From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Despite the critics on the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB) recently passed into law by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Oil Solid Mineral Producing Area Landlords Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN) has described it as one of the best for development of the Niger Delta communities.
Imo State chairman of OMPALAN, Chibunna Ubawuike who stated this while interacting with newsmen in Owerri on Monday noted that for over 50 years of oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta, there has never been a community targeted fund for development as PIB.
“Now, from nothing, we have 3% of the operational budget of the oil companies for the host communities. As their operational cost increases per year, same for the value of the 3%.
He enjoined those not comfortable with the bill to give it a chance adding that as it progresses, there may be need for its amendment.
Ubawuike attributed reasons why the bill is being criticised to lack of adequate knowledge of it.
He said “It is misinformation and disinformation. Only the wealthy few who have access to the print and electronic medium are against it. The majority of Niger Deltans support it. Though not the percentage we expected, but it is better than nothing.
Ubawuike also pointed out that if the funds were judiciously used, people will appreciate the efforts of the President.
“Let the fund be judiciously applied to get to the vulnerable oil bearing communities who bear the brunt of environmental degradation and ecological problems associated with oil exploration and exploitation. They will definitely appreciate this provision.
“I thank President Buhari for expeditiously assenting to the PIB, now PIA, after over 16 years of its been in the doldrums. The political will he demonstrated in signing the bill into law is uncommon. He has once again shown that he loves the Niger Delta Region and committed to its development.
“It is not the amount of accrual that is the problem. The problem is in the judicious use of the fund for the purpose it is meant for.
“Remember, we have had the 13% derivation fund, NDDC and Amnesty Program. Trillions of Naira have accrued to the Niger Delta region through these provisions. But can we in good conscience say they have been judiciously applied to the development of the region, can we honestly see the effect or projects executed in the region as proportionate to the amount of monies received so far.
“Those middle men that have held down the region by squandering its commonwealth are the ones crying blue murder. We need to make progress as a people. There should be a paradigm shift and change of the developmental narrative of the region.” Ubawuike stated.