By Adewale Sanyaolu
The last may not have been heard of the controversial passage of the 21-year old Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly on July 2, 2021.
The latest threat to the smooth implementation of the PIB is coming from the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Udom, declaring that the decision of the National Assembly to allocate a paltry three per cent to host communities was not binding on the Niger region.
‘‘As Southern Governors, we have made our position known but one thing is clear; the National Assembly may have passed the bill, they are doing their job and we also will do our job as leaders of the people,’’ he said.
Last Thursday, the House of Representative was in a rowdy session and the National Assembly adopted three per cent as host community fund in the PIB as against the five per cent approved by the House of Representatives, a decision that did not go down well with them.
A representative from Rivers State, Chinyere Igwe, walked around the floor chanting ‘’the PIB is a fraud.’’
National Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, Mr. Joseph Evah, described the move as provocative as it is exploitative, warning that it could provoke the anger of the people in the oil-rich region.
‘‘We have rejected it. They are looking for trouble and they will get it. I stopped the dredging of River Niger because of environmental problem through my lawyer, Femi Falana(SAN).’’
Ijaw National leader, Edwin Clark, in an open letter addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, condemned the provisions, describing it as satanic, unjust and embrassing.
He, therefore, demanded that the PIB be reversed, reviewed and amended to ensure that the oil producing communities receive not less than 10 per cent of the operating cost, warning ‘‘If this is not done, the Niger Delta people may be forced to take their destiny into their own hands and all IOCs may find themselves denied access to their oil activities in such communities’.’
But it appears the aspiration of oil producing communities to get justice and equity is dashed as Lawan said the matter could not be revisited because the bill had been passed.
While the oil producing communities appear to have lost the battle for higher funding, the North appears to have coasted to victory as the PIB approved allocation of 30 per cent of NNPC profit for further frontier oil exploration in the North.
The hope to increase the host community funding was further dashed by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr.Mele Kyari, when he explained to the executive session of both chambers of the National Assembly that five per cent was a huge amount of money.
He said that ‘‘the three per cent amounts to half a billion dollars’’.
The revelation of Kyari according to the Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Sabo Mohammed Nakudu, explained that the earlier percentage which was 2.5 was increased to five per cent but that after Kyari’s presentation, the Senate had to make u-turn.
The South-South lawmakers were, however, taken aback when Senator representing Katsina North, Ahmad Baba Kaita. called the attention of his colleagues to the position taken by Kyari, at the Executive session, where the latter maintained that 3 per cent, not 5 per cent should be ideal contribution to the Host Communities Trust Fund.
While proposing an amendment, which was put to vote and upheld by the Senate, Senator Kaita who incidentally represents President Buhari’s senatorial district, said the contribution to Host Communities Trust Fund be pegged at three per cent, since government would ensure security of oil firms’ equipment; in the alternative, if it is five per cent, communities would be responsible for securing production equipment in their domain. The three percent, however, sailed through after voice vote to the consternation of senators from the Niger Delta region.
The North further got what it wanted to prospect for hydrocarbons in its section of the country, with a proposal to commit the NNPC Limited to dedicate 30 per cent of its profit from oil and gas to search for crude oil in the frontier basins.