Stakeholders in the South-south want President Muhammadu Buhari to stay action on signing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) just passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly.
The stakeholders are not satisfied with the three per cent operational budget for oil communities as recommended by the legislature and want the allocation increased immediately.
One of them, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, said yesterday that the five per cent derivation demanded by Southern governors is more like it, “considering the devastating effects on members of our communities.”
He said the governors would soon make a declaration on the issue.
He spoke to reporters in Minna, Niger State.
“The current three per cent is too little, considering the risks and hazards members of oil producing areas are subjected to,” Emmanuel said.
“The fishermen can no longer earn a living because of oil spillage while the farmers cannot farm. There are numerous other challenges confronting members of oil communities,” he added.
He said that members of the National Assembly had performed their duties and that the Southern Governors could not take away their functions, but pointed out that more resources were required to assist oil producing communities.
According to him, the affected governors will study the PIB carefully and react to it.
It’s 10% or nothing, say Ekpoko
Chairman of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Chief Edward Ekpoko, told The Nation last night that their stance remained “10 per cent or nothing”.
Niger Delta activist and leader of the defunct MEND, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, said he would take a position on the bill when he gets the nitty-gritty of the versions passed by NASS.
Ekpoko, a lawyer, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to “withhold his accent to the bill until the right, fair and equitable thing is done”.
“The people are not comfortable with the PIB as was passed by the NASS, and we have made our position on that very clear and unambiguous at every opportunity we get.
“ILoT is meeting with our neighbours, not only in Delta State, but across the Niger Delta region, and our position is unchanged: we want 10 per cent,” he said.
He said the ethnic nationalities in the region met in Bayelsa last weekend to reaffirm their position on the matter.
He said: “The option now is to appeal to Mr President to withdraw his accent because this bill is unjust and against the wishes and hopes of our people who have endured the pains and injustice of oil exploration and exploitation over the decades.
Nevertheless, Ekpoko insisted that should the President go ahead to sign the ‘flawed’ bill into law, the people would use every available legal means, including court action, to fight it.
Ekpemupolo (AKA Tompolo), speaking through his media consultant, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, said he would not comment until he gets details of the bill.
Bebenimibo said: “We are trying to get the version of the bill that was passed. Once we lay our hands on it and digest it, then one can react from an informed position.”
Three per cent is unacceptable, PANDEF, MOSOP insist
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) are no less disappointed by the three per cent recommended by the National Assembly.
They two Niger Delta groups vowed to take necessary steps to have it reviewed upwards.
”We are disappointed, completely disappointed at the insensitivity of the National Assembly to the plight of the people of Niger Delta.
“It is provocative and annoying that in spite of the protest and the outcry, the National Assembly went ahead to insist on the three per cent,” PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, told The Nation yesterday.
“They didn’t even consider the protest by members of the National Assembly from the South-south and other southern senators and House of Reps members.
“We consider it as the continuation of the oppression of the people of Niger Delta and the oil producing communities in particular.
“This shows that the Nigerian state has decided to continue to emasculate the people economically and continue the suffering and the oppression of the Niger Delta people.”
He said the forum would meet over the development.
Continuing, he said: “There have been conversations going on since that decision was taken by the National Assembly. We will meet and we are certain that the Niger Delta people will express disaffection over this situation.
“We made a demand and we spoke with some of our lawmakers and we had a feeling that perhaps these people would for once be sensitive to the desires and aspirations of the people of the Niger Delta, especially those of the oil producing communities.
“But unfortunately, as it has always being, they have again shown disregard for the concern of the people. They don’t bother about how we feel and our interest.
“Paradoxically, they went ahead and approved 30 per cent of the profit of the so called planned new NNPC Limited to go for oil exploration in the frontiers, which is basically northern Nigeria. “Meanwhile, where the resources are coming from is given a paltry three per cent.
“It is a clear a statement of disregard, clear statement that we don’t mind what you think, and we cannot continue like that in a federal republic.
“Our meeting is going to be further to appeal to the National Assembly members. Our position will be to speak to the President that if this is the way you are going to continue to treat the people of the Niger Delta, perhaps we would take our destiny into our own hands.”
He said agitations for secession in different parts of the country were provoked by decisions like this.
“We have continued to say that the agitation for secession and separation are ramifications of disaffections in the country.
“People feel cheated, they feel they don’t belong and that they don’t matter, and the best for them is to say look, we are leaving, let’s be on our own and see how we can run our own affairs.
“That is the situation, and actions like these validate those feelings that people don’t feel what happens to us. What they are interested in is to get the resources and go on with Nigeria. But we must face reality.
“People can continue to pretend, you can continue to speak in a language that you think people will understand, but a time will come, no matter the language you speak, it will not matter and what will happen will happen.”
The PADEF spokesman’s position was echoed by former President of MOSOP, Chief Legborsi Pyagbara.
Pyagbara said: “It is not acceptable to us. Discussion around extractive is no longer between company and the government. As far as we are concerned, the National Assembly is an arm of the government.
“In this 21st Century, arrangement between company has become something of a tripod between government, community and the company.
“There has to be discussion about how to handle beneficiaries. You can’t sit down in the comfort of your room in Abuja and decide that oil communities should take three per cent.
“When Ken Saro Wiwa launched the Ogoni struggle in 1992 and government said they were increasing 1.5 per cent to three per cent, he said ‘you took my cloth and I’m asking you to return it and you, instead of giving it back to me, gave me three buttons.
“Offering us three per cent is like the example Saro Wiwa gave. It is unacceptable. The decision was not as a result of any negotiation that came up between the company, the communities and the government.
“Secondly, the management structure of what they are calling the host communities is not acceptable. You cannot be creating a structure that is controlled by the oil company and you still tell us you are giving us something.
“Thirdly, three per cent of what are they giving? All of us that are familiar with the oil budget industry know that operation budget is just salary and things like that. Why is it not based on the total budget? Why must it be based on operational budget?”
Continuing, he said: “The whole thing is not properly defined and it didn’t come out of any negotiation. It must be soothing that is mutually agreed and not what somebody sat down and just decided.
“Today we talk about MAT- Mutually agreed Terms. We must sit down and agree that this is what is good for all of us, and at the end of the day, we will have a win-win situation.
“Why are they creating a different legal regime for the oil and gas industry and create a different legal regime for the solid mineral sector? Today, the solid mineral sector is done in such a way that there is an artisanal mining of gold and others.
“When you look at the solid minerals and you see there is enough latitude for the community to participate in the industry even in terms of benefit sharing, in terms of running their additional process. So why are we having two different legal regimes for the same resources coming out of the land?”
Like the PANDEF spokesman, Pyagbara said Niger Delta will have to meet and review the decision before the President signs it.
”It is not the end. We have to meet and take certain steps to look at this whole thing again.”
MAPLI also kicks
Another South-South group, the Mangrove People Leadership Initiative (MAPLI), also asked Buhari to decline his assent to the bill as passed by the National Assembly.
The group in a communiqué in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, said the people were holding out for nothing less than 10 per cent for the oil-bearing communities.
It rejected the 30 per cent allocated for oil and gas exploration in the frontier basins in the North “while the oil-producing region is bedevilled by oil spillages and illnesses.”
It said the PIB should “be specific on the definition of host communities. What constitutes host communities? Is it where oil is found, where there are pipelines, refineries or depots?”
The organisation warned that the South-South people would be forced to confirm their fear that they were no stakeholders in “the contraption called Nigeria” and seek an alternative if their concerns were not addressed adequately.
Briggs: Our people should seek redress in court
Niger Delta activist Ankio Briggs is of the view that Niger Delta leaders and people should seek legal redress against the decision of the National Assembly.
Briggs, who described the percentage provision as an insult, called for increase on the equity share.
She said: “I am not expecting President Buhari to do anything about the three per cent share for host communities. I know that left for Buhari, the Niger Delta will not get even one per cent.
“As the Convener of Niger Delta Determination Movement, I continue to call on the Niger Delta people to reject this injustice. The land and the water, wherever this oil is found belongs to the people. It does not belong to the federal government.
“So it’s up to the people to make a decision, because the three per cent is an insult. They should go to court. People should use whatever legal process they have to lay claims to their land”.
The National Chairman Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien, said leaders of the region were yet to meet to decide on how to address and ventilate their position on the matter.
Ibokessien said: ‘’I have told you that we would meet at the level of PANDEF to discuss how we will register our rejection of the 3% for host communities in the PIB.
‘’But I want you to know, in fact Nigerians should know, that the Niger Delta is not in agreement with the injustice meted to us. We reject the 3% now and will continue to reject it.’.
A former minister for lands and housing, Chief Nduese Essien, said he was in shock that the National Assembly could belittle the contributions and sacrifices of oil-bearing communities.
Essien said leaders of the area would come up with the next plan of action after their meeting.
But the National President Hostcom, High Chief Benjamin Style Tamaranebi, said host communities were prepared to move because the legal framework will help stabilise the oil industry.
His words: “The most important thing is that the bill has come to stay and we, in turn, accept it as it is. Not that we are happy about it. We thank President Buhari, at least, the PIB was passed during his tenure after 20 years. We are hopeful that there will be an amendment quickly.
“The grey areas highlighted include the section on frontier services, gas flaring and pipeline surveillance.”
Tamaranebi, who spoke in a telephone interview, expressed hope that an amendment to the PIB would start in a not too distant future, adding that the grey areas would be reviewed for the smooth running of the industry.
He highlighted the grey areas to include frontier services, Sections 103/104 that deal with gas flare and Section 147 that deals with contract for pipeline surveillance.
He said the pipeline surveillance contract should be given to host communities.
A cultural group, Supreme Egbesu Brotherhood, described the three per cent allocation to oil communities as a deliberate move to provoke the Ijaw people.
Coordinator of the group, Apostle Bodmas Kemapadei, said the deceptive definition of host communities was clearly another strategy to divert the resources of the Niger Delta region.
Kemapadei said: “This is again another evidence to prove that the purpose of the 1914 amalgamation was intentional, to diplomatically seize oil resources from the South to enrich the North.
“We are already finding it difficult to suppress the anger and bitterness brewing in the region, coupled with the fact that the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission is yet to be inaugurated.
“We will apply all legal approaches to resist this bill, including protests and campaigns to the international community. The laws, policies of the Nigerian state are no longer favourable to us.
“We are becoming tired. We demand a national dialogue and restructuring. This bill is not just diabolical but another form of colonisation.”
In his reaction, the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affair, Hon. Essien Ayi, said the three per cent is not acceptable to the people of Niger Delta.
“We were even complaining that the 5% was grossly inadequate. The 3% is not acceptable to us.”