By Lateef Adegbite
In spite of the fact that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which had been on the drawing board over the last 20 years has been signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, on Monday, August 16, 2021, barely one month after it was passed into Law, by the National Assembly, it has continued to receive hard knocks from different quarters.
This because of the meagre 3% allocation of the yearly operating expenditure of the Oil Producing Companies to the host Communities. although, Bashir Ahmad, Special Assistant to the Kastina state born Nigerian President on Digital and New Media had said that ‘’it would overhaul and transform the nation’s oil industry , ensure good governance , accountability, creation of a Commercially orientated national Petroleum Company and fostering a conducive business environment for Petroleum operations,’’ critics see it as very amusing.
Their anger was that the Nigerian President had concerned concerned himself more with the anticipated huge revenue that would accrue to the government and the fair return to the investors in the nation’s oil industry in order to step up their investment in the sector. They believe that the retired Army General gave room to the Lawan Ahmad , led Senate and the Femi Gbajabimiala controlled House of Representatives who are ever ready to do his biddings to rubber stamp the proposed PIB, which was presented to the two Chambers in four segments, forming separate bills.
Note that the reviews PIB compared to theinitial proposal that was said to have been presented to the National Assembly in 2008, by Late President Umaru Yar’Adua, in 2008 Under the new PIB, which hve the Petroleun Industry Governance bill, Fiscal Regime bill, Upstream and Mistream Administration bill and Petroleum Host Communities bill, may have given critics the impression that masterminded the approval of the 3% allocation of the operating cost of the Oil companies to the host Communities.
Informed sources told The Value news if it was possible to have further reduced the allocation to the host communities before presenting the proposed PIB to the National Assembly, he could have done it. The hot debate that was said to have characterized the passage of the PIB over the 3% allocation to host Communities last July speaks volume.
Depite the heated debate on the contentious issue, which was said to have almost polarized the National Assembly, along paty lines, the Lawmakers had rubber stamped the 3% allocation of the yearly operating cost of the oil firms to the host Communities in the nine oil producing states in the Niger Delta, comprising of Akwa- Ibom, Bayela, Cross river, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Abia and Imo.
Note that with the passage of the PIB and the Presidential accent to it to become Law, which many see as a bold step to effectively monitor the nation’s oil industry, it has continued to incurred the anger of the people of the Niger Delta who were said to have demanded for 5% allocation of the operating cost of the oil companies to the host communities.
It is not surprising why some of the governors of theNiger Delta states are not happy over the development, and have vowed to make their declaration on the issue soon. They were said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that the 3% allocation of the operating cost of the oil companies to the host communities in the region is too small , considering ‘’ the risks and hazards members of the host Communities are subjected to’’.
Akin Oyebode, a Professor of International Law, at University of Lagos, who could not hide his feelings may have strengthened the resolve of the Niger Delta governors to battle the Federal government over the 3% allocation of the Oil Companies operating cost to the host Communities when he faulted it.
The University Don had said that’’ the 3% allocation amounts to nothing compared to the suffering of the people of the affected host communities’’. He was said to have drawn the attention of the Lawmakers when he said : I think we have to recognise that what we really have are oil –bearing areas and not oil –producing areas , insisting that ‘’the relationship between the International oil companies and the oil-bearing communities needs to be strengthened out’’. According to the erudite Professor, ‘’3% allocation of the yearly operating expenditure to the host communities is a pittance for those who suffer the encumbrance of producing oil’’.
He noted that ‘’the comitant of ravage of the environment and then, the fact of the unpleasantness of heat coming from gas flaring , resulting in cancer and other sicknesses ravaging the people of the host Communities, need to be Compensated for.
He would want the Lawmakers to take another look on the PIB by putting into critical consideration ‘’the health condition of the people and the hardship faced by the people due to the oil spills and other factors’’.
Bismarck Rewane, a member of Buhari Economic Advisory Council, a Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company Limited had said that the 3% allocation of the yearly operating expenditure of the oil companies to the host communities ‘’was not the ideal, optimal compensation’’ for the host communities. He has his reason. The people of the host communities are suffering due to oil exploration in the region.
In his apparent reaction to the 3% allocation of the yearly operating expenditure of the host Communities as contained in the PIB, Nyensom Wike, governor of Rivers state and a strong critic of the Buhari Administration, has asked the Federal government ‘’to checkmate the spending of the allocated Funds to the host Communities by the oil Companies’’ to avoid abuse. He noted that ‘’leaving the host companies with the Funds will cause a lot of crisis’’.
Perhaps, this may have informed why Rewane, who incidentally is from Delta state, has suggested that ‘’all such contributions should be deposited in a trust Fund for he Communities’’. He had said that the trust Fund is the only thing that ‘’will enhance peace and cordial relationship between the oil companies and the host communities.
Aware that the 3% allocation of the oil companies yearly operating expenditure to the host communities in the Niger Delta is too small compared to the suffering of the people may have informed why some northern Leaders have advocated for an increase in the percentage allocation to guarantee peace in the region.
Sylva Temipre, a former governor of Bayelsa state and minister of state, Petroleum Resources, may have known that here is trouble ahead over the 3% allocation of the yearly operating cost of the oil companies to the host companies that he has promised that’’ the government will again engage the Niger Delta Oil producing communities to rub minds. The minister may have been forced to speak out when on Friday, August 13, 2021, when a group of Ijaw elders, Leaders and other critical stakeholders in the region visited to congratulate him on the passage of the PIB, after 20 years of being on the drawing board.
To ensure that the Youths of the host communities would not express their anger in a very violent way over the meagre 3% allocation of the oil companies operating cost to them, may have informed why the industry stakeholders alongside Temipre, the minister of state, Petroleum Resources and Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture are planning to hold town hall meetings in the host communities ‘’to sensitise the people on the need to secure public assets in their areas’’.