From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Ijaw Youth Council has declared President Muhamammdu Buhari and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva persona non grata over their involvement in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
According to the IYC, both president and minister are no longer welcomed in the region for their role in the passage and signing of the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) into law.
The group noted that despite the fact that the constitution guarantees them freedom of movement to any part of the country, the president and minister would be met with boos and jeers if they ventured into any part of the Niger Delta for, according to the group, disregarding the plight of the people of the region over the years.
IYC National Spokesman Ebilade Ekerefe in a statement issued in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, insisted that the best course of action to have been taken by the president in regard to the bill was to send it back to the National Assembly for upward review of the three per cent equity share to host communities whose environments had suffered decades of oil exploration activities by the oil companies.
According to him, a substantial percentage allocation to host communities would have helped to address the controversy.
On the explanation offered by Sylva on the three per cent allocation, Ekerefe described the explanation as an afterthought, adding that what the minister should have done as a Niger Delta native was to apologise and appeal to the consciences of his people, rather than justifying an act which, according to the group, is politically tailored to favour the North and its allies in the industry.
The statement read in part:
‘With the amount of speed the president used in signing the PIB without recourse to the stand taken by stakeholders from the region, the President has further demonstrated that the opinions of the Niger delta people don’t matter in his government as we have witnessed in other areas that require urgent attention of his government.
‘In the light of the foregoing, there’s no better time for the people of the Niger Delta region to intensify the struggle for resource control and self-determination. We believe strongly that will be the only sure path upon which our God-given natural resources can be managed by us and not this impunity we have witnessed from a repressive federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari.’