By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
Members of the Warri Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association has taken the Federal Government to court over the Petroleum Industry Bill. The Bar is urging Nigerians to reject the bill and ask for the immediate removal of Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman as the Minister of Petroleum.
A statement signed by the President, Chief A. O. Giwa and Secretary, Mr. A. A. Bekederemo ESQ. of the bar said â€œrecently the Federal Government introduced a Petroleum Industry Bill ostensibly meant to revolutionalise the legal regime of the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria.
“On the face of it, reforms in the Industry are pertinent but a deeper look at the present bill shows that there are hidden mines therein aimed at the Niger Delta people and the people of the South-South ethnic/nationalities of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Stating reasons for the action, the NBA said â€œIt is clear that the bill is skewed to favour the Northern part of Nigeria and to the disadvantage of the South-South geo-political zone oil producing states.
The following are our observations/contributions to the hiccup precipitated by the introduction of the bill to the legislature for enactment without prior public sensitization.
â€œWe have always maintained that the equal treatment of equals is justice whereas the opposite is injustice.
In the legal regime of the extractive minerals administration and control in Nigeria, there is a great dichotomy which is unfair, unconstitutional, and unwarrantedly discriminatory against the hydro carbons regime and in favour of the solid minerals regime.
Whereas the solid minerals regime makes any mining rights granted by the government subject to prior or subsequent agreement on terms with host or land owing communities or individuals as in the â€œTexas Theoryâ€ of ownership of minerals.
The opposite is the case in the hydro carbons regime.
The hydro carbons in this case being petroleum or oil and its associated natural gas. It must be remembered that Nigeria has subscribed to the charter of the United Nations.
That body by its resolution on the â€œnew world economic orderâ€ redefined sovereignty to include the right to a determination of the economic fortunes of a people (such as the South, South Minorities of Nigeria). by the people independently of any internal or external colonization or dominance.
Nigeria accepted this resolution passed so many years ago but has never lived up to it in relation to the exploitation of its hydro carbons by reasons only of the fact that same are located in theÂ area of the countryâ€™s ethnic minorities of the south- south geo-political zone.
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt the position taken by the South, South Governorâ€™s forum has the blessing and support of all theÂ members of our constituency as ably and forcefully expressed at the meeting of the Association held on 26/07/09 at the Law centre, Warri.. A version of the present Petroleum Industry Bill concedes 20% of royalties to producing states and 5 per cent to host communities.
Another version dispense with this concession. Either way, both are still short of the constitutional requirement of equality of component parts of the Federation or the United Nationâ€™s Resolution on the new world economic order.
The worst that the South, South expected was that any opportunity for a change in the legal regime of the hydro carbons extraction or exploitation industry would bring it in line with the solid minerals regime or the constitution but neither versions of the bill has done so.
20 per cent or 5 per cent of royalties is different from a consent secured on terms with host states and communities as in the case of solid minerals. The latter being capable of eliminating militancy and hostility from the oil industry and the South- South completely, when clear and direct consent of states and communities are secured and obtained on terms mutually agreed upon.
â€œThis is the ethno communal/geo-political problem with the present Petroleum Industry Bill. The problem is constitutional as well as of international dimension. It must be repeated that such harmonization can do more than the present amnesty in stemming restiveness and militancy in the area.
Other problems such as relate to the repeal of the Petroleum Training Institute Act and Manpower Development in the industry as well as creating an actual and independent ombudsman are equally germane. In the case of the latter, i.e. the question of the Petroleum Inspectorate in place of the DPR which is going back to where we are coming from, we may not bother as an implosion can take care of it in due course.
Such implosion asÂ arising from the inconsistent and non practicable stipulations relating to the role of the industryâ€™s Ombudsman by whatever name called. Clearly an amnesty that is presented without due regard to the position expressed by the Governors ofÂ the South, South geo-political zone with the full support of our constituency herein reiterated will be pyrrhic and ill advisable to pursue further.
â€œOn the repeal of the P.T.I. Act, however, an ethno communal/geo political dimension is equally glaring. In this regard, the statement of Lukeman (Dr.) comparing the proposed upgraded Petroleum College in Kaduna with the Imperial College London on the desideratum of training the industryâ€™s manpower outside producing regions, states or places, is nothing but a betrayal of the philosophical, and anthropological underpinning that lies at the formulation and execution of the present Federal Governmentâ€™s policies in the Oil and Gas Industry.
â€œPut more succinctly, Alhaji (Dr) Rilwanu Lukeman is saying that the fact of derivation should have no role or substantial role to play in the formulation and execution of major policies in the industry. Even if it were concededÂ which is not, then derivation should at the same time not constitute a disadvantage or a basis of deprivation, discrimination and unfair treatment.
â€œIf derivation should not influence major policy decisions in manpower development to the extent that the headquarters of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund is located at Abuja just like Londonâ€™s Imperial College, then an Institute for Advanced Petroleum Training need not necessarily be at Kaduna.
It is common knowledge that Kaduna is already laden with policy development Institutions such as the Defence Academy which is now a degree awarding institution which is not replicated any where in the Southern part of Nigeria, the Nigeria Military School, and the Aviation College all in KadunaÂ State which are not replicated in any Southern part of Nigeria.
Dr Ayuba further said â€œWhy not Asaba or Benin City or Port Harcourt, or Uyo, or Calabar if for any reason unknown to common sense Effurun/Warri becomes untenable. This is where the fact that derivation should not be a factor for policy formulation and execution flies in the face of Dr. Lukeman who has now ironically turned it (derivation) into a disadvantage.
For all intents and purposes therefore, Dr. Lukeman who may have attended the said imperial college with scholarship based on funds derived from the Federation Account, the bulk of which is made up of oil revenue from the South, South minorities region can not be better described than as â€œa persona non grataâ€ to the South-South geo-political zone.
Since a petroleum ministerâ€™s constituency includes the South- South geo-political zone, the continued retention of Dr. Lukeman as such becomes in the words of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association as expressed in its CommuniquÃ© after the last Port-Harcourt meeting, â€œrepresentation without a constituencyâ€ or representing the Northern part of Nigeria in the name of the whole Nigeria.
This is clearly unconstitutional and the old oligarchic tribalist called(Dr) Rilwanu Lukeman ought for the above reasons to be relieved of his post unless his ethnic agenda is coterminous with that of Mr. President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua.
According to NBA â€œSuch arrogance, sarcasm, nepotism and criminal indifference as portrayed by the chip from the old block that Dr. Lukeman is, no longer represent the thrust of modern Nigerian thinking. Unless he is consigned to the garbage heap of history like the erstwhile secretary to the Government of the Federation Alhaji Kingibe, the foundation of the nation is in peril.
With the likes of Lukeman, we are dangerously moving towards the doomsday prophecy that Nigeria ranks next to Somalia in the list of 177 failing or failed States. Nigeria can do better without Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman as a Minister in charge of its main source of sustenance.
â€œIn conclusion therefore, the Petroleum Industry Bill should be withdrawn. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund Headquarters can remain in Abuja but the P.T.I. upgrade should not be reversed nor duplicated in Kaduna as contemplated.
Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman should go before he plunges Nigeria into another civil war that neither he nor his children or siblings will help us to fight. Since we cannot carry arms or embark on any press war, against the Federal Government that has near-monopoly of the mass media, we have no choice but to turn over these issues to the law to resolve constitutionally.
In the circumstance,Â our writ must be expectedÂ within the next few days if the bill is not withdrawn as it is and redrafted without the current minister of Petroleum Resources presiding over the Ministry, that is proposing the bill. We will not relent until justice is done. Ubi jus lbi remedium, Nigeria must be re-branded but a near senile demagogue of abandoned/fading schemes of oppression not on the lines of nepotism/tribalismâ€ the NBA stated