By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”The Bayelsa State House of Assembly yesterday threw its weight behind the governors of the South-South for kicking against the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, and called on other state legislatures in the Niger Delta to key into the campaign against the Federal Governmentâ€™s move.
Similarly, a group, African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), yesterday declared that for the desired peace in the Niger Delta to be achieved, the Federal Government should reverse its stand and sack those who altered the bill.
Members of the assembly, led by the Deputy Speaker, Nestor Binabo, after a two weeks recess, solicited the support of speakers and members of State Houses of Assembly in the region against the bill, which is capable of thwarting the peace efforts in the region.
In a four-point resolution on the bill, the House urged the leadership of five other State Houses of Assembly to stand firm behind their governors in the effort to reverse the relocation of the Petroleum University to Kaduna and the issues of dominance of a perceived cabal in the petroleum industry.
Members of the assembly in their contribution, under matters of Urgent Public Importance, unanimously agreed that the supporting roles of the various assemblies in the region would reduce the noticeable lukewarm attitude of ministers and senators from the region.
Moving a motion on the matter, the member representing Nembe Constituency I, Jonathan Obuebite, said the state legislators regretted that in spite of the good intentions of the president to confront the developmental challenges of the region with the recent approval of N100 billion by the National Assembly and the extension of amnesty to militants, the decision on Petroleum Bill may thwart such efforts.
Obuebite said â€œthe bill is a deliberate move to further marginalize the people of the Niger Delta. It will be against the principle of fair play, equity and natural justice.â€
Among the resolutions taken were the need for the elected and political office holders from the region to show signs of concern and support for issues affecting the people of the region rather than adopting a lukewarm attitude due to selfish political considerations.
Speaking on the issue, ANEEJâ€™s Executive Director, Rev. David Ugolor, said the issue of the petroleum industry bill demanded a clear seriousness on the part of the federal government.
According to him, the decision of the South-South governors to pull out of the amnesty deal is commendable and exposes the intention of the federal government on the announced amnesty after a military operation which saw the wiping out of Gbaramatu community.
His words:Â Â â€œDecision of the governors is a further demonstration of patriotism and a clear indication that they are aware of the plight of the citizens they govern over the years in the hands of unwholesome multinational oil companies operating in the region in active collaboration with the federal government.
â€œThe entire Ministry of Niger Delta was allotted N50 billion this year for capital development, whereas the same federal government approved N60 billion for only the upgrading of Abuja airport road .
â€œThis is ridiculous and a clear testimony of the Federal Governmentâ€™s unserious attitude towards resolving the Niger Delta question. The challenge of the Niger Delta is not a crayfish business. The federal governmentâ€™s amnesty deal is a ruse after all.
â€œWe urge the federal government to take a progressive step in resolving the lingering Niger Delta phenomenon and vote sufficient resources from the regionâ€™s oil wealth to address the development challenges facing South-South states and anything short of that amounts to papering the cracks.â€
He, however, cautioned the South-South governors on their resolve to kick against the petroleum industry bill which, according to him, holds out some positive gains for the desired reform of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
â€œWe should not throw away the baby and the bath water. What the governors should press for is that the proposed law must accommodate the concerns, wishes and aspirations of oil-bearing communities as contained in the initial bill prepared by OGIC set up by the same Yarâ€™Adua administration which was withdrawn by those who donâ€™t wish Nigeria wellâ€.