In continuation of the story of the rivalry between two Niger Delta leaders, National Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria (Producing Oil and Gas), HOSCON, Bishop Mike Emuh, and his Host Communities of Nigeria (Producing Oil and Gas), HOSTCOM, counterpart, Chief Benjamin Style Tamaranebi, which led to the exchange blows at the hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives during the public hearing on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Sunday Vanguard traces the origin of the feud.
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Egufe Yafugborhi and Chioma Onuegbu
Scrapping or no scrapping NDDC
Maintaining that HOSTCOM scandalously demanded for the scrapping of NDDC, Bishop Mike Emuh told Sunday Vanguard: “The act that Benjamin performed at the National Assembly was not as a result of argument on the bill, no.
“We have not made any presentation there. He has a limitation of education, which was why he said at the National Assembly that NDDC should be scrapped. Why should you ever think about scrapping NDDC?”
But the HOSTCOM President (Benjamin Tamaranebi) shot back: “We are not opposed to the existence of NDDC but the Commission has failed on its mandate and is now a political tool.
“Therefore, NDDC should be restructured. The Oil Production Development Areas Commission is the key to oil and gas bearing communities that will deliver sustainable development.”
13 per cent derivation
Emuh also charged at Tamaranebi’s HOSTCOM for calling for 13 per cent derivation to be channeled directly to host communities, saying,” He has also said that 13 per cent derivation should be channeled to host communities in the PIB, that it should be Host Communities Development Commission and it should be paid directly to the Commission.
“That is an error. 13 per cent derivation is a law that has been established. NDDC is a law that has been established. PIB law is yet to be established; so these are his deficiencies.
“I want to say that NDDC should stay, nobody should scrap NDDC. You can only amend the law. At the same time, 13 per cent derivation, you can only review and you do not have to talk about taking it away from governors. PIB is that if Host Communities Development Commission is established, let the host communities do the nomination of directors and commissioners, not politicians, which is our stand.”
‘Our problem with the word settlor’
Tamaranebi also said: “HOSTCOM also wants expunged from PIB Sections 115 and 117.
“Section 115 talks about settlors, which is that oil companies are settlors in our land. “How can they be settlors in our land, they should remain as tenants. Section 177 talks about giving them Certificate of Occupancy. “We want these things expunged from the bill. A settlor in their words cannot be a landlord, we do not want to see that word settlor.”
Genesis of crisis
A Niger Delta monarch privy to the formation of HOSCON told one of our reporters: “After forming HOSCON with other persons, Chief Wellington Okirika was called to head DESOPADEC but between 2010 and 2015 when he was away, some individuals, led by Chief Alfred Bubor, changed the acronym from HOSCON to HOSTCOM.
“We began to educate them since that time because most of them were new members that the group was founded as HOSCON but they remained adamant until 2015 when it became clear to Okirika that these people were ready to cause more trouble.
Bubor’s alleged deviation from other founders
“He (Okrika) now brought in Bishop Mike Emuh. That was after much discussion. Bubor group agreed that he was about to finish his two terms of three years each.
“He took over Chief Okirika in 2010, his first tenure ended in 2011, another one ended in 2015.
“So in 2015, they agreed that Bubor would step down because it was not supposed to be a life thing.
“The highest you can get is two tenures but on the day he was putting in another executive, Bubor disagreed and the other founders said this cannot be, you cannot be blindfolding us and Mike (Emuh) was put in place.
“There is nothing they have not done against Mike. They worked against him to the extent that they said that the money collected on gas flare was not anywhere.
“They said Mike is fake and published that Mike has been removed by host communities. We were not bothered because we know that he is the National Chairman.
“They took us before South-South monarchs, there was nothing the other group did not do, they took us before TROMPCON and, in that meeting, they brought a document for Mike to sign but he told them he was not signing.
“We were invited to a reconciliatory meeting with 10 people but they came with more than 100 people.
“Looking at the situation on ground, some people advised Mike to sign but write under that he signed under duress.
“They required that him and one other executive member of HOSCON to sign the paper, but after he signed, the document was taken to Prince Whiskey, now a monarch, who declined to sign, saying he did not come to sign agreement but for reconciliation.
“When they saw the way he spoke, they left the meeting.
“After the meeting, the Emuh-led HOSCON was invited for a meeting at Aso Villa, Abuja. When the other group saw the photographs of our visit in newspapers, they were infuriated and that was when the current trouble started.
