From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) have described the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) passed by the National Assembly as a betrayal of lofty dreams.
According to a statement by UPU‘a President General, Chief Joe Omene, the union rejected the three percent allocated to the oil producing communities.
He expressed disappointment that the long awaited PIB the people of Niger Delta region had thought would address the injustices contained in the old petroleum law against the region, has turned out to be what he called “a pampered pregnant elephant that disappointedly delivered a mouse.”
UPU said the provision that allocated a huge 30% of profits for further frontier oil exploration in the north was a source of concern, especiallyin a fast changing world of investment shifts away from fossil oil.
The union described this as a ploy to use NNPC to channel a huge 30% of oil proceeds to the North while giving host oil communities of Niger-Delta just three percent.
The statement read thus: “The content of the PIB that had just been passed seperately by the two chambers of the National Assembly, a continuation of decades of injustice to the People of the Niger-Delta didn’t come to us as a surprise. That is why peace has eluded the region for decades due to the oppression and suppression of the people through the unjust exploitation of the wealth of the region with little or nothing to show for it.
“After years of delays because of the insistence of the people of the region for a just and fair share of their resources with the demand for a minimum of 20% for host oil-bearing communities, what had been passed eventually as Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is a betrayal of lofty dreams after decades of legislative macabre dance and relentless conspiracies.
“A paltry 3%, is what Northern lawmakers felt should be for the owners and host oil communities, a culmination of a game of wits between Southern legislators who wanted justice for our people versus Northern lawmakers who connived with International Oil Companies (IOCs) and their principals to ensure that host communities must not be given the insultive and unacceptable 5% they initially offered.
“Even this unacceptable 3% is also redefined to include any pipeline bearing communities such as those areas in the north where oil pipelines pass through to convey petroleum products entitled to the same 3% that oil-bearing communities from where oil is drilled will be entitled.
“By all intents and purposes, this bill denies the people of Niger-Delta a commensurate entitlement of the resources in our lands while handing out generous benefit for everyone in the value chain other than the owners of the resources, in particular, increasing profits of IOC investors and other people outside the communities that own the resources and suffer the most from the devastating environmental consequences oil exploration activities
“The mischievious decision to conflate host oil communities with non-oil-bearing communities in defining host community is a device, first to set up communities against themeselves within our region and to recruit other communities against the oil-bearing communities, an old devise of divide and rule colonialist strategy to keep our people busy fighting themselves, otherwise a clear distinction ought to have been be made between the former and the latter that are mere pipeline and related infrastructure bearing communities.
“UPU notes also with concern, the provision that allocated a huge 30% of profits for further frontier oil exploration in the north in a fast changing world of investment shifts away from fossil oil, an endeavour from which most oil investors are increasingly diversifying away from.
“This is a ploy to use NNPC to channel a huge 30% of oil proceeds to the North yet host oil communities of Niger-Delta given 3% investing such amount in more promising equity related to technological advances in renewable energy, ecotourism and marine infrastructure development in the Niger-Delta that will help revive and compensate a region and people from whom so much has been taken from unfairly without reciprocal rewards.
“The long awaited PIB that our people had thought will redress the injustices contained in the old petroleum law against the people of Niger-Delta turned out to be a pampered pregnant elephant that disappointedly delivered a mouse.
” UPU makes bold to say that the pre-conditions for peace and progress of any society are equity, fairness, justice, acknowledgment of, recognition and respect for diversity, between majority and minority groups through inclusive partnership for development. It is no longer possible in a world of today to make progress according to what suits the majority group by ignoring and suppressing minority interests and for how long?
“The broad outline of the 21st century demands recognising and appreciating (valuing) diversity by managing it. The current gang up by Northern lawmakers against the efforts of South West and South East Legislators to bring succour to the people of the South-South is an ill-wind that will do them no good as the fingers of providence will continue to pass its verdict on them as unjust people who failed to understand that majority implies the breath of tolerance and empathy that enables society to renew itself in a fast changing world.
“The Urhobo nation is unhappy with what northern lawmakers have done, just like our neighbours and brother ethnic groups of ljaws, ltshekiri, lsoko, Ndokwa, Efik, Ibibbio, Ogoni and all other ethnic groups across the Niger-Delta whose resources Nigeria have been using to sustain a difficult and dysfunctional country.
“The biggest gas plant in Africa is in Urhobo land with huge deposit of gas as well as a petrol chemical company yet our people have no access, control nor any significant benefits from these resources.
“Given that this PIB has further denied the people the prospect of benefitting from their resources and the growing restiveness, UPU is constrained to ask Northern lawmakers and the federal government the following pertinent questions:
” Firstly, how will denying the host communities the meagre 5% or 10% instead of 50% as agreed before independence promote peace in the communities across Niger-Delta?
” What happens if youth uprising and militancy stops all activities? Will anyone make any profits? Will the greedy profits now estimated hypothetically on paper not become fantasies and big fat percentages of zero if the region is engulfed in violence?
“Is it not a clear evidence of short-sightedness to think that those who have been treated shabbily and given the short-end of the benefits of their resources , the host communities, particularly the youth will react against business to continue as usual?
“Secondly, is it also not a clear evidence of short-sightedness, refusing to see the dangers of the growth of the electric car industry? Given that crude oil is an asset that will directly compete with electric batteries and the people of the Niger-Delta whose lands have been destroyed because of decades of oil exploration.
“If northern lawmakers truly have regard for the people of Niger-Delta, shouldn’t they join hands with their southern counterparts of south west and south East and use this opportunity of the PIB for compensation and redress, instead of the uncaring and insensitive diluted version of the PIB that was passed to rub the injuries of injustice on our people deeper?
“Thirdly, it is not an unpatriotic act of poor national decision making for lawmakers through the PIB to commit as much as 30% of profits to future investment in oil frontier areas in the north where billions have been wasted for decades with diminishing returns rather than diversification into renewable energy investments in the Niger-Delta that they have exploited for decades?
“Why so much ease to part with 30% of profits through NNPC to non-profitable endeavours in unproductive frontiers, supervised by over-rewarded technocrats and consultants who suffer nothing near what host communities have to put up with now or in the future?
“Is it not the height of insensitivity and provocation to give 3% to Niger-Delta and 30% through NNPC to North under the guise of “oil frontiers?”
Omene said, “UPU, having studied and reviewed the PIB as passed by the National Assembly against the background of the alienation of our people from the benefits of the exploitation of oil and gas in our communities for decades.
“And having considered the exploitation that continues while our region remains the most difficult place to live and prosper despite the prosperity that oil wealth has brought to other parts of Nigeria, the UPU hereby joins the oil-bearing host communities in rejecting the 3% granted to Oil-Bearing Host communities and Pipe-line Bearing Host Communities and restate our demand for a minimum of 20%.
“We reject the indistinct omnibus definition of host communities and other aspects of the bill. By this detailed statement, UPU urges all sons and daughters of our nation as well as our brother ethnic groups in the entire Niger-Delta region to ignore, dismiss and disregard any and all comments or statements on behalf of Urhobos credited to one impostor (by name Olorogun Moses Taiga) who is an ljaw man as revealed in his own written biograhpy (See Page 308, Olomu & Dev.Urhoboland Book edited by Prof. Peter Ekeh) who less than twenty hours (24hrs) in a puerile, thoughtless and uncritical comments celebrated, hailed and commended northern lawmakers for passing a PIB that gave 3% to host communities of Niger-Delta and 30% to non oil producing states of North through NNPC that is under the control of the North.
“If justice cannot be done now at the stage of passage of a bill into law, is it when it becomes law that you hope to seek review and succeed ?
“While commending lawmakers from Delta state and indeed the entire lawmakers of south south region and their counterparts from the South West and South East zones for their solidarity in appreciation of the grave injustice that have been done to us and the need to redress it through the PIB that has been sabotaged, UPU hereby call on the entire southern Nigeria lawmakers in the National Assembly to boycott the joint session of both chambers to be convened to pass this unjust piece of legislation to deprive and enslave the people of the Niger-Delta of their God given resources. If they participate in that joint session to pass it, history shall record it and so shall all those who participated shall be remembered by history.
“In the world of today, finding common ground to bring a divided people together in a country through wholeness incorporating or inclusive diversity is a task of leaders.
“It cannot be achieved by force that has its limitations as history has shown how Communist command and control over the former Soviet Union through coercion disintegrated eventually.’
The union said a country cannot be sustained together in peace by suppressing diversity nor make wholeness by enthroning unfair and unjust majority interests over minorities just interest.
“Every element in the diversity must be respected and each must ask itself sincerely what it contributes to the whole. Only those who share in the pains and suffering of others can develop compassion for them and genuinely seek to uplift them.
” Northern Lawmakers are beneficiaries of the injustice against our people and are unwilling to give up even a little of what they have gained unfairly with its attendant risk of losing everything because no injustice lasts forever.
” We the Urhobos and our neighbors and brothers across Niger-Delta have contributed and given so much to sustain this country and thus deserve what our people are entitled to, our people will accept nothing less” it said.