•Militants return to creeks, await further directives
•Stakeholders disappointed NASS disregarded plight of oil communities
•Recall or vote out lawmakers who didn’t fight against passage of bill
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Harris Emanuel, Chioma Onuegbu and Ozioruva Aliu
LEADERS, activists and other stakeholders in the coastal states of Niger-Delta have entreated President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign into law the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, recently passed by the National Assembly, but send it back to the lawmakers for modification in the inclusive interest of the country.
Many of them expressed disenchantment that the policymakers subjugated national interest in passing the bill. While some demanded recall of Niger-Delta lawmakers for their shoddy performance, others argued they were outnumbered by their northern colleagues, who presented a common front.
Meanwhile, commanders of the Niger-Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, a militant group, have returned to the creeks, following the directive, Thursday, by their leaders on the next line of action.
There have also been clandestine meetings by former militant leaders and other groups in the oil-rich region, in the last few days, on how to tackle the provocation and insult that was the PIB.
Don’t sign PIB —A’Ibom leaders
Informed leaders and constituents in Akwa Ibom, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, warned the nation’s crisis would worsen if President Buhari gives assent to the bill.
One of them, an elder and member Board of Trustees, BoT, Eket Integrity Forum, Chief Usoro. I. Usoro, stated: ”Clearly if you ask individuals, groups in the Niger Delta, they will tell you that we are not happy about what happened. We totally reject the PIB as passed and we ask the president not to assent to it because it will lead to more problems in Nigeria. It will go to buttress what is said about the northerners not regarding other people’s opinion.”
”It will lead to more issue of injustice because injustice is the bane of what we are suffering in Nigeria today. It was injustice that led to the militants taking up arms to break pipelines and all that. So we reject it and we advise that in the interest of justice, the president should not sign that bill because it will lead to more crisis in Nigeria.
“If at the end of the day you dig oil from my backyard and you use the money to go and develop the North, and now you pretend that you want to make things better for us, to compensate us and you are giving us paltry 3 percent, but you approved about 30 per cent for frontier basin which is for the Northerners, who is benefiting and who is losing? He queried.
Recall collaborator —senators
On poor representation by Niger Delta lawmakers, Usoro said: “The problem they actually had was this so -called issue of number. The northerners and the APC Senators were more so they carried the day. Unfortunately some of our southerners who are also members of APC that did not want to be seen as voting in favour of the North, were absent.
“So if it can be proven that some of them did not support the interest of Niger Delta, they should be recalled; if there is any Senator from the Niger Delta (He or She) whether APC or PDP member who did not support the interest of the Niger Delta, he or she should be recalled. Since they were sent there to represent the people, and they failed to do that, there is no need for them to stay there”, Usoro asserted.
Take a second look at PIB – Mene, Delta APC leader
Organizing Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta state, Mr. Sunny Mene, asserted:
“My advice to Mr. President is that signing without considering the feelings and sensitivity of the people that bear the brunt of oil exploration may not go well with many. It might lead to further agitation. “
“The President should take a second look at the issue very well. The bill can be returned to the National Assembly for another look.”
In his view, “Our lawmakers protested when they were not satisfied with the way things were going. I watched the proceedings like many others but they were numerically outnumbered. We were overwhelmed. “.
N’Delta govs, ministers should meet Buhari —Hon Eyiboh
However, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Eseme Eyiboh, said the blame should not go only to the National Assembly members, but also to state governors of the Niger Delta for their failure to constructively engage their northern colleagues.
”Whether the PIB is taking care of our problem or not, what we are experiencing is the outcome of poor leadership recruitment process. When the bill went to committees, after the committees, and then came to clause by clause consideration, how many Niger- Delta lawmakers participated in the process deeply, engaging colleagues from northern parts of the country?
“Also, how many of the Niger Delta governors took particular interest in the PIB by engaging their Northern colleagues, party counterparts?
“So it is not all about the National Assembly members, it is also about constructive engagement. We must learn how to grow the kind of leadership that we want as a people”, Eyiboh said
On way forward, Eyiboh suggested that key stakeholders of the region, particularly state governors and ministers, could still engage constructively with Mr. President to look at those issue very well and not to sign the bill, stressing that the PIB is within the province of a national power grid that could only be treated with constructive engagement.
He cautioned: “I will not say we should resort to self-help. Every Law has its own time. Even if the PIB is passed by National Assembly, that is not the final stage, the president can still look at it before given his assent.”
