The recent zonal public hearing of the Petroleum Industry Bill organised by the House of Representatives reveals how sectional interests dominate the thinking of most elected public office holders in Nigeria
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 6, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE public hearing of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB organised across the six geopolitical zones in the country by the House of Representatives has generated a lot of controversy. Reactions from different zones indicate that some Nigerians want the law makers to redefine the percentage being given to the host communities in the bill, while many from the northern part the country want that aspect of the bill to be removed.
In Lagos, Babatunde Fashola, governor of the state, who was represented by Taofeek Tijani, commissioner for energy and mineral resources, urged the law makers to include communities in which petroleum facilities are accommodated in the host communities as contained in the bill. Fashola explained that communities in which petroleum facilities, including pipelines, tank farms and depots are located were often subjected to conditions similar to that faced by oil producing areas when pipeline vandalism, oil spillage and gas flaring occur.
The hearing in Lagos was dominated by the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN. One of the representatives of MOMAN, who spoke at the event complained about the phenomenon of multiple taxation which members of the group are presently facing. He cited instances of how agencies under different tiers of government had been imposing various taxes on oil marketers across the country.
In Kaduna, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mukhtar Yero, governors of Kano and Kaduna States, rejected the bill completely, saying it would impoverish their states. Kwankwaso said the people of Kano State opposed the bill in its totality. “The decision to kick against the bill came after due consultation with stakeholders and the ordinary citizens of Kano State. Northern legislators must not be bought over like during the case of the offshore/onshore debate in 2002. The people of Kano State will not be deceived to endorse the Petroleum Industry Bill. The South-South region has a federal ministry; it has 13 per cent derivation; it has an amnesty programme as well as Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, against other parts of the country,” Kwankwaso said.
Governor Yero, who was represented by Hauwa Dalhatu, permanent secretary, Kaduna State ministry of justice, on his part, said the term “host communities” would amount to creating a fourth tier of government, federal, states, local and community governments. He noted that the oil producing states have the Niger Delta Development Commission and the ministry of Niger Delta, in addition to an autonomous amnesty programme to cater to the needs of restive youths and militants. “To create a host communities’ fund therefore, will not only be tantamount to creating a fourth tier of government, but also making provisions that will further alienate other parts of the country economically. The term host communities as used in the bill are nebulous,” Yero said.
Meanwhile, in Enugu, Sullivan Chime, governor of the state, who was represented by Sunday Onyebuchi, his deputy, praised the wisdom of the leadership of the House of Representatives in setting up its Ad-Hoc Committee to organise public hearings across the country on the PIB before it. Chime said that the public hearing would help the House to get the opinion of the people to enrich their knowledge and take decision on the matter. He stated that although the legislators were elected to represent and take decisions on behalf of their people, such important bill that border on the mainstay of the nation’s economy and touches on the life of the people should be brought out for public debate to carry the people along.
“Such issues on the petroleum sector of the nation’s economy must be properly handled, exhaustively discussed, so that at the end of the day, both the Nigerian people and the economy will be better for it. In your deliberations and decision making, you should eschew personal, ethnic, sectional and tribal interest and come out with bills that posterity will record you on the positive side of the history” Chime said.
In Port Harcourt, Chibuike Amaechi, governor of Rivers State, who was represented by Tele Ikuru, his deputy, urged the lawmakers to expedite action considering the importance of the bill. He lamented that the country has been producing crude oil for almost sixty years but still imports petrol, kerosene and diesel.
Despite all the controversies that greeted the hearing, some activists and oil and gas experts believe that the host communities deserved to be recognised in the bill. Godwin Ojo, executive director of environmental rights action, said since communities and individuals can own land, then the resources on such land should belong to the rightful owner. He maintained that it would be a serious oversight not to acknowledge community claims to local resources insisting that this issue has been at the heart of violent resource conflicts in the country. Ojo further advocated that the PIB should address decades of ecological devastation of the Niger Delta by putting in place remediation measures which would ensure clean-up and restoration of the environment.