Protest against the allocation of 3% oil companies’ operating expenses (OPEX) mandated by the passed Petroleum Industry Bill, (PIB) for the Host Community Trust Fund is assuming a dangerous dimension with an alleged mobilization of some militant groups in the Niger Delta to go back to the creeks to vent their anger on oil facilities.
Few days ago, a militant group, the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, (NDRC) was reported to have directed its field commanders in the Niger Delta to mobilize back to the creeks and await final order for the resumption of hostilities in the region.
This is coming on the heels of advise given, few days ago, by former governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Seriake Dickson, to the effect that the 3% provided for Host Communities in the PIB was capable of igniting unrest and violence in the Niger Delta.
Dickson who represents Bayelsa West in the National Assembly in the Senate, it would be recalled, had advised President Muhammadu Buhari to delay assenting to the PIB law, pending a stakeholders’ meeting in order to calm frayed nerves following the unsatisfactory provision of 3% in the bill for the host communities.
He advised: “I am not happy with the three per cent that was eventually passed. Most of us disagree completely and that was why I led my other colleagues from the south-south to stage a walk out.
“We believe that there should be a review of the legislation. There shouldn’t be a signature yet. President Buhari shouldn’t assent to it yet.
“It should be delayed for more consultative and inclusive work so that while trying to solve problems, you don’t create more problems.
“If the President has not guaranteed security in the north-east, south-east, south-west and north-west, it will be against the national interest to open another frontier of conflicts perhaps in the only region that is enjoying relative stability because of the policies that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua initiated.”
Meanwhile, the Senator representing Bayelsa East, Biