ABUJA â€” ALL eighteen Senators from the South-South geopolitical zone yesterday demanded the immediate dismissal of the Petroleum Minister, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, alleging he was an impediment to the Presidentâ€™s agenda for the region.
The Senators at a press briefing in the National Assembly, yesterday evening, also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the reversal of the decision to abort the upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Warri.
The Senators while expressing misgivings on the recent reorganisation in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which they said targeted the South-South, also demanded the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee headed by Ledum Mittee.
While expressing their confidence in President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s sincerity to tackling the Niger Delta crisis, they nevertheless expressed dismay at the actions of Dr. Lukman who, they alleged, had become an unnecessary cog in the wheel of progress for Mr. President.
Chairman of the Senate South-South caucus, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), who was flanked by the Senators at the press briefing said the decision was agreed after several hours of consultation on Tuesday night.
Articulating the grievances of the region, he said: â€œThe Niger Delta region remains the poorest oil producing region in the world and the PIB seeks to retain this unacceptable status quo. The Bill neither addresses the fundamental issues of the degraded environment of the region nor the participation of its people in their God-given endowments. This we totally reject.
â€œIt is our position that an Oil industry bill at this time must encapsulate the amnesty and indeed, provide a legal basis for the amnesty. The current bill instead negates the amnesty and seeks to preserve the objectionable state of degradation and deprivation of the region.
â€œThe recent re-organisation of NNPC is lopsided and disfavours the Niger Delta. Its timing, when a strategic and sustainable approach to the amnesty and post amnesty environment should be the immediate concern, is arrogant, cynical and insensitive.
â€œThe apparent reversal of the policy of the Obasanjo administration to upgrade PTI Effurun â€“ Warri to a â€œUniversityâ€ for which a Vice Chancellor had already been appointed, while the upgrade of the institute of Petroleum Studies in Kaduna is being upgraded is in bad taste. While we do not begrudge the upgrade of the institute in Kaduna, we insist that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. We reject this.
â€œWe as a Caucus and being representatives of our people totally reject these actions which have been taken during the brief tenure of Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, actions which have come in quick succession and suggests the anti-Niger Delta mindset of Minister Lukman.
â€œThe Niger Delta region has lost confidence in Dr. Lukmanâ€™s ability or disposition to be part of a comprehensive solution of its underlying problems and his actions are inimical to Mr. Presidentâ€™s good intentions and goodwill.
In fact, Dr. Lukman, is clearly not only a problem to the South-South zone but an obstacle to Mr. Presidentâ€™s commitment to resolve the Niger Delta question which is a noteworthy item on Mr. Presidentâ€™s 7 point agenda.â€™â€™
While pledging their support to the President, they therefore invited the President to reassure the region by immediately dismissing Dr. Lukman from office.
They also demanded the President to:
â€¢Immediately withdraw the Petroleum Industry Bill to personally ensure that it makes provisions to address the agitations of people of the region, particularly with regards to the issue of royalties to the Oil Producing Communities (OPC) and states; and remedying and protecting the environment of the area.
â€¢Develop through robust consultation with Governors and stakeholders of the region, strategic and enduring framework for a post amnesty era.
â€¢Urgently implement the report of the Niger Delta Technical Committee, headed by Ledum Mittee.
â€¢Relieve Dr. Rilwanu Lukman of his responsibilities as Petroleum Minister as he has become a needless cog in the wheels of progress for Mr. President as we seek a true and lasting solution to the Niger Delta issue.
The Senators also asked for the recent reorganisation in the NNPC and the policy reversal regarding PTI, Warri.
While assuring the President of their commitment to a â€œprosperous, secure and equitable Nigerian nation,â€™â€™ they cautioned that the amnesty programme must not fail.
Orubebe on amnesty
Minister of State for Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe says the Federal Government has a concrete post-amnesty programme for militants contrary to the claim of the South-South Governors.
He also asked those threatening to reject the amnesty package to send their own wards to the creeks to fight so that they would know the pains of arms conflict.
Speaking in an interview, he said, â€œIt is not true that there is no definite post-amnesty plan for the region.Â Those canvassing this position should go and read various documents and reports and papers presented to Mr. President for comments on the amnesty programmeâ€.
His words, â€œPeople should read papers and documents before making public pronouncement on sensitive issues. In fact, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and other agencies have been given directive on how to re-integrate repentant militants.
â€œPeople should not tie their political interest to the amnesty initiative geared towards re-integration our youths into the society and transformation of the Niger Deltaâ€, he added.