It was alleged in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari was so determined to bring the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB to life that he did not mind breaking the COVID-19 quarantine he had been confined to after his foreign medical vacation to sign the bill.
His action, however, has been met with controversy from across the polity. While the North has been largely mute, if not silently happy with the development, the contrary has been the case in most areas of the South, especially in the Niger Delta. Disgust has indeed been the case even among some of the president’s canvassers in the region.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; on whose platform he successively won a Senate seat and two governorship elections, mainly because he wanted to ‘connect Cross River to the centre’ was, particularly livid.
Speaking when he received a delegation of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, Ayade blustered that despite all his grammar that Buhari went on to sign the PIB into an act.
“When the PIB committee visited, I took my time and articulated in the best of professional grammar to explain to them,” the Cross River governor said last Thursday.
If Ayade was fazed that his elocution was unable to turn Buhari around, many others who had been in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC before his coming have been rather silent.
Many have been waiting for the response from his main South-South men. Men like Rotimi Amaechi, Ovie Omo-Agege, Adams Oshiomhole among many others who have in the past sold Buhari to their people in the South-South.
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The wait for their response is against the trajectory of the PIB from when it was first conceived under President Umaru Yar`Adua to what was delivered by President Buhari.
When it was first conceived, the provisions for the Host Community Fund was 10% of the Industry Cost. At that time, it was widely regarded as ambitious. However, given the impact of oil exploration on the Niger Delta and the cost to the companies of sustaining their operations, it was not totally untenable.
At that time and until the life of the 8th National Assembly that was the contention. There was no proposal for a frontier basin fund to search for oil in other parts of the country as has now been enacted in the new PIA.
Niger Delta activists have been particularly livid that under the law signed by President Buhari that the Frontier Basin Fund would get as much as 30% of the profits from oil sales. Of course there is no hiding the fact that the frontier basin is mainly for searching for oil in the north Gongola Basin, Bauchi Trough and such.
Juxtaposed against the 3% of the operating costs set aside for the host communities it is understandable for the people of the Niger Delta to be livid over what many are claiming as the enactment of apartheid in their own country.
President Buhari’s rush to also sign the bill without as much as considering the loud protestations of the Niger Delta is rather unfortunate. As with many allegations of bias that have been brought against his legacy, this perhaps may be among the most outstanding points that may not be difficult to contend with; to with, a president not caring for the plight of the Niger Delta.
For a people who produce the oil that keeps the nation to be so easily dismissed on issues that touch them is rather unfortunate especially given their living conditions.
If Ayade had not spoken out about how he had used grammar to attempt to break the resolve of the president against signing the PIB as altered by the APC led administration and National Assembly, it could have been assumed that the assent was a matter of ignorance. Or as APC apologists would say, the president was not aware.
However, that cannot be said to be so in this case. The rush with which the president broke the COVID-19 quarantine to give assent to the bill underlines that he was in this case very much aware. It then supposes that this deprivation of the Niger Delta was deliberate.
For Ayade, Godswill Akpabio and other chieftains who claimed to have joined the president’s APC for the purpose of connecting their people to the center, the message everywhere in the Niger Delta is that they must not be yoked in slavery and servitude as the PIA has so done.