•Says open grazing’s archaic, disrupts orderly system
•Faults PIA 30% exploration fund in frontier basins
By Jimitota Onoyume, Assistant News Editor
Dr Roland Oritsejafor, former Minister of State for Defence and Deputy National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview, bares his mind on burning issues around the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, open grazing , insecurity, and crises in the two major political parties among others.
His take on raging insecurity
Bad governance, corruption, and no leadership is the problem. You remember I said in an interview that we were heading towards anarchy. That is what we are seeing already. Schools are not safe, homes are not safe. Streets are not safe, borders are not safe. The responsibility of Mr President first and foremost, is security of lives and properties.
People are so frustrated that they are calling to arm themselves. It is as bad as that. We should not look at it as a partisan thing. It is a political class problem. With what is happening around us, all of us politicians, have failed. We can’t protect our children in schools, at homes and in the streets.
Poverty is increasing, money is being looted, jobs given are not done. Obviously, there is no governance. We are worried that people might take the laws into their hands which is not right. People should no do self-help.
We have a responsibility, irrespective of the party we belong, to work and stem the ugly tide. That is why I am happy about our governor in Delta State.
Talking about traditional leadership, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa consults regularly with the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers and he has in place an Advisory and Peace Building Council where you have people that have made their mark in their different professions and even in spiritual organisations.
We all meet once a month where we take any issue that threatens the peace of the state even pension. We are very happy that the governor listens to us, there are some cases that he even sends to us to look into.
Debates have continued to trail the new Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, what is your take on it?
We thank God that finally the bill that has gone through so many stages, and emotions raised over it finally has been signed into law. Whether we like it or not it has become a law. Now we can start focusing specifically on what is contained in the law and start thinking of amendments. If there was nothing on ground it would have been all talk and talk, empty emotions.
Generally, I congratulate Nigerians over the law that seems to organise our oil industry. Hopefully, this law will ensure transparency and accountability thereby strengthening the governing institutions that will attract investment capitals through the positive changes contained in the law – changes in governance, administration, regulatory and fiscal framework of our oil and gas industry. Iit will enhance revenue for the government and there will also be a fair return on investment.
We have to confess that we had not done things right in the past. And we have missed a lot of opportunities in using the God-given natural resources, oil and gas, to better the lot of our people.
Hopefully, with this law in place, and if we learn from past mistakes, we will ensure we take good opportunity of what is available. We must recollect and we must understand that in terms of energy, the world is moving from oil and gas to clean energy. The sector is in transition.
Having this law now will help us use our resources rightly and correctly and to better the lot of our people.
Almost all our Nigerian foreign exchange income and about 60 percent of our total income are from oil and gas. So we know that and we now understand that there is a dedicated legal framework for the industry and this is exciting.
Also the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, will be converted to a limited liability company under the ownership of the Ministry of Finance. This is a positive step forward. So private sector principles will come and the waste of government will be reduced to the minimum. These should excite us. Also the oil operating company on behalf of the Joint Venture Partners, JVC, must contribute a portion of its expenses to the Host Communities Development Trust Fund. This is where I think we are interested in because we are part of the host communities.
We are closest to the operations of the oil companies in our communities. We take the brunt of their activities. The people hardly benefit. And it is the reason for the agitation and the unrest across oil and gas bearing communities in the Niger-Delta.
Is the 3 percent for host communities okay?
We will never be satisfied. If we want to look at what it was in the past, it used to be 50 percent on derivation. Now, there is the 13 percent and then 3 percent of cost of production. We will continue to appeal to that government that it is not enough. We will be in a position to do that better if we show good report regarding how we are using what presently is in the law.
Do you see this law being effectively executed?
I am hoping so, that is why I said it is an opportunity to get it right now. In the past the laws were not enforced. We are hoping that with this law all will brace up and ensure that the law is executed.
This is why the role of the host communities is very important. First, we have to ensure that the host communities own the process, they will make sure that projects are protected and they will meet the desired goals. So the people on the ground have a major role to play.
Let us see where we are coming from. The companies, in the past got youth leaders, usually, and make all kinds of Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with them, no proper supervision.
Though they said they had government supervision there but the real authority of supervision at the community level is the Palace. This is why we are saying that you have to get the traditional rulers involved this time because when government officials have issues they come to the traditional rulers to appeal to their people. So, why ignore them on this? That is why people are saying that politicians are not being fair to traditional rulers for not giving them constitutional roles. Put in the Constitution the role they should play, up till now they are still struggling with it. Their functions should not be by discretion.
In the management of oil money and resources the traditional rulers were not given any role. You just have community leaders at the community levels, form MoU with them and that is why there is no development, the people are tired and agitated.
We can say of our own area in Warri kingdom, we are not happy with how the funds had been handled by youths in the past. The people have been angry so it puts pressure on traditional leaders to ensure that peace is built.
Do you see communities being able to manage itself with the trust fund?
Traditional rulers should be involved. Moreover these days we see traditional rulers who are wise, God-fearing, and are respected. So why don’t you want to give them a chance to ensure that whatever fund that is coming to their communities is well managed? They are talking of a Board, involve the traditional rulers and their representatives in the constitution of the Board.
The project you are bringing, let the people determine it. You don’t say you have a Board, go and do this and that without consultation with the communities.
What is your take on the 30 percent fund for exploration in frontier basins?
I don’t understand the reasons for it. I don’t understand the reason for 30 percent working capital for exploration. They should give us a reason. Why is it not 10 percent?
A top official in the NNPC said the three percent is even higher than the 30 percent at the end of the day
Like I said I don’t understand it. Those saying it should give their reasons so that those of us who don’t know will learn.
What is your take on the issue of Open grazing?
First and foremost, this is something that is outdated. It is no more the ideal way to look after our cows and animals. Cows can’t just walk about on the streets, destroying farms. Open grazing is total disruption of an orderly system. And it has been abandoned in most parts of the world.
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Why should we be insisting on leading cows in our streets, going into our schools, farms? It is archaic. I can’t find the reason we should continue with it. So I support Southern governors that it should be done away with.
We can have a better way of raising our cows and animals. In other countries the animals are confined. This thing is business, those investing in it should do a proper business structure. The cows are not free. They sell them. Let government should give them loans like any other business. Let’s do it properly instead of presenting ourselves to the whole world that we don’t want peace and stability. It is a big problem today between herdsmen and farmers and it will affect food production.
On the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC
I am happy that it is ready. I don’t know what is contained in it. I am sure the Presidency will confirm the content and we will have a true picture. Certainly, it’s unfortunate already, abandonment amid so much need, money taken away, etc. These are the points.
The Presidency asked for this forensic audit, having received the report, it should make the findings known to the public.
On the crisis in the PDP
It reflects what I have said. Is there any difference in what is happening in APC and PDP? Set down, rules they don’t follow. Leaders are fighting for themselves. It is the issue of political class as I said earlier. Are we really serious about taking care of our people or some persons just want to care for themselves to the extent of destroying everybody? People have derailed from the party constitution.
In our own time, we achieved some level of the Constitution. The constitution is not personal. If we feel the constitution is not good let us meet at the convention to amend it . Don’t take laws into your hands.
On Warri kingdom
God has blessed Warri Kingdom with our new Olu , Ogiame Atuwatse III and the response we are getting after coronation shows that God establishing him as the Olu of Warri this time has triggered off revival that is not just within Warri but across Nigeria, and Africa.
People are yearning for leadership and what he has shown through the coronation and the speech, is that he understands that people are in disarray and he is ready in his own way to proffer solution.