Politics

PIB: Ijaw Nation Development Group/Ijaw Peoples Assembly rejects NASS’ bill

IJAW NATION DEVELOPMENT GROUP, INDG, AKA IJAW PEOPLES ASSEMBLY (IPA) REJECTS THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL (PIB), 2021 AS PASSED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.

We, at Ijaw Nation Development Group aka Ijaw Peoples Assembly have perused the Petroleum Industry Bill as passed last week by the National Assembly. We must without hesitation say, that Ijaws are key stakeholders in the Petroleum Industry as we are most impacted by the activities of the industry than any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria and as such, we deserve fair treatment in the politics, economics, administration and governance of the oil and associated gas industry. INDG has therefore continued to play vital roles in collaboration with critical stakeholders to maintain peace and tranquility in the marshy terrains and the hinterlands of Ijaw territories as well as the larger Niger Delta region that have guaranteed favourable local and foreign investment environment. We shall continue to ensure peace in Ijaw territories but strictly under guarantee of environmental, human, social and economic justice.

There is no gainsaying the deleterious impact of well over five decades of oil and gas exploration on the Niger Delta ecology of which Ijaw territorial waters, inland waters and land have borne the greatest brunt. The initiative for Petroleum sector reforms dates back to the year 2000 under the administration of former president Obasanjo who inaugurated the Oil and gas reform implementation committee. The first executive bill was sent to the sixth National Assembly by the late President Umar Yar’dua in 2008. The bill then, suffered set back due to discord over 10% dedicated funds to host communities among other issues. In 2012 a redraft of the bill was sent to the seventh National Assembly and was only passed by the green chambers. The bill again didn’t see the light of the day due to controversies over same sharing formula. During the eighth Assembly under the Senate Presidency of Bukola Saraki which was during General Buhari’s first tenure, the bill was hailed to have been passed by both Chambers of the National Assembly as the Petroleum industry governance bill (PIGB) but was denied by General Buhari who declined assent to the bill without proffering reasons for rejecting the bill. The protracted rigmarole of legislation on the petroleum industry bill culminated only last week, in an objectionable legislative brigandage against host communities where a paltry 3% of operation expenditure was dedicated to the development of host communities

The bill also provided for 30% of oil profit and gas profit for Oil prospecting in frontier basins and state. These basins are predominantly in the northern parts of Nigeria and Northern Nigeria has been exhaustively explored in the past with funds from the oil in Ijaw territory and Niger Delta. Oil has not been found in those locations in commercial quantities. The areas that fall under the said explorable frontiers remain vague and unspecified in the bill.

Dedicating 30% profit to exploration activities in frontier basins that have been strategically avoided by world- class oil giants in an era where current trends in global advocacy and global actions are geared towards clean energy or renewable energy, calls for huge concerns. Little do many wonder that the 30% profit may as well be a legislative stratagem for advancing northern Nigeria agenda to the detriment of southern Nigeria. In fact, how did legislators detract from private sector investment in oil and gas exploration in the frontier basins, should we opt to continue to kick against brick wall in the oil prospecting business? Besides, same national oil company, NNPC- in same or veneered garb as provided in the bill- that has been immersed and enmeshed in humongous corruption allegations and fiscal controversies, is the same agency to administer the 30% profit share. What a travesty! Meanwhile, reports on tabloids revealed that President Buhari’s rejection of the bill as passed by the eighth Assembly has correlations with the 10% share retained by the NNPC- which to him was huge and unacceptable as alleged.

In a related development, the Solid Minerals Act (2007) is clearly at variance with the PIB as passed by the National Assembly as the latter bill lacks coterminous protective provisions for Host communities. Also, the elasticity of definition of Host communities in the latter bill is puerile. Shouldn’t mineral resources laws- solid, liquid and gas resources laws- attract same benefitting terms to the people on whose land exploration and exploitation activities occur?

INDG/ Ijaw Peoples Assembly in very strong terms rejects several aspects of the PIB as has been passed. The PIB is less than acceptable and for several reasons too.

We therefore state the following:

  • Contribution to Host communities development Trust fund should be upped to a minimum of 10% equity participation rather than paltry 3% operations expenditure as passed by the National Assembly. It is worth noting that some companies already dedicate 10% for development of host communities.

  • It is agonizing to note the surreptitious insertion of an insensitive and inciting clause that confers on several northern states, the title and benefits of “Oil- producing” States just because oil or gas pipelines pass through them to supply petroleum products to the arid, barren and unproductive northern states. The current National Assembly at the instance of Southern Senators and Southern House of Reps members redefining “oil producing” States to include any State through which oil pipelines pass is the craziest of all jokes in the PIB and amounts to legislative frenzy.

  • The 30% profit sharing be completely expunged from the bill as this provision is a ploy to further emasculate the oil- rich yet diversely and adversely impacted Niger Delta. Oil exploration in the frontier basins be done away with pronto or such venturesome activities be left within the remit of IOCs at best. There should be policy thrust in a direction where there should be a sense of scientific problem -solving in a changing world demography in the face of climate change and climate actions with focus on Ijaw territory.

  • Impact assessment, remediation and mitigation/adaptation of Ijaw environment in tandem with global best practices should be seen to be the priority of the federal government of Nigeria rather than lip service that is being offered over decades.

  • We vehemently implore Mr president, General Mohammadu Buhari NOT to assent to the bill in its current form as passed. The bill is due for harmonization by a joint session of both chambers. Amendments should be made to reflect the initial 10% mark for Host Communities development.

  • It is our collective resolve that, should the bill become an act of Parliament in its current form, Ijaws can no longer guarantee sustained peace and tranquility in the Niger Delta. The North should desist from using its assailable strength of political numeration -handed down by the treacherous British Colonial machinery- to mete out injustice to Ijaw nation, the Niger Delta and southern Nigeria at large.

  • We do know that Mr president is given to looking the other way even on issues that threaten our very existence as a nation. However, we do earnestly request him to direct the legislature to amend relevant sections of the bill in question, before it is passed into law as it can no longer be business as usual. Untoward consequences are inevitable in the current design of the bill.

  • We also make a clarion call to action that will see to the end of two sets of laws governing Mineral resources in Nigeria.

God bless Ijaw nation.

Ben Nanaghan.                                              Dortimi Kester

President.                                                       Secretary

             (Ijaw Nation Development Group).

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