By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Abuja said that reforming the Petroleum Industry was necessary to unlock untapped potentials for the nation but added that he will not be in a rush to carry out such reforms to protect Nigeria’s interest.
Buhari said reforms in the industry must be well thought-out and have the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians as its core objective.
Reacting to the development yesterday, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, noted that the President was ill-advised on the issue as delaying further action will encourage more corruption in the oil and gas sector.
In his own reaction, National Chairman of Contact Committee of the Action democratic Party, ADP, Senator Rowland Owie, said the President does not have the interest of the Niger Delta at heart.
President Buhari noted further that his administration was prepared to respond to any acts of hostility and sabotage of the nation’s oil assets in the Niger Delta region.
President Buhari was responding to one of the demands made by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, leadership after receiving the award of Grand Comrade of the Productive Workers of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Union, presented by its National President, Mr Williams Akporegha.
On the need for reforming the Petroleum Industry, President Buhari said: “Such reforms cannot and must not be rushed, if we must get it right. We are still suffering from the effects of many legacy policies that were rushed and passed without fully appreciating the consequences of the provisions embedded in them.
“Whatever decision we take now will impact either negatively or positively on generations to come. The Petroleum Industry Bill was conceived to ensure Nigeria’s future generations are positively impacted by its oil wealth; it was never about short term gains.
“I want to assure you that dialogue on the Petroleum Industry Bill is still on-going. At the end, we will have a bill that the nation will be proud of.”
On security in the Niger Delta, he said: “I am sure you will all agree that pipeline vandalism has declined. We have, and will continue to promote peaceful engagement with the communities while at the same time maintain our readiness to respond to any hostile acts of sabotage.”
Buhari, who urged the oil sector trade body to continue on its patriotic path, assured of his government’s support to the course of Nigerian workers at all times.
Also responding on the demand of the union to fix the nation’s refineries, President Buhari said the Public Private Partnership approach adopted to rehabilitate the existing refineries has taken longer than expected.
Meanwhile, reacting to the President’s position, when contacted on phone, Mr Chambers Oyibo, former Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said: “PIB, for those of us in the oil industry, has taken long. Its non passage has caused the industry not to develop the way it ought to. Investors do not want to invest in an uncertain environment. PIB has been in the works since the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. People have been waiting for it. It has taken too long. It is not good for the oil industry in Nigeria.”
In his address before conferring the award on the President, Akporegha, whose leadership was inaugurated last April, commended Buhari for his unparalleled strides in checking corruption, bridging the gap between the rich and poor through Trader-Moni and school feeding, as well as in infrastructural projects like roads, which NUPENG members are now enjoying.
He said: “Your administration’s practical steps in bridging the wide gap between the rich and the poor in the country through various initiatives such as Trader Moni, support for farmers, embargoes on luxury/ostentatious goods, TSA, school feeding, etc, have gone a long way in alleviating poverty in the country.”
The NUPENG also lamented the non-implementation of Buhari’s Executive Order on local content and employment of Nigerians in the oil sector as multinational firms are still not appropriately employing Nigerian graduates.
The event held inside the council chambers of the presidential villa was witnessed by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu; Minister of the Interior, Abdurahman Danbazzau; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, among others.
Buhari doesn’t have positive plan for Niger- Delta – Owie
National Chairman of Contact Committee of the Action democratic Party, ADP, Senator Rowland Owie said: President Buhari has no positive plan for Nigeria in general and for Niger Delta region in particular. Which of the 55 major promises made by PMB and his party during the 2015 was implemented? His tenure brought hatred, sufferings, malice, killings, social and economic crisis, the worst ever experienced in this nation. PMB has no interest of Nigerians at heart apart from Fulani herdsmen. Niger Deltans in particular and well meaning Nigerians won’t take PMB seriously again because all previous promises were never fulfilled.’’
It encourages corruption –Ugwummadu
President of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu said the handlers of President Buhari did not advise him well because reforming the petroleum industry would be of more benefit to local players.
“The failure of the Buhari administration to bring about a framework to regulate the industry has become a major soft point and a drawback to this administration. It is possible for Mr. President and his handlers to excuse themselves from turning it into law. The degree of linkage and corruption in the oil and gas industry., the PIB bill seem to guarantee what we call local content players. So when he is not in a hurry to sign it into law it jeopardises the chances of local content players and encourages more corruption.”