“So the other group went to arrange their own certificate of incorporation at the CAC, there is nothing they have not done until this very last one (fight) at the National Assembly.
“We were given the impression that we would be represented by two members and HOSCON was represented by two members; we also thought that HOSTCOM would be represented by two members.
“The only thing I can remember is that HOSTCOM people just came and said Mike could not present his paper before them.
“He, Benjamin, was raining blows on Mike, it is most unfortunate, and it is not as if Mike went to meet him and said ‘I must present first’, so Benjamin’s action looked unbelievable.
“If you watched the video (of fight), you would see that Mike was seated and Benjamin was standing raining blows on him.
“His position is that he would speak first, that he is the authentic Chairman. Note that Okirika handed over to Bubor, both are Ijaw, and he still thinks that he, an Ijaw from Bayelsa State, would continue as National Chairman. Emuh is Urhobo. Is the group owned by Ijaws? Are there no other tribes in the group?”
The monarch explained that because Emuh is a bishop, he does not want crisis among host communities.
“Even on that day that Benjamin fought him at the National Assembly, some people brought the police to arrest Benjamin but he (Emuh) said they should leave him”, he added.
‘We‘re duly registered’
HOSTCOM leader, Tamaranebi, responded to the claims: “My group (HOSTCOM) is a reliable structure. Oba of Benin is the life grand patron, King Edmund M Daukoru is the Chairman of BOT, TROMPCON President General is a board member while Pa Edwin Clark is the grand patron. Other well meaning personalities are involved.
“The other group is not known anywhere; it is a political group going about with youths and claiming to be doing pipeline jobs, modular refinery and youth empowerment schemes etc.
“They do not have structure in any community. The government of Delta State gave us office complex at 11 Uti Street, Effurun, Warri where our national secretariat is, so what are they saying?
“We were duly elected and inaugurated, not just appointed by anyone and we are a registered organization and our operations are guided by our Constitution”.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger-Delta, Senator Etang, who was disturbed by the dirty linen being washed in the public by leaders of the host communities, invited the warring factions to a peace meeting in Abuja.
Emuh and Tamaranebi attended the meeting.
A source in the Emuh-led HOSCON told Sunday Vanguard: “The Special Adviser explained that he was disturbed by what happened at the House of Representatives and wanted both sides to iron out their differences and present a common front on PIB.
“It was resolved at the meeting that we will put on a common front on the PIB but other issues were not resolved.
“In fact, he said it not him that will resolve them.
“So we have not resolved, the battle continues at home, we only agreed to present a common front on PIB”.
Addressing the two factions on the need to present a harmonized position before the House of Representatives’ Committee, Etang said: “We would request using the instrumentality of this Office for the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee, even in their Committee Session, to hear us present a harmonized position at the National Assembly.
“We have not invited you to settle any dispute but we have invited you to shake hands with each other and move on because, in the Niger Delta, dispute and disputation is a regular feature; so we are not settling dispute.
“I know you people do not have dispute with yourselves, you only agree to disagree on the procedure and the disagreement passed the elbow to the ankle.”
The presidential adviser decried a situation in which oil companies divide host communities while they sponsor and put fire on both sides.
“They take the oil, desecrate the environment, abuse your children and your youths, give them instrument of self-destruction and while we keep fighting, they keep clapping and taking our resources”.
“Under President Muhammed Buhari, this would not happen again, we would not be perpetually at war with ourselves and we have agreed to come together for the purpose of defending the interest of the entire community.
“So what I intend to do is to work with you, put you on the same page on issues contend on the Host Communities Content of the Petroleum Industry Bill, to enable you put up a unified presentation on what you want for the Host Communities for the bill to become law”.
But Tamaranebi explained that the pact at the meeting was to jettison the demand for 2.5 per cent and stick to 10 per cent equity for host communities.
“We did not just ask for 10 per cent equity without knowing our left from our right. The system is 100 per cent, the Federal Government holds 60 per cent equity and the oil companies 40 per cent. We are saying that both sides should surrender five per cent each and let us have 10 per cent equity as host communities”, the HOSTCOM leader stated.
“Who says we are going to make any financial contribution? Our land and other assets therein are already there as our 10 per cent contribution, we have surrendered our land to them for the business”.
- Next Sunday, Chief Wellington Okrika and more stakeholders in Niger Delta oil communities speak