…Maintains it is Designed to Undermine Niger Delta People Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark has described the newly passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as satanic, unjust, embarrassing and provocative. Clark, who is also leader, South South and Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) in an open letter to the
…Maintains it is Designed to Undermine Niger Delta People
Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark has described the newly passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as satanic, unjust, embarrassing and provocative. Clark, who is also leader, South South and Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) in an open letter to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the passed PIB has dashed the hope of the people of the Niger Delta, just as he described as fraudulent and provocative, the passed 30% provision for the Frontier Exploration Fund.
The elder statesman who condemned in very strong terms, the provision and allocation of 30 per cent of profits for further frontier oil exploration in the north declared that the Niger Delta region has had enough of the colonial oppression and will be resisted by the people who will be forced to take their destiny into their own hands.
In the letter dated 5th July, 2021 which was read on his behalf at a press briefing in his Asokoro residence, Abuja by PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, the South South leader said that the PIB as passed does not reflect the long clamour by the people of region for equity, fairness and justice.
Clark who demanded that the bill be reversed, reviewed or amended to ensure that the Oil-Bearing Communities must now receive not less than 10% of Operating Cost threatened that if not done, the Niger Delta people may be forced to ensure that all International Oil Companies, IOCs may find themselves denied access to their oil activities in such communities.
He said that the Niger Delta people are aware of what he termed, the lack lustre and conservative attitude of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who he said is indeed a great obstacle to the smooth running of the country, and to her unity and oneness.
The letter reads in part, “Given the depth of ingratitude expressed and delivered after decades of exploitation and neglect of the region, the entire people of the Niger Delta region, for and on behalf of the host communities, vehemently reject the following aspects of the bill: The 3% and 5% of Operating Expenditure granted to the Host Communities;
The fraudulent and provocative 30% provision for the Frontier Exploration Fund
“The PIB must be reversed, reviewed and amended to ensure that the Oil-Bearing Communities must now receive not less than 10% of Operating Cost. If this is not done, the Niger Delta people may be forced to take their destiny into their own hands and all IOCs may find themselves denied access to their oil activities in such communities.
“We want to warn seriously, that the people of the Niger Delta have had enough of this colonial and oppressive mentality of our Northern brothers and friends. Today, the north controls the Oil Sector, even though day-to-day operations are being handled by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The ownership, control, marketing, maintenance, management and the accruable benefits from the operations of the IOCs are in the hands of some Northerners. Appointments to the top most positions in the Oil Companies owned by the Federal Government are in the hands of the North who have at least 25 Managerial appointments, up to the position of Group Managing Director (GMD).
“And only few of these positions are held by Southerners, and fewer still by the Niger Delta, the home of oil production, an area which produces over 91% of the total oil production, and who are the true owners of these God-given resources, contrary to the bogus and fraudulent claim by some uninformed persons that they own the oil because it was the revenue generated from groundnut that was used to develop the oil industry.”
Clark’s letter further said, “My Distinguished President of the Senate and The Rt. Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, we have noticed with dismay, anger, disappointment and embarrassment, the oppressive and domineering attitude of most members of the National Assembly (NASS) over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), now due for imminent harmonisation by the National Assembly.
“At the Public Hearings in January 2021, representatives from the Niger Delta continued to insist on the principle of the 10% equity participation. However it seems as if this has continued to fall on deaf ears; from the Press Reports on 2nd July 2021, it seems as if the principle of the Host Communities Trust Fund being funded based upon Operating Expenditure is being proposed by both houses of the National Assembly, much to the disappointment of the Region. We have heard that the House of Representatives have seen fit to increase the percentage from 2.5% to 5% for Upstream Host Communities – those who are directly impacted by the exploration and production activities of the Oil & Gas operators – whilst a percentage of 2% would be applied to communities that are host to midstream and downstream infrastructure, such as refineries and pipelines; however, we have also heard that the Senate has only seen fit to set the percentage as 3%.
“The people of the Niger Delta, at all levels both at home and abroad, have expressed their great displeasure over the satanic and obnoxious allocation of a paltry percentage of Operating Expenditure to Oil Producing Communities by the National Assembly. It is important to state clearly here to all well-meaning Nigerians that the demand of the oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta Region was for a minimum of 10% equity participation.
“But you Mr. Senate President, the Right Honourable Speaker and some of your colleagues in the National Assembly, have further shown your disdain to the Niger Delta people by redefining host communities to include pipeline-bearing pathway communities, in which case States where pipelines pass through to aid them with the privilege of cheap supplies of Niger Delta petroleum products could also be entitled to the ridiculous and unacceptable percentages that the legislators are willing to cede to oil-bearing Communities.
“The long suffering and oppressed people of the oil-bearing communities of the Niger Delta are not surprised at the news that the National Assembly finally passed the PIB, albeit the lofty dreams and vaunted expectations of over two decades of legislative dilly-dally had been dashed. This unhealthy anti-climax is a predictable end as northern Legislators combined with the dilutional efforts of IOCs to pass an unjust piece of legislation to deny our people the benefits of the resources in their region.
“The kernel of the Bill passed is to deny our people commensurate benefits of the resources of our region while using our natural resources to earn profits for everyone other than the Oil-Bearing Communities in the value chain and increasingly fatten the profits of IOC investors who are miles away from our communities.
“This also brings to mind some of the assertions by some northerners that while the land belongs to the people of the Niger Delta Region who live on it, whatever is underneath it, belongs to everyone nationally. This negates the principle “Quic quid plantatur solo, sosocedit” which means that something affixed to the land is part of the land; therefore, whoever owns that piece of land will also own the things attached to the land. That is why in Zamfara State, where gold is mined, the land belongs to the State, as does the minerals underneath it. But in the Niger Delta, the same doesn’t seem to apply; the Federal Government has maliciously laid claim to the oil minerals under the land. What double standard! Different rules and laws for different parts of the same country.
“The issue of real local content, that is to say, for Niger Deltans in general and the Host Communities in particular to play a major part in the Oil Industry is something that we consider our inalienable right. In spite of assurances in the past that efforts would be made to prioritize Niger Deltan content, there is very little evidence of it happening in real terms.
“During the Government of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, it was agreed that when the Federal Government divests of its equity in its JVs with the IOCs, that 10% would be given to the Host Communities; however we see no sign of any commitment to this in any of the recent versions of the Petroleum Industry Bill, or any mention of it in any other Government Bill or Policy.
“As part of the Pan Niger-Delta Forum’s (PANDEF) 16 Point Agenda, we demanded inclusive participation in the Oil Industry, covering issues such as the ownership of oil blocks, marginal fields as well as the boards and personnel of parastatals and agencies such as NNPC and its subsidiaries. Sadly we are yet to see any real progress in any of these areas and the latest version of the Petroleum Industry Bill does nothing to address these issues.
“Instead, in spite of us as the owners of the land wanting to be real equity participants in the Oil Industry, that is to say to be owners, shareholders, directors and senior management in Local Oil Companies, International Oil Companies and Oil Contractors, the concept of Host Communities Trust Fund is being imposed upon us. On good authority, we are aware that hours before the Bill was passed, the International Oil Companies (IOCs), convened the Nigerian co-conspirators in hotels that some of us as stakeholders monitored. And these IOCs were doing what they had done over the years to delay and deny host oil-bearing communities of the 10% minimum percentage that they had demanded.
“We emphasise that the Federal Government or the three Regional Governments, namely the Northern Region, the Western Region and the Eastern Region, did not participate in the production of oil when it was first discovered or first struck as far back as 1956, in Oloibiri, in the then Eastern Region, now part of Bayelsa State.
“It will be recalled that in 2009, a member of the House of Representatives, on the floor of the House, arrogantly and provocatively demanded that our people of the Niger Delta who occupy the oil producing areas, should be relocated by the Federal Government, in order to give free access for oil exploration. It is unimaginable how someone can think of such atrocities against fellow men.
“Either coincidentally or by design, the Military waged an all-out war on Gbaramatu, an Ijaw clan in Warri Division, where oil and gas are produced in large quantities. Several persons were killed, and villages and towns burnt down, including Oporoza, Okerenkoko and Kurutie, where the Nigeria Maritime University is now located. Again, at the 2014 National Conference which was attended by 492 delegates drawn from the entire federation, where it was earlier resolved to increase the 13% Derivation provided in Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to a minimum of 18% instead of the 25% which we demanded for, the same Northern beneficiary raised objections.
“In order not to truncate the Conference, a committee was set up comprising 50 of us, named “Committee of 50 Wise men”. That Committee recommended to the Conference that the matter should be referred to Mr. President to take a decision. The Conference took that recommendation. The 13% which was entrenched in the Constitution since 1999 as the minimum percentage for derivation, has not been increased by even 1% for the past 22 years because of the oppressive nature and selfishness of those who believe that the country belongs to them, and so should be the only beneficiaries of the oil. Therefore, the status quo should remain.
“We are aware of the lack lustre and conservative attitude of Mr. Senate President,Dr Ahmad Lawan, who is indeed a great obstacle to the smooth running of the country, and to her unity and oneness. We wish to advise him strongly that no one can force other Nigerians to be in the so-called united Nigeria where the citizens are not equal, and where some people do not have opportunity to aspire to positions they are qualified to attain. And where Southern Nigerians who are already in Service are being replaced by Northerners, even when some of the Northerners are being called back from retirement.
“At this juncture, I wish to reproduce some extracts from a letter, dated 9th September 2005; a letter I addressed to our revered former President and my friend, His Excellency, late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in reply to a letter he wrote to me after we staged a walk-out from the National Conference in 2005, where he wanted to build bridges between the South-South and the North. In that letter, I categorised the contributions of each region to the economy of Nigeria.
“Funding of the Frontier Exploration Fund, Meanwhile, an additional 30% has been awarded to the Funding of the Exploration of Frontier Basins (Frontier Exploration Fund). The newly proposed Upstream Regulator, the Commission, has a number of responsibilities with respect to what is referred to as “Frontier Basins”, especially with respect to their exploration.
“The proposed bill goes on to state that the Commission may request the services of the commercialised National Oil Company, NNPC Limited, to drill or test prospects and leads where no commercial entity has publicly expressed an intention to do the same. The bill puts the responsibility for the definition of frontier basins within the remit of regulation issued by the Commission and goes on to propose the establishment of a Frontier Exploration Fund as a means of funding the exploration of these Frontier Basins.
“It is not clear to us where these Frontier Basins currently reside. We the people of the Niger Delta would be more than happy were all the regions of Nigeria to be oil producing; however, we must be careful to use the resources put at our disposal as judiciously as possible. Rather than using our Country’s funds to exploit its existing resources, we are using our scarce funds on exploring for oil in the North, an exercise that many industry stakeholders have described as “wasteful”, others have labelled “a wild goose chase” and “a purely political exploration”.
“So the recommendation made by the Ad-Hoc Committee that the funding to the Frontier Exploration Fund, which previously had been based upon 10% of rents on Petroleum Prospecting Licenses and Petroleum Mining Leases should be augmented by an additional 30% from the newly commercialised “NNPC Limited’s profit oil and profit gas as in the production sharing, profit sharing and Risk service contracts” took us entirely by surprise.
“It is not clear where this recommendation came from; those of our representatives that attended the Public Hearings do not recall hearing any request for additional funding for the Frontier Exploration Fund from any industry stakeholder. Therefore we totally condemn it, not only the concept itself but also the means via which it was smuggled into the Bill,” Clark concluded.