By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Ike Uchechukwu, Chioma Onuegbu, Davies Iheamnachor and Ozioruva Aliu
PAN Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and other stakeholders of Niger Delta have disavowed the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which President Muhammadu Buhari assented to, yesterday, as passed by the National Assembly, saying the people would speak on the catastrophic and abominable action of Mr President after full discussions.
However, some citizens called for calm, blaming the disastrous affair on Niger Delta lawmakers and governors, who did not take appropriate steps to lobby other sections of the country on their position.
The regional group in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson, said: “The Niger Delta people will speak, shortly, after full consultations, on this callous act, on the best legal and political response.
“It is quite unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari went ahead to assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill despite the overwhelming outcry and condemnation that greeted its passage by the National Assembly, especially with regards to the paltry three per cent provision for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund and the brazen appropriation of an outrageous 30 per cent of NNPC Ltd profit for a dubious, nebulous Frontier Oil Exploration Fund.”
“This assent by President Buhari simply speaks to the repugnant attitude of disregard, propelled by arrogance, disdain and contempt with which issues concerning the Niger Delta region are treated, particularly by the present administration.
“What this Act signifies is an unequivocal message to the Niger Delta people that how they feel and what they say, do not count, at all, in the schemes of the Nigerian project.
“That it is insensitive, abominable and a far every boundary of proper democratic practice and, therefore, unacceptable to the good people of the Niger Delta, the critical economic nexus of the entire Nigerian territory,” he said.
It’s unfair ― Senator Owie
Former Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie expressed disappointment over the signing of PIB as passed by President Muhammadu Buhari despite opposition to the three per cent approved for oil-producing communities but expressed hope that it would be amended in future to take adequate care of the host areas.
He said: “Well, what do we do, the Benin has a parable that if a man’s manhood is unable to perform its function; you cannot use the hand to do it. Since the president has assented to it, all we need to do is to keep what has been done and start working towards an increase of the allocation to the oil-producing communities. “
“If we cannot get it now, the world will not end because of that. If we cannot get what we think is fair from the present government, by the grace of God, we can get it from the subsequent government because we cannot say because we did not get it, then it should be reversed since it has been signed into law.
“Even though that is not what we desire, that is not what our people deserve, it is injustice but we have to accept because that is the position of the law. We have to be hoping that we will get a review in future under the new legislation,” he said.
Why Buhari speedily gave assent ― Hon Igbodor, ex-Reps member
Former House of Representatives from Cross Rivers State, Hon Peter Igbodor, informed Vanguard that the bill was hurriedly signed because it favoured the North more than the South where the oil comes from.
Igbodor said it was really disheartening that simply because pipelines passed through a community in the north, they have to get paid or receive something, adding that effective representation of our lawmakers at the National Assembly was not felt because they did not represent us well at all.
Assault on N’Delta ― Ikwerre people
The Ikwerre People’s Congress, IPC, Worldwide, in Rivers state, described the signing of the controversial PIB, by President Muhammadu Buhari as an assault on the people of oil-rich Niger Delta.
Chairman of IPC, Livingstone Wechie, in Port Harcourt, said the president did not give attention to the calls by leaders of the region on the need to change the figures and decisions of the national assembly on the said bill.
“IPC sees the action of President Muhammadu Buhari in going ahead to sign the controversial, highly unpopular and disputed PIB as one of the most grievous assaults on the indigenous people and ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta.
“IPC views this enactment as a corrosive attack on the interest of the Niger Delta as it affects the notorious PIB which had been seriously questioned particularly in the face of our demand for resource ownership rights. IPC worries that the new law is in furtherance to the asset-stripping by the Nigerian state, which must devastate the Niger Delta, particularly the oil-producing communities at all costs.
“Our fear is that this unholy law may wake up a new avoidable season of unrest in the region. The implications remain that national rebirth and healing will be a long road and an almost impossible journey if the Nigerian government continues to ignore minority questions.
“We caution that any law that is unacceptable to the people upon whom it will bind may not get the desired result for sustainable development. It was expected that the federal government, including the National Assembly, would have used the opportunity of the PIB to cure some of the injuries caused by the Land Use Act and Petroleum Act where all the natural resources and assets of the Niger Delta was sequestered, leaving the region totally impoverished and without a stake.
“Instead, the federal government in conspiracy with the international oil multinationals along with the shameless representatives of the Niger Delta in the Senate and House of Representatives have slavishly acquiesced to this jungle justice.