“It will be wrong to say they (Niger -Delta NASS members) did not do well. They did well within their capacity, they all have their individual capacity and some of them brought their individual capacity to bear. But such capacity were not strong enough to navigate that corridor,” he said.
3% too small- Oyakhire, ex- MILAD
Former governor of Oyo and Taraba states during the military reign of late General Sani Abacha, Dr. Amen Oyakhire, who criticized the role of lawmakers from the South-South over the proposed allocation of three per cent to host communities in PIB, called for a review of the provision to at least five per cent.
Oyakhire, a retired police officer asserted: ”Is Nigeria not our country? Any pain to one of us is pain to all of us. If there is a problem in the Niger Delta because of oil spillage, should all of us not be concerned about it so that we can fix it or find a solution in the overall interest of this country? If people in the Niger Delta are making sacrifices because of pollution, is it natural? “Should my brother in Sokoto, the one in Makurdi, Bauchi and Yola not be concerned and show interest and say let us find a solution because what is happening in Niger Delta can also happen in Sokoto tomorrow, it can happen in Maiduguri tomorrow?
”To me, even five per cent is small but five per cent would have been more reasonable. I will suggest that we take it from there; I support five per cent which is reasonable but if the problem continues, we can resolve that in future. Three per cent is too minimal considering the enormity of destruction over the years.”
On the appalling performance of lawmakers from the region, he said “In partisan politics, lobbying is important, it is an effective weapon and in situations like this, those who represent us should be seen to be more active in lobbying others for the interest of the people they represent. It should not be left in a manner that voting will rob us of the benefit that we are supposed to get from the bill.”
“The bill is expected to become a law and a law is to be operated for the benefit of the citizens. A law is not just made for punishment; a law enhances the dignity of people. Those representing us must be seen to be talking to their colleagues for any project or issues that they want for their people because what happens to the nose happens to the face. They did not lobby enough and lobbying is an effective weapon in a democracy. They could have done better than what they did,” he said.
30% exposes NASS deception- Wills, Ijaw leader
President, Ijaw Professional Association (Homeland Chapter) said one of the leaders of Embasara Foundation, an Ijaw think tank, Barrister Iniruo Wills, told Saturday Vanguard: ”The first point on the PIB is that the National Assembly did not give primacy of place to Nigeria’s national interest. There are many pointers to this. Time will bear it out fully, but one illustration is how the provision reserving 30 % of NNPC’s profits to frontier exploration rubbishes the pretense that the PIB seeks to position NNPC for commercial competitiveness.”
“That clause is classical command and renter economics if not worse. Our statute books are replete with such poorly framed and anti-Nigerian laws, which is no surprise because Nigeria possibly has the most unpatriotic elite in the world.
“As for the Niger Delta, NASS and the Nigerian ruling class has used the PIB to tell the region to go to hell. The passed bill sets the stage for intensifying the colonization of our communities on multiple levels, including by the oil corporations, foreign or indigenous, with Niger Delta NASS members as willing tools. It’s a return to the 19th Century British Royal Niger Company’s creeping colonization of kingdoms in our coastal region, but now under PIB as the charter and Nigerian State as grantor of the charter.
Esau generation of lawmakers
“The mentality that will describe oil companies as “settlors “ in host communities, simply another word for settlers, and empowers companies to constitute management teams for the communities tells you the whole story. This is either daft or callous. It is not mere semantics. “Again, this crop of Niger Delta legislators in NASS proved themselves yet again as an Esau generation, ever ready to sell our collective birth rights for a mess of pottage and still having the nerve to ask us to celebrate the crumbs. It is a new grade of shamelessness. The authentic leadership of the region needs to take its destiny into its own hands, which may be daunting but is still very possible through lawful processes,” he said.
Recall or vote them out – Gbemre, activist
Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, who felt betrayed, said: ”It is another confirmation that South- South senators, lawmakers as a whole went to legislate for selves and not for the common good of the region. You realized that when it came to issue of electronic transmission of results, which directly affects their political career, many had a walkout when they realized non electronic transmission of election results would be imposed on them. In the lower house, it was rowdy as those in favour of electronic transmission battled those against it.”
