With the harmonized draft Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s final assent, criticisms have continued to trail the resolution by the Senate to cut the proposed allocation from total operational surplus by the oil companies for the host communities’ development trust fund from five percent to three.
Prior to giving its approval of the draft Bill, the House of Representatives proposed an allocation of at least five percent from the initial 10 percent included in the original draft for the host communities’ development fund.
However, before producing the harmonized draft transmitted to the President for his assent, the Senate adjusted the provision to three percent.
On Thursday, former Bayelsa State governor and Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Seriake Dickson, blamed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, of being behind the decision by the Senate on the contentious issue.
Dickson accused Sylva and Kyari of unilaterally proposing 2.5 percent operating surplus to be allocated to the Niger Delta Host Communities, contrary to the five percent proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the draft PIB.
“Nigerians should ask the Minister of State for Petroleum and GMD NNPC why they came to the National Assembly to propose 2.5 percent against the 10 percent proposed by late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and 5 percent by Buhari.”
The representative of explained that before, Sylva and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, told the Senators that it is either they agreed to 2.5 percent or no investment.
“Before the passage of the Bill after deliberations and the vote, the Minister of State for Petroleum and the GMD of NNPC were invited to give the executive perspective, and they came supposedly to enlighten us (Senate) on the technical aspect of the Bill. But they told us that it is either we agree to 2.5 percent or no investment in the oil industry.
“The minister said there won’t be any investment inflow if we approved anything higher than the 2.5 percent.
In reaction to the statement by Dickson, a senator resenting Bayelsa East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, urged his colleagues from the Niger Delta region to desist from statements considered malicious and unfounded and capable of instigating violence in the region over the PIB.
Degi-Eremienyo said such a statement by the former governor was capable of instigating violence and could lead to civil unrest in the Niger Delta region.
He expressed regrets over Dickson`s statement, considering efforts by the minister to actualize the long-awaited PIB.
“The true story is that the PIB was an Executive Bill represented to the National Assembly, proposing that 2.5 percent of the total operational surplus of the oil companies be set aside as host communities’ development trust fund.
“The lead debate was hot and protracted in both Chambers. Lawmakers from the Niger Delta region, including myself spoke. We argued for an upward increase of the allocation commensurate to the contributions and sacrifices of the Niger Delta region. During the public hearing, at various centres, host communities canvassed the same position,“ Degi-Eremienyo said.
After rigorous and painstaking processes from plenary to conference committee, he said the National Assembly decided to put the host community funds at three percent.
This, he said, was the National Assembly’s decision not that of Sylva nor Kyari, wondering why they should be dragged into the issue.
While other governors from the region rallied round their people and lobbied lawmakers from other regions to support an increase in the host community development fund, the lawmaker said Dickson did nothing when he was governor.
Dickson, he said, was contented with spending 13 percent derivation on developing his own villages, not host communities, leaving the oil and gas producing host communities to suffer their fate.
“It`s ridiculous to see him pretending to be fighting for the host communities because he lacks the moral grounds to criticize and attack Sylva,” Degi-Eremienyo said.
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