“This is another missed opportunity by the federal government to create a better partnership with the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities. Rather, it chose to ignore and disregard the voice and advocacy of the people at such a sensitive matter.
“We charge all the indigenous ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta not to give up in their push for justice because the quest for self-determination is justified by these insensitive actions of the federal government,” the Ikwerre group said.
Buhari should’ve vetoed bill ― Mulade, Delta guber aspirant
Governorship aspirant for the 2023 governorship elections in Delta state, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, said in Warri: “What the National Assembly did seemed insulting, but we had thought that President Muhammadu Buhari would heed the calls and cries of the people of Niger Delta before giving assent to the bill.”
“He should have used his presidential veto power to increase or amend it and send it back to the National Assembly for consideration. The demands of host communities should be considered and as we have rejected three per cent,” he added.
We won’t accept 3% ― Mumakai, APC stalwart
Former Presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, who also spoke in Warri, asserted: “President Mohammadu Buhari signing the PIB against the overwhelmingly wishes of the Niger Deltans does not come as a surprise package. I saw it coming because the President as part of the agenda to arm-twist the good people. This is to confirm that he is not a democrat pretending to be a man with integrity. He is using fist iron hand on Nigerians. Just imagine how he rushes to sign the bill despite our agitations. In any case, we will not accept the three per cent is a slap on us.”
“Although our people will not engage in violent protest, but peaceful to drive home our demand. If the oil is found in any part of the North, he would have appropriated 10 or 20 per cent to them. It is unfair and unjust for the people to be treated as if they are conquered in the midst of plenty that is sustaining the country.
“The Nigerian government is spending billions of dollars from the oil sector to acquire arms to fight security, yet the people laying the golden eggs cannot be considered for good condition of lives. When our people protest, the same arms bought with our money will be used against us.
“Go to towns and villages, it an eye sour exercise of pitiable condition as hungry-looking youths roaming the area hopelessly. The elderly ones with bare nakedness litter everywhere, I hardly find it difficult to say we are operating civilian government.
“The Niger Delta seems to be conquered areas by few cabals, who keep telling us we are one Nigeria or Nigeria must be united all cost. The other day, I saw the Chief of Defence Staff preaching the gospel of unity and I just shook my head. Yes, Nigeria must be united but it should not be on the expense of anybody,” Mumakai said.
This is calamity ― Clarkson, MOSIEND
Legal practitioner and former spokesman, Movement for Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, MOSIEND, Amaebi Clarkson, said: “For me, I am not surprised that Mr President assented to this controversial Act. It further reinforced the open Fulani agenda of this government. It is also a shame to the legislators from the region who are self-centred with no iota of interest in the Niger Delta.”
“While all the northern legislators from both political divides are always in agreement on issues of northern interest, our legislators would foolishly view issues on political line even where the interest of the region is at stake. If our legislators had shown more than passing interest at the earliest stage of the bill and consulted with their constituencies, we may have averted this calamity. The law is passed in bad faith and we condemned it in its totally,” he averred.
Nothing to cheer ― Gbemre
On his part, Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, said, “Nothing to cheer about. The presidential accent concludes the last act on a script of conspiracy that began with the introduction of the PIB and all the drama that came with it.
“Nothing to cheer because even 3 per cent has been made to feel like a favour to the Niger Delta. Worst of all, a Minister of State for Petroleum from the Niger Delta does not even believe the region’s oil communities deserve more than 2.5 per cent.
“This is another law not formulated on fairness and justice or popular wish of we the people, but borne out of political bias where all that mattered was a number of votes and not object appraisal,” he said.
Deed already done – Bishop Isong, PFN scribe
National Publicity Secretary, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Bishop Emma Isong, speaking at Calabar, Cross River State, said: “Though I have not read the grey areas, the president has the right to sign the bill into law and it is the law. There is nothing anyone can do about it. All negotiations, corrections and arguments should have been done during the second reading, not now.
“However, we should have a say in the laws that govern us, stakeholders must have a say, we do not even know if the right process was followed as it concerns the PIB, but the deed has been done,” he added.
Establish agency to manage 3% ― Morris, environmentalist
“Niger Delta environmentalist, Alagoa Morris, told Vanguard in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state: “I still give kudos to the civil society for the efforts and uncommon commitment expended towards an acceptable PIB, especially in the area of environmental concerns and host communities equity share. It is most unfortunate that while some northern states often send high-level public office holders to public hearings on the PIB, for the 13 years this bill sailed; no Niger Delta state government would confidently come out to tell us they ever sent representatives on our behalf to public hearings at the national assembly.”
“It is my candid opinion that having listened to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, from a close range on the matter; it is what is available for the present, based on the oil industry and global issues, especially investment opportunities, renewable energy gradually taking over and ability to pay the agreed percentage from operational cost instead of from profit as many oil companies hardly declared profits.
“In the light of the above, I will align my thoughts with those who think of how the communities will really get this little percentage than having 10 per cent that like the 13 per cent derivation which does not get to host communities at all. I would like to see a scenario whereby host communities directly feel this three per cent than not seeing anything at all.
“And, a special agency should be established to administer this and not to ever make the error of routing through state governments. As disturbing as the 10 per cent frontier exploration issue is, it goes too to point to the fact that Niger Delta governments were not showing interest in the PIB when they were supposed to. The northern governments did and their efforts paid off. There is no need to cry over spilt milk. We have to move on
“There would not have been anything wrong if, for instance, the Ijaw National Congress, INC, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and ex-agitators had shown appearances at public hearings and made presentations. Such would have had some positive impacts too; their angles of presenting issues would have been considered very useful in the process. But, we were not there,” he said.
President did no wrong ― Ambakederimo
The Convener of South-South Reawakening Group, Joseph Ambakederimo, agreed with Wills, saying: “There is nothing wrong with the President signing the PIB into law as passed by the NASS. In fact, we should thank the President for signing this PIB as soon as practicable after all the rigmarole for over 20 years. If we think because of the three per cent we want to go to war, it is not the good thing to do.”
“The President has signed and we, the stakeholders, should work round the clock to seek amendments to the portions of the bill we are not comfortable with. At least the process of lawmaking guarantees us that privilege, therefore, we should work with the government to continue to look at all the issues as they come.
“My worry is the utilization of what is in the bill. The question we are asking ourselves is how the funds to be managed by the Host Community Trust Fund going to be managed without acrimony and intimidation that may lead to crisis. This is our fear when taking into cognizance the mismanagement and diversion of resources of the NDDC and the 13 per cent derivation funds.
“Another issue we looked at before we arrive at supporting the bill as it is and signed yesterday is the geopolitics of oil. Let us remember that the Nigerian oil is not attractive as it used to be, putting into context the high operating cost of the production of crude oil in Nigeria compared to other countries in the sub-region that has discovered oil, so to keep the operators coming is for us to make the oil sector to become more attractive to investors and it is only when these investors come that we can have the three per cent or 10 per cent we are talking about.
“If the investors do not come, we stand to lose everything so we must educate our people at all times to become aware of the real issues,” he added.
Offensive areas can be amended ― Nwauju, NDRA
Speaking to one of our correspondents at Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, said, “For us in the NDRA, it is the first step to righting all the wrongs in the over 60 years of oil exploitation and exploration in the region by having a governance structure for the petroleum industry.”
“Going forward, the gray areas such as the three per cent equity share to host communities can be amended through concerted efforts by the region’s future legislators and the government at the centre.”
3% not a bad start – Umoh, ex-A’Ibom speaker
Former Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Peter Linus Umoh, who said he watched the signing by President Buhari live on television, said: “The fact that the PIB law has been assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari is a welcome development and as a former member of House of Representatives, for me, it is a big a thing that has happened for Nigeria. Let me also congratulate the members of the present National Assembly. “
“You see, the PIB was introduced in our own time in 2007, but because of divergent interests and fears generated from northerners that it was going to deprive them so much and then give so much to the oil and gas producing communities, the bill was left there. Fear made them (northerners) keep the PIB wobbling all these years”
“The former Speaker said though the Niger Delta people were not given the exact percentage equity share for oil-producing communities that they were craving for in the PIB, there was always room for amendment.
“They wanted 10 per cent for oil-producing communities but they have been given only three per cent. My advice to the people of Niger Delta is that we should thank God that the PIB has been passed and also assented to by the President, then believe that with time there will be room for improvement by way of amendment of that Act.
“For instance, the oil-producing states are enjoying 13 per cent derivation today, before it was far below that. And what bothers most me now is about the utilization of the percentage that the PIB has provided for the oil-producing communities.
“If the three percent is translated to naira and kobo and that naira and kobo is translated into productive ventures by those who will be in the position of authority to manage the funds for the benefit of the people of Niger Delta, I tell you, it will move the region to great height,” Umoh noted.