“My worry is why did South- South senators not engage in walkout when they realized an unsatisfactory 3 per cent equity stakes for oil communities and that an inciting 30 per cent for frontier basin development would be forced on them? We never heard of walkout, heated protest or fighting. If it were for their pockets they would have gone to any length to express their displeasure.
“No one can advocate unlawful revolt against the betrayer South- South lawmakers over the unfavorable outcome of the PIB, the reward for poor representation is rejection. And the key lawful mode of rejection opened to the South- South people is to recall the betrayers or wait to vote them out in 2023,” he opined.
Gbemre, however, added: “But we also know that we have an electorate that is too gullible to take recall or vote out the selfish lawmakers. At the end of the day, they will roll out money and buy the gullible electorate over in Nigerian elections where incumbency or highest bidder mentally prevails against merit and competence.”
Vote out failed lawmakers —Effiong, lawyer
Human rights activist and constitution lawyer, Barrister Inibehe Effiong, accused leaders and lawmakers from the region of not having the people’s interests at heart, and urged the electorate to vote them out in 2023.
He submitted: “Niger Delta is in a precarious state today largely due to the irresponsibility, corruption and lack of political foresight by leaders of the region. Most leaders of the region are preoccupied with self-aggrandizement, narrow-minded interests and greed. They do not care about the sufferings of their people and the degradation of the environment in the region.”
“This is why the PIB was passed in the current form without adequate provisions for the region. People like some Ministers from the region are only interested in themselves and their families. That is why one of them could shamelessly declare that the PIB should be passed, irrespective of the percentage of funds allocated to host communities.
“I participated in the shambolic and make-believe public hearing in the House of Representatives on the PIB. I observed during the hearing that vested interests and disunity on the part of the leaders of the region would undermine the aspirations of Niger- Deltans.
“It is a shame that governors and lawmakers from the region did not put up a good fight for the region in the passage of the PIB. I am hoping that the electorate in the Niger Delta will punish these parasitic and self-centered leaders by voting them out in 2023.”
Remove tyrannical provisions —Mudiaga-Odje, lawyer
A front line human rights activist and lawyer, Dr, Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, stated: ”Absolutely, it is axiomatic the National Assembly, specifically, the Senate, did not consider at all the people, interest and environment of the Niger Delta. They rather further impoverished us by this obnoxious bill, which pungently seeks to exterminate the people and the region.”
“The vested interest from the northern block and its oligarchy obfuscated the tiny voices of our representatives. The north got 30 per cent exploration frontiers; it is for them, not us, exploration for the now is more in the North than south.
“The definition section is so amorphous and wide enough to include all northern states as becoming oil producing communities; it is simply despicable. Our people must first unite for this one. It is a bill planned to become a law that will regulate the spending of the regions wealth.
“So we all need to be proactive now or suffer terribly for our inertia and lethargy; total and comprehensive constitutional resistance and picketing oil majors and frustrating oil exploitation in our region. They should not operate until these despotic provisions are expunged from the bill.
Regarding the dismal performance of the legislators, he said: “As for our lawmakers, it is good the electorate has openly seen their performance on this one. If we had a credible electoral process, I think their people would have responded adequately on this.”
“However, our electoral process is fraudulent in nearly all spheres resulting in unelected persons turning out to be the elected or selected ones! Our people should demand explanations from them as we beseech them to expressly undertake to join our process to undo this legislative bombardment of the people and their resources of the Niger Delta,” he intoned.
Onuesoke insists on amendment
Also, erstwhile governorship aspirant in Delta, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “I have said it before that the recently passed PIB is a rape on the people of Niger Delta, therefore, not acceptable till all outstanding issues are rectified by the joint session of the National Assembly before it is sent to the President for assent.
He maintained: “The Niger Delta people must come together in one voice to reject the bill and demand for its fair share because no amount of compensation can atone for the years of irreparable damages done to the people of Niger Delta who are faced with the sorry state of environmental degradation and pollution brought about by activities of oil exploration”.
His words: “Lawmakers from the Niger Delta did their best in terms of inputs and standing by the people of the region. You know, at the end of the day resolutions are brought before the entire floor for a final vote and in most cases it could be that the numbers did work in their favour and maybe betrayal from other lawmakers may also serve as a barrier to their demand. Sometimes issues like this boils down to the game of number and that is most unfortunate.”
Our lawmakers failed, recall them – Nwauju, NDRA
Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocate, Darlington Nwauju, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, said: “I think the south-south caucus did a very poor job in coming out with a united front and lobbying their colleagues from other zones. The parliament is a game of numbers. With serious consultations within and without both chambers of the NASS, I think favorable results would have been achieved, especially with regards to the 3 per cent versus 5 per cent debate.
“The region in very many spheres is balkanized in terms of pursuit of regional interest. I think the Niger Delta would have to wait for the 10th Assembly and elect very patriotic sons and daughters who would do what the likes of Senator Melford Okilo did to liaise with other regions to get greater goods for the region.
For him, those the lawmakers failed by their actions and have conducted a referendum on themselves, so the constituents should consciously avoid re-electing failures.
Cheap blackmail, says Senator Okon, A’Ibom leader
Nonetheless, Spokesman, Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard, Senator Anietie Okon rose stoutly in defense of Niger Delta legislators, describing as cheap blackmail and unacceptable insinuations in high quarters that their palms may have been greased.
Okon said: “The bribery allegation is a vicious statement made by the detractors of our representation in the place. So, to come today and accuse our lawmakers of accepting bribe is cheap and not acceptable. It is a cheap blackmail.
“This is why we are calling for the restructuring of the country. Why should the north who are physically and in reality is less populated than the South have greater representation? Have you thought about that?
“The only thing is that they did not want to make it rowdy. But I wish I was there, I would have preferred the option of rowdiness instead of carrying on a dignified silence. So, it is beyond them. It is even beyond the National Assembly because these are grassroots matters,” he added.
I’ve lost faith in our political class —Uti, NBA Warri chair
Reacting, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Warri branch, Chief Barrister Emmanuel Uti,
“My comments on these may be different. The PIB bill a good legislation, unfortunately, the north plays smarter politics than we the south.”
“Niger- Delta had opportunity of having a President in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and did nothing about the PIB, so let us bear with it. The political class in Nigeria plays selfish politics and I have lost faith in them, whether from South or North.”
“My lost in faith in them arose from the way and manner the issue of transmission of election results were handled.”
Money should go to host communities, not govs —West, activist
Rights activist and public affairs commentator, Mr. David West, who held a slightly different opinion, said: “I will not completely toe the line or agree with the school of thought that says that the National Assembly did was to favor the north and abandon the south. For me, the PIB no matter all the brouhaha, I am still of the opinion that first thing, the PIB should be passed into law now that the National Assembly has done its work.”
”The bill is not all just the 3 percent and 30 percent for oil exploration at frontier, it is beyond that, and those are not the only items we have in that bill. The 3 percent which is causing so much confusion that has advanced to raising eyebrows at National Assembly members passing a bill in favor of the north and abandoning the south, this argument has been put forth by the people of the Niger Delta and I see reasons with them.
”But I will not say that I am satisfied with the 3%, 5% or even 10%, my own is 10% equity shares is what I will be satisfied with, however, we are now at a position where the already two houses of the National Assembly have harmonized to say 3%.
”What do we do with 3%, what is the way forward? If the PIB today is passed today, what do we annexed or benefit from other components of this Act? What and what is left for us? For me, the bill should be passed, all these issues they are raising are germane and there is room for amendment. But first thing first let us have the PIB. If the bill is passed we will move a step forward.
”My major concern is that the money should not be given to the state governments but directly to the host communities to manage it themselves. With this 3%, the host communities can even establish modular refineries for themselves,” he said.
As tension builds up in the region over the PIB, a militant group, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, disenchanted with the 3 per cent provision for host communities, on Wednesday, deployed its commanders to the creeks.
Militant group deploys fighters
Spokesman of the group, W.O.I Izon Ebi, in a statement, directed the commanders to await further instructions, reinforcing fears that militants may resume hostilities over the annoying provision for host communities.
The group asserted: “PIB is another instrument of expropriation, oppression, subjugation and marginalization by the Nigerian state to further weaken the socio-economic lives of people and the region.
“After 56 years of continuous mindless exploitation of our natural resources, it is heartless and insensitive for Nigerian government to treat the people of the region with disdain and as beggars of their own resources.
“While the government and people of Zamfara state are allowed to control 100 per cent of their gold resource (fiscal Federalism applying in Zamfara state), what the people of the Niger Delta region could get from their own natural resource is a paltry 3 per cent for host communities and in contrast, a whopping 30 per cent for exploration of frontier basins,” the militants said.
Vanguard News Nigeria