BY OKEY NDIRIBE
Hon. Dakuku Peterside representing Opobo/Nkoro/Andoni federal constituency at the House of Representatives is the Chairman of the Green Chamber’s Committee on Petroleum (Downstream).
In this interview he gives a deeper insight into the content of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) presently before the National Assembly and concludes that it is a legislation that should be supported by all sections of the country.
What is your response to some of the remarks of Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State and some others about the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is presently before the National Assembly?
I do not think that Governor Kwankwaso has gone through the Petroleum Industry Bill yet. Incidentally, he was a one a one-time member of the House of Representatives. Very Often, people take positions based on information at their disposal.
In the first place, what Northern leaders should understand is that the Bill intends to open up the economy for further investments. It creates the opportunity for more revenue to enter Federal Government’s coffers and by extension the purse of Kano State and all other states in the country. Presently, the economy is being strangulated and all this is because there is restricted opportunity for investment.
This is mainly as a result of uncertainty in the petroleum sector.
I plead with the Northern leaders to try to understand what the issues are. If they do, they would take a different position. I assume they all believe in Nigeria and progress.
Our economy is still a third world economy which requires a lot of investment in infrastructure.
The PIB addresses all of that. I have come to realise that what some Northern leaders are opposed to is the allocation of 10 percent from the profit of oil companies to their host communities. But If we have peace in the host communities of the Niger Delta, then it is better for the entire nation.
There is no doubt that the nation has lost trillions of naira as a result of the absence of peace in the region.
Another benefit derivable from the PIB is that we would now transfer responsibility for the protection of oil pipelines to the communities.
This would ensure there would no longer be pipeline vandalism thereby leading to higher production of crude oil. Again, the environment would not be compromised. We would then have much more money for development.
I do not even think the bill is unpopular among northerners; I think most people in the North support the PIB because they know it is good for the economy.
They know it will ensure that there is more money to be shared by all tiers of government. This 10 percent we are talking about will not come from federation account.
It would be 10 percent of company profits. It would not affect money going into the federation account in any way. It is the oil companies that should be raising alarm and questioning why they must part with 10 percent of their profits.
It is strange that this time around, the oil companies are not protesting, instead it is a few of our brothers from the Northern part of the country who are protesting.
Can you comment on media reports that the Northern Senators Forum appointed a consultant who studied the bill and made recommendations which formed the basis of the opposition of the group and perhaps that of the Northern Governors Forum?
My view is that if any consultant adviced the Northern Senators forum that the PIB is not good for the North, then such a consultant should really go and re-examine himself.
Such a consultant does not really have the interest of the North at heart; he doesn’t mean well for them. He must be doing a yeoman’s job; because that is not the true picture at all.
If they say that the bill as presented by the executive needs some type of refinement, that is okay.
Another aspect of the bill that needs to be commented on is the aspect that deals with frontier exploration for oil. I am sure you know that there is oil in at least 50 percent of the present Northern region. All we need is re-dedication to explore those frontiers.
The bill seeks to create an institution that would explore for oil in the frontier areas of Nigeria. If oil is eventually found in the North, the affected states would then join the league of oil producing states.
But Kwankwaso remarked that giving more money to the oil producing states or communities is like giving more money to those who already have too much. What can you say about this?
I want to look at the converse situation that if there is no oil exploration in the Niger Delta, there would be nothing to be shared.
Can you throw more light on that point ?
What this means is that as a result of a hostilities in the oil producing communities, we may not be able to produce oil. If you can recall, there was a time our oil production fell to an all-time low of 700,000 barrels per day.
The situation was unlike now that we are producing between 2.4 and 2.5 million barrels per day. At that time, we were producing between 500,000 and 700,000 barrels per day.
Nigeria’s income which is mainly from oil fell to a very low level. What happened then was that after the meager income was shared, many states in the north couldn’t pay the salaries of their workers. Let us not go back to that period.
The options are do we enhance oil production, so that we realize more money. This implies that when the money is shared everybody gets more even if the oil producing states would get a bit more of the revenue. Let us assume we attain 3.5 or 4.5 million barrels of oil everyday, there would be more money to be shared and every state would get more revenue.