By Tordue Salem
ABUJAâ€”Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has called on members of the National Assembly to urgently pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to law, so that real progress would begin in the oil industry.
He, however, advised that until communities in the oil producing areas are involved,Â special royalty and tax fund establishment with a fund manager put in place, real progress may elude the troubled area.
The Governor gave the charge at a retreat held in Warri, Delta State on the PIB by members of the House of Representatives’ Joint-Committee on Petroleum Resources (upstream), Petroleum Resources (down-stream), Gas Resources and Justice, the Inter-Agency Team, comprised of Ministries of Finance, Petroleum Resources, Budget Office, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), NNPC, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Department of Petroleum Resources and Nigerian Extractive Indu-stries Transparency Initia-tive (NEITI) and Legal Consultants, Akin Babalakin & Company.
â€œThe Petroleum Industry Bill is long overdue and a very good bill. I think it will bring development to the country, but I must say here that to make the law more effective, community partici-pation is paramount.
â€œWe must also address the issue of penalties for gas flaring. The question to ask is where does all the money collected from gas flaring go? This Bill must include a clause that would let the taxes go to the communities that suffer gas flaring,â€ the Governor said.
Uduaghan, who told participants that Governors from the South-South had held an earlier meeting on the issues in the region as it affected the entire country, said their sympathy would go for the Bill, as long as it would addressed the problems in the industry and the people suffering from the negative effects of oil exploitation.
â€œWe are not opposed to the Petroleum Industry Bill, but we and our people believe that something must be inserted in that Bill, that would make oil companies accountable to the communities.
â€œIf Shell, Chevron and other oil companies operating in this region, gave as small as 5% equity to the communities where they are operating, you and I know that those communities would have been something else.
â€œWhat we call Niger Delta crisis today, that has set us back for many years would not have occurred. At the peak of the crisis and for quite sometime, oil production dropped drasticallyâ€, he said.
The Governor who commended President Yarâ€™Adua for declaring amnesty for militants in the state, however, adviced against giving money directly to oil-bearing communities, as according to him, that would generate little or no progress in the area.
â€œAs good as compensation to communities is concerned, it might not work if we start giving money directly to the communities, rather we should create a fund and get fund managers to manage it. We should create a trust fund to be managed by fund managers, so that if even oil finishes someday, the fund will be there and will continue to be managed years afterâ€, he advised.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives joint-committee, Mr. Bassey Otu in his contribution at the occasion, assured that the lawmakers will do all in their powers to accelerate the passage of the Bill into law.