By Emma Amaize & Emmanuel Aziken
WARRI â€” GOVERNORS of the South-South region who stormed Abuja at the weekend, have started lobbying Senators towards throwing out certain provisions of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which they consider unfavourable to the oil producing communities.
Two of the governors confirmed to Vanguard, yesterday, that it took them a long time to take the decision to confront President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua on the issues and they were not going to chicken out if the issues were not resolved to their satisfaction.
They have also vowed not to back down, especially when they meet President Yarâ€™Adua today, as regards their last Thursdayâ€™s threat to pull out of the amnesty package for militants by the Federal Government if their demands were not looked into.
â€œThe public hearing on the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill commences today (Monday, July 27) in Abuja and the governors were understood to have held meetings with some Senators to persuade them to reject the controversial provisions and also brief them on the implications of allowing the stipulations that are anti-South-South to sail throughâ€, a source told Vanguard.
A Presidency source who confirmed that President Yarâ€™Adua may meet with the governors today said, â€œYou know the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill is before the National Assembly, the governors have been told to go to the National Assembly for that is the only place they can seek any change or amendment to the bill. They will discuss other issues with Mr. President at the appropriate timeâ€.
But one of the governors told Vanguard, â€œWe are not taking chances, that is why we have already started work and we are doing a lot of work now in Abuja on the matter. Yes, it is before the National Assembly, but it is an executive bill and they can send amendment by themselves or even withdraw it totallyâ€.
He said, â€œWe are elected by our people and nobody can intimidate us to back out of our principled position. Do you know that as we are talking now, the new list of people employed in the NNPC shows that the people of the South-South are on the verge of extinction from the corporation, these are the issues and I donâ€™t see how we are going to chicken out, it is not possible, you will know it took us time to arrive at the position we have taken todayâ€.
S-South Senators kick against Petroleum Bill
The Senate will today commence a public hearing on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) with South-South Senators pushing ahead with their opposition to the revolutionary piece of legislation.
Speaking ahead of the public hearing, Chairman of the caucus of South-South Senators, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) reiterated his claim yesterday that the Bill was good for Nigeria but definitely bad for the South-South.
Senator Ndoma-Egbaâ€™s view, Vanguard gathered yesterday, was reflective of the general opinion of the majority of South-South Senators who have expressed reservations on the thrust of the PIB.
It was learnt yesterday that Senators from the region who had studied the bill were instrumental to sharpening the opposition of the Governors against the bill.
Governors from the region at the end of an all-night meeting that ended last Friday morning had expressed their opposition to the bill which aims to break up the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). They also voiced their opposition to the reversal of the upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun to a university degree-awarding institution.
Besides opposing the PIB, the Senators are also aligning themselves with the Governors from the region on the alleged bias of the Petroleum Minister Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman against the South-South.
It was gathered that the stance of the South-South Senators was also being fired by the recent personnel changes and retirements in the NNPC which they alleged were structured against the South-South.
One of the Senators yesterday accused Lukman of a bias against the region alleging that he had an agenda against the oil-producing region.
â€œIf you want to annoy Lukman, just tell him anything about community development of the oil-producing region and he will tell you that Nigeria is an oil producing region,â€™â€™ one of the Senators who has had contact with him said yesterday.
Uduaghan calls for support
Meanwhile, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta state, weekend, called on the people of the South-South to support the governors of the region in their quest to withdraw from the amnesty declaration by the Federal Government, if certain conditions were not met.
He made the call at Opuraja, Okpe Council area of Delta state during the traditional marriage between former Miss Stella Oyovbaire, daughter of former Minister of information, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire and Mr. Jonah Ejanavi.
The governor explained that the Federal Government needed to address the issue of post-amnesty plan as well as present a sustainable development plan for the region.
He condemned the relocation of the University of Petroleum Technology from Effurun to Kaduna and called for the retention of the institution in Delta State.
Furthermore, he said the Petroleum Industry Bill in the Senate should contain provisions like specific allocation of resources, royalties or proceeds from oil explorations that will benefit the region.
According to him â€œThe governors of the South-South are calling for the support of our people to withdraw from the amnesty plan of the Federal Government, if the interest of the region is not protected.â€
Govs have our blessings â€” Okpoko
In a brief remark, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Thompson Okpoko, commended Governor Uduaghan and his colleagues in the South-South geo-political zone for the bold and courageous decision taken to address the issues troubling the zone.
Okpoko, a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), urged the people to rally round the governors to ensure that the outcome of the just concluded South-South Governors Forum was not in vain.
He said that if it means the people sacrificing their comfort for a period, to achieve the objective, it would be worth the effort.
His words â€œWe commend you, our governor and your colleagues in the other Niger-Delta states for deciding to pull out from the federal government amnesty plan. We cannot agree to any federal government decision that is detrimental to our interest. The Niger-Delta people will give you their full support.â€
Group calls for Senators’ boycott
However, the coordinator of the Niger-Delta Reorientation Project, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, yesterday, called on Senators from the Niger-Delta region to boycott the sitting on the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, expected to commence today (Monday, July 27), as it is a malicious virus planted to undo the people once more.
His words, â€œIt is imperative to state that Niger-Deltans need collective effort to mobilise enmasse to support the South-South governors to reject and stop any law that will not accommodate the interest of the host communitiesâ€.
Govs, true N-Deltans â€” SSLM
The South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), led by John Adie in a statement, weekend backed the South-South governors on their position so far.
It said, â€œWe, the members of South â€“South Liberation Movement write to thank the South- South Zone Governors for pulling out of the President Musa Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s baseless amnesty, our governors have shown that they are true Niger Deltans.
â€œThe North has been behaving as if they are the owners of this country- Nigeria.Â The likes of Rilwanu Lukman believe that the petroleum industry is their birth right.
Your decision to protest against the Petroleum Industry Bill, the movement of the University of Petroleum from Effurun to Kaduna, the absence of definite post-amnesty plan and the appointment of Rilwanu Lukman as the petroleum minister is a commendable one.