Stakeholders in Niger Delta have cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against signing the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), alleging that it seeks to privatise the country’s oil and gas assets and to further impoverish the people of the region.
They warned that any attempt to privatise the oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta under the guise of the PIGB would reignite the clamour for resource control.
Spokesman of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, said the only oil reform bill that would be acceptable to the people of the Niger Delta was the original Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which had earmarked 10 percent equitable share for the oil producing communities.
He stated that any attempt to repeal the 13 percent derivation which is constitutional, would reignite the clamour for complete ownership of all oil and gas resources by the host communities of the Niger Delta.
The stakeholders warned against plans to repeal the Niger Delta Development Commission Act and abolition of the presidential amnesty programme.
“Amnesty is a security tool to restore peace in the Niger Delta, so if they joke with that and abolish it and violence returns to the region, that is their own cup of tea,” he added.
Former Group General Manager, Corporate Planning and Development Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Joseph Ellah, urged President Buhari to resist pressure to sign the PIGB into law, claiming that it is against national interest.
Ellah described the PIGB as a deliberate privatisation bill designed to strip Nigeria of all her oil and gas assets and to impoverish the oil-producing states of the country.
He stated that every discerning mind who had critically studied the PIGB would know that its sole objective is to completely transfer the oil and gas assets of the federation to a few wealthy individuals waiting for the unbundling of the NNPC which would pave the way for them to capture the oil and gas resources of the nation.
“If the president signs the PIGB, he signs himself, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Nigeria’s oil and gas away. The PIGB is a privatisation bill. Do Nigerians realise that the PIGB is aimed at selling off all the oil and gas assets to private people?” he queried.
Ellah argued that African countries such Zambia and Ghana that privatised their copper and gold mines are yet to recover from the mistake of selling off their natural resources. He pointed out that while these natural resources are still in these nations, they are owned by multinationals which now pay royalty to the respective national governments.
The former NNPC chief explained that PIGB, if signed into law, would drastically reduce the revenue accruable to the Federal Government, states, particularly, the oil-producing ones.
“If you sell off the oil and gas where will you get 13 percent derivation from? The Niger Delta states and the Federal Government will depend mainly on royalty. The 13 percent derivation is based on sales of crude. If they sell off the crude oil and gas assets, that will be the end of 13 percent derivation,” he said.
President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Eric Omare, urged the proponents of abolition of the NDDC Act to bear in mind that it is a special law aimed at tackling development challenges of the Niger Delta.