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NIGER Delta leaders and prominent groups from the region have expressed mixed reactions following the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly.
While commending the Ninth National Assembly for making the bill a reality after about 20 years in limbo, some of the stakeholders rejected the three per cent of oil companies’ profit allocated to host communities by the lawmakers.
A retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police(DIG), Udom Udo Ekpoudom, has slammed lawmakers from the oil-rich Niger Delta region over the Petroleum Industry Bill recently passed into law by the National Assembly.
Ekpoudom argued that the National Assembly members from the region did not do enough in ensuring a better package for host communities in the recently passed bill.
He said the lawmakers may have been sleeping when only three percent of the five percent was allotted to host communities, adding that National Assembly members from the area have failed their people.
The retired DIG and stalwart of the All Progressives Congress(APC), however, insisted that the three percent be reviewed upwards for the sake of peace and justice for the host communities.
”If you are from the area affected you can’t be happy. If you go to a place like Rivers State, you can’t wash your clothes and air them outside because within one hour they become charcoal, and they went and approved only three percent.
“Nobody from the Niger Delta is happy. The only solution is that the National Assembly should adjust it and make it meaningful. They shouldn’t take us for a ride. They can’t take our oil resources and develop their places and give us a paltry three percent. It is not fair. If they are honest and really want peace in the country, they should reverse the injustice they have done. They should stop maltreating the minority groups in the country.
“I don’t know if our lawmakers were sleeping. We should be mindful of those we send to the state and National Assemblies. We shouldn’t send people who are going to look for money only and come back. We should send people who love their areas and this country,” he said.
The President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the three per cent approved by the National Assembly was too small.
Okaba said that the approved percentage was a far cry from the demand of host communities and the governors of the region, and should be increased to reflect the plight of the people.
He said: “We, in collaboration with the governors recommended 10 per cent. We still insist that is the minimum that is good enough for the host communities. We are talking about the people who suffer degradation as a result of the direct impact of neglect. We must begin to change strategies of this top-bottom approach and embrace bottom-top approach.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) worldwide, while commending the National Assembly for passing the PIB, rued the allocation of only three per cent profit from oil companies to host communities.
He said: “This is grossly inadequate. Prior to the passage, many stakeholders appealed to the National Assembly to allocate five per cent profit to the host communities.
“We even considered the five per cent poor. But reducing it to three per cent is unimaginable and unacceptable. Communities, who own these resources and suffer the devastation of oil exploration and exploitation deserve more than three per cent”.
Igbifa called on the National Assembly members to review the profit upward to five per cent before presenting the passed bill to the President for his assent.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to insist on five per cent profit to host communities before signing the bill into law.
The President-General of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Olorogun Moses Taiga, also commended the lawmakers for breaking the jinx but called for an “objective and realistic review of funding for the host community trust fund.”
Taiga noted that the oil and gas host communities, for many decades, suffered untold infrastructural neglect, environmental degradation, rights deprivation and other socioeconomic ills.
He said it was only fair that the PIB compensated them for the injustices meted on them by reviewing funding allocation before presenting the bill to President Buhari for his assent.
A former Deputy Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Orok Otu Duke, equally expressed displeasure over the three percent profit allocation to the oil producing region.
Duke said: “It should be left at five percent if that is the highest the legislature can consider for the host community.
“I will wait for harmonization of the two chambers but I don’t know why the Senate had to reduce the percentage from 5% to 3%. It is unfortunate that some people, who are not within the Niger Delta could be so callous in their analysis of the situation in the region.
“The whole country stood behind the North -East and supported them to have a Development Commission after a situation that was man-made in terms of them fighting among themselves to destroy infrastructure in their area.
“But here we are in the Niger Delta, where oil exploration and exploitation has devastation our communities, yet the legislature cannot give us the little we are asking for. If they couldn’t grant the 10% and above which the people demanded, they should leave at 5%.”