A tacit endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision not to sign the troubled Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) appear came from some stakeholders in the Niger Delta, who view the proposed law as inimical to the interest of the region.They were, however, quick to stress that they were not averse to the reformation of the oil industry as long as it takes care of their clamour for resource control.
Former Petroleum Minister, Prof Tam David-West, told The Guardian that the PIGB was defective in several aspects, including the planned unbundling of the NNPC into two limited liability companies that would pave way for the privatisation of the country’s oil and gas assets.David-West argued that all that is required to manage the NNPC, was honesty and dedication, alleging that anyone suggesting that the NNPC should be unbundled into two limited liability companies so that the national oil and gas assets can be sold in the stock exchange is a criminal.
“Oil generates over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and our national budget. It is the country’s livewire and they want to go to the stock market to sell it to a few moneybags that will control the country forever. I don’t support it because it will not make Niger Delta better. The problem of the Niger Delta is neglect and things can be made better if the government and oil companies become more responsive,” he said.
Also, the former chairman of the board of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Ledum Mitee, said the people of the Niger Delta are not opposed to any reform of the petroleum industry that is supposed to break the NNPC’s monopoly and infuse some transparency in the way the oil industry is being run.
Mitee who is the past leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) said people are gravely concerned about certain provisions of the PIGB that aims to sell the national oil company out through a process, which will make only rich people to own the company through skewed privatisation.
“Reforms can be carried out without necessarily privatising the national oil company, else it means that they are just taking what should otherwise be ours and giving it to other persons. That means we are now deprived of all the necessary stakes in what God has given us in our own land. There are other aspects of the bill, including the one they are considering now that is also inimical to the Niger Delta because, when you go through some of the provisions of what they have done in these bills, it reduces the 13 per cent derivation. When you look at the fiscal provision, what our people would get as 13 per cent provision will be reduced,” said Mitee.
Dr. Joseph Ellah, a former Group General Manager, Corporate Planning and Development Division of NNPC, who emphasised that PIGB’s primary objective is government’s divestment from the oil and gas industry, implored Buhari never to sign the bill, insisting that it is inimical to interest of the Niger Delta and the country.He explained that it would be unjust to take oil and gas from the Niger Delta people, through the Petroleum Act and make it a national asset, and thereafter turn around under the PIGB to hand it over to a few private entities.
Based on historical antecedents, Ellah argued that nations that have subscribed to massive wholesale privatisation of their natural resources almost always experience disastrous outcomes, as none has ever emerged economically strong thereafter.Disgusted by the intrigues surrounding the PIGB, a prominent Ijaw leader, Prof. Kimse Okoko, warned that any bill that further tries to alienate the Niger Delta people would reignite the agitation for resource control.
“PIGB will not augur well for us because we too will not have control over our oil, unless we are able to succeed in pushing through the process of writing a new constitution that guarantees full resource control. The Bill is inimical to the interest of the Niger Delta, and those who will benefit from the privatisation exercise will obviously not be from the Niger Delta. They will be those that are buoyant enough to buy shares. We don’t have control over the oil industry now, but it will be worse if the current PIGB comes into force. If the PIGB is signed into law, it will reignite the agitation for resource control which is part of the clamour for restructuring,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has expressed disappointment at Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Bill, urging him to re-think his decision in national interest.It regretted that in spite of his promise to reform the oil and gas sector during the electioneering campaigns, and repeatedly after his election, “nothing tangible has been done in the sector.”
The group, however, called on the National Assembly, which has demonstrated commitment by the passage of the Bill to consider overriding the President’s veto as representatives of the Nigerian people, in order to demonstrate that power truly belongs to the people.CISLAC, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, said it believes that if the government were serious about addressing corruption in the oil and gas sector, an executive bill ought to have been sent to the National Assembly early in the life of this administration but this was not done.
The statement signed by the group’s Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, said that throughout the legislative process, relevant agencies and stakeholders made inputs into the Bill during the public hearing and through other channels, adding that it was shocking that after all these we are back to where we were as a nation 12 years ago.
Musa said: “We find it frustrating and disappointing that this government has spent its tenure without properly addressing this key important sector of our economy where corruption, inefficiency, community conflict and sabotage have been institutionalized.
“CISLAC considers this refusal to assent as a big failure on the part of this government and a lost opportunity to reform the sector and transform to meet up with global standards.“The President, who is also the minister for Petroleum Resources has only superficial reform to show under his leadership, as he was in the position to muster the political will to drive deeper reforms,” the statement read.
Culled from: The Guardian