As we await the assent of President Mohammadu Buhari on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), we will not fail to commend the 9th National Assembly for the passage of this all-important bill that took a protracted journey before landing ashore. This is not the first time this bill would pass through the legislative mills, because the 8th National Assembly passed it but the president declined assent, pointing out some grey areas that warranted his decision to decline his assent. So, the accolades being bestowed on the 9th National Assembly, should be treated with utmost caution because the president is yet to see and assent to this all-important bill that would regulate and position the oil and gas industrial sector of the economy.
At least the bill has been passed, but it is not yet Uhuru as some Nigerians would say. Experts are confident that there is at least a green light at the end of the tunnel for the oil and gas sector. The bill which completely unbundles the oil and gas sector is expected to make that sector which is a haven of malfeance to run effectively and efficiently.
The Bill which gives three percent of revenue accruals to “host communities”, is commendable but paltry. My concern is the definition of “host communities”. Which one is “Impacted Communities”? As my brothers would say if oil is exploited from my backyard and transported to Kaduna through pipelines that passes through Kafanchan which is located in Kaduna state, my community which is the “host community” will share proceeds with Kafanchan which is located far away north because Kafanchan is an “impacted” community.
The Senate came up with a new Fraudulent jargon called “Frontier Exploration”, for which they have earmarked 30% of NNPC profits to be servicing these Frontier Explorations yearly. Mind you, all the so called Frontier Exploration projects are domiciled in the North : – Chad basin, Borno etc. So automatically, 30% or more (totally about 48%) of NNPC profits will be going to the North that do not produce a single drop of oil, while the remaining will be shared be the Federating States
This alone tends to show that this county is “not balanced”. How can a community In far north share revenues with a community in Niger Delta just because of simple nomenclature of “host and impacted communities”.
Another area of concern is that of gas flaring, the bill only touched the surface, but never gave specifics on when and how gas flaring would end in this county. We can go on and on but all is not all well yet, so the PIB still remains work in progress. If the president eventually appends his signature on the bill, we all should go back and take a retrospective look at the law and rework it to favour the yearnings and aspirations of the people mostly the “host communities” whose environment has been degraded and dispolated as a result of the devastating effects of oil pollution due to exploration and exploitation.
I am deeply concerned about how the host communities would share their revenues equitably and fairly too. Maybe this time around the oil giants would introduce a new method of divide and rule to further cause problems in the oil bearing communities.
On the host Community Trust Fund, there should be an objective, realistic and genuine review uphand of the fund to at least 10 percent when both chambers meet to harmonized their position on the bill.
The President Mohammadu Buhari knows that the Niger Delta have suffered untold environmental degradation, untold infrastructural deficit and rights violations, therefore it would only be fair for the PIB to correct these aged long maladies like environmental and socio-economic injustices metted out to the people. Since the PIB is not an end, but just a means to an end it would be in the interest of stakeholders to continue to dialogue, while using the instrumentalities of the PIB to achieve development in the country and the Niger Delta in particular.
I commend the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, and all lawmakers from the Niger Delta region for their roles in the passage of the PIB, the struggle continues.