efforts are now bringing in daily revenue to over $178.4 million (N64.6 billion) every day. Gas production has also been stabilised.
“It was NNPC that alsoe6 announced few days ago that its gas to the power sector is 88.88 % higher, following a near total stoppage of vandalism of pipelines. So the question, is how has these been reciprocated in terms of impact on the Niger Delta?”, Chief Clark asked.
While realising that the Federal government has its obligations to the entire country, the Ijaw leader therefore warned that the people of Niger Delta held the view that their patience and show of true patriotism was being taken for granted, adding “it is most unjust and inequitable that these oppressive tendencies continues in our country.
“We want to call on the Federal government, once more to retrace its steps regarding the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. We will continue to enjoin our people to be law abiding and peaceful but the total non-action and disregard is eroding the trust which our people
place in our ability to continue to interface on their behalf.
“We are not second class citizens in this country and demand to be treated with respect and dignity. Our young people and communities lust not always be provoked to adopting unorthodox means to pursue their legitimate and unalienable rights as Nigerians and particularly as communities from where the wealth of the country is coming,” he added.