By Bisi Olaniyi, Benin; Mike Odiegwu, Rosemary Nwisi, Port Harcourt; Okungbowa Aiwerie, Asaba; Polycarp Orosevwotu, Ughelli; Bassey Anthony, Uyo; Simon Utebor, Yenagoa; Gill Nsa, Calabar and Elo Edremoda, Warri
A wave of rejection and outrage Thursday greeted the National Assembly’s endorsement of three per cent contributions to the host communities’ development trust fund in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Leading voices in the Niger Delta and stakeholders slammed the federal lawmakers for the decision.
They said the provision was grossly unfair to the goose that lays the golden eggs.
They urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reject it and make it at least five per cent.
Those who condemned the three per cent provision include the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM), the Ibibio Youth Council and the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND).
PANDEF: provision a fraudulent abuse
PANDEF rejected the provision, threatening to mobilise the Niger Delta people for a protest.
Its National Chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien, said leaders of host communities would meet to deliberate on the issue.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said the group was disappointed with the development.
“PANDEF is grossly disappointed with the complete disregard and insensibility of the National Assembly to the concerns and outcry of the Niger Delta region over the three per cent that was appropriated for the Host Communities Trust Fund.
“It is surprising, but to some extent, we are not totally surprised because it is part of the conspiracy of the Nigerian state against the Niger Delta people.
“The Niger Delta and the leadership of PANDEF will meet to respond appropriately. But let this nation know that this fraudulent abuse of the rights of Niger Delta people will not be tolerated forever,” Robinson said.
Three per cent unjust, say INC, IYC
The INC and the IYC, in a joint statement, described the decision as shocking and proof that the lawmakers were obstacles to the development of the Niger Delta region, where most host communities are located.
The statement, signed by the INC President Prof. Benjamin Okaba and the IYC leader, Peter Timothy Igbifa, said the Senate had by its decision deepened the injustice, inequity and unfairness threatening the country’s unity.
The statement said it stood logic in the head that host communities sustaining the country were only qualified to receive a paltry three per cent of the entire resources from their domains despite suffering untold hardship, deprivation, marginalisation and poverty arising from the activities of oil companies.
It reads in part: “We totally reject the decision of the Senate. It cannot stand. But if it is allowed to fly, it is just proof that the entire Niger Delta, which has been at the receiving end of the activities of oil companies, sustaining the country economically, stands no chance of developing in this country.
“This decision will reinforce our agitation for resource control, self-determinism and true federalism. In the interests of equity, justice and fairness, we appeal to the Senate to reverse its decision. We earlier considered 10 per cent as small, five per cent as manageable but three per cent as a no-go area
“This insensitive position is yet another crack on the already failing Nigerian project that can only be cured by the adoption of true federalism and resource control.
“The Ijaw nation shall resist this and other obnoxious state policies and laws legally and otherwise.”
HOSTCOM: development saddening
HOSTCOM National President, High Chief Benjamin Tamaramebi, said the three per cent recommendation was wicked and insensitive.
He believes 10 per cent equity for host communities would have guaranteed the safety of oil facilities as the people would have seen themselves as part owners of the oil business.
He said: “This is a sad commentary. The betterment of civil development has been denied outrightly without recourse to critical stakeholders which we are.
“It is so sad that they feel that host communities are useless and do not deserve anything.
“The moral question for the National Assembly members is whether they have any empathy for the aborigines of the Niger Delta whose environment has been desecrated. There is God. If this bill is good for all concerned, let God judge.”
‘Buhari must reject it’
National Chairman Ibibio Youth Council, Imoh Okoko, appealed to President Buhari to reject the provision in the interest of peace and Niger Delta’s development.
A member representing Bakassi, Calabar South and Akpabuyo Federal Constituency, Essien Ayi, said three per cent was not acceptable to the people of the Niger Delta.
Ayi, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta Affair, appealed to the President to return the bill to the National Assembly for further amendment.
He said: “When we were even complaining that the five per cent was grossly inadequate, you further reduce it to three per cent. It is not acceptable to us.
“If the President considers us, he should return it to the legislature to further amend it, to reflect the wish of the people of the Niger Delta.”
A former member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Cletus Obun, said President Buhari would not allow such provision to fly.
“I know that President Buhari will not allow it to go. The Bill has to go back to the National Assembly. The minimum should not be below five per cent.
“It is a recipe for endless crisis. If the President knows what to do, we do not need to take arms and start breaking pipes.
“Even if the oil stops being the new revenue source for Nigeria today, the damage on the Niger Delta region will last for more generations than ten.
“Therefore, to ameliorate it and mitigate it, five per cent is the minimum they can go. Otherwise, it should be 10 per cent because you are going to continuously, for generations, try to regenerate the aquatic life of the area; regenerate the soil texture to make it productive and arable.”
MOSIEND: it’s unacceptable
The MOSIEND described the harmonised three per cent for host communities as unacceptable, unfortunate and unthinkable.
Its National President, MOSIEND, Comrade Kennedy Tonjo-West, said what transpired did not give the minorities any hope for a united Nigeria.
He said: “Right now, we do not have faith in this country called Nigeria. The Federal Government has made us understand that they don’t care a hoot about how other regions fare as far as they satisfy their personal and regional interests.
“Not long ago, some northern groups commended Mr President for giving Zamfara State the leverage to bargain how their gold will be sold but the same is not said or permitted of oil and gas.
“They do not feel the hardship, the environmental hazards of the people from other ethnic nationalities and feel that only three per cent is good for host communities and 30 per cent for a wild goose chase of oil exploration in the Basin.”
‘Three per cent to unfair’
A former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legborsi Pyagbara, also urged the President not to sign the bill.
The Ogoni son insisted that the battle will continue.
“We still maintain our stand that we cannot accept the three per cent. We reject it and we are calling on Mr President not to sign that bill into law.
“We cannot be in one country and have two different laws applicable under one law. When you are dealing with the solid mineral sector, you are developing it in a way that communities have effective participation in that industry,” he said.
He said while artisanal mining is allowed in some parts of Nigeria, it is abhorred in other sectors and regions.
A Niger Delta leader, Kola Edokpayi, described the provision as unacceptable.
He said the displeased Niger Deltans would continue to agitate peacefully until the host communities are allowed to have the originally proposed 10 per cent in the PIB.
He said: “I stand with the good people of Niger Delta on the proposed 10 per cent. Five per cent is even ridiculous.
“Niger Deltans will continue to press for it because crude oil and gas from the peaceful region are being used to develop other regions of Nigeria. It is unfair.
“True federalism is the answer to Nigeria’s problems, especially for each region to develop at its pace and use the resources to develop their areas, with tax to be paid to the centre.”
Two-time commissioner in Delta State, Chief Fred Okiemute Majemite, said three per cent for host communities was unacceptable.
He said: “This bill has been there for donkey years, from one legislative year to another, nothing was done. So, I’m happy that, finally, the Petroleum Industry Bill has been passed.
“We can never get enough if you look at the problem in the Niger Delta. If they say they will give us 50 per cent, it will not even be enough. The Niger Delta is grossly underdeveloped.
“Three per cent is small. We were thinking that we should not get anything less than 10 per cent so that if you add the 13 per cent derivation, it will make some sense. Or, if it is five per cent, then when you add the 13 per cent, it will be 17 per cent.
“I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to visit the creeks, you will be amazed. Not only the creeks, even the upland. You go to my mother’s village somewhere there you will be surprised to know it is an oil-producing community.
“Three per cent is small. But again, we are starting from somewhere. And I also want us to know that the host communities are not only in the Niger Delta.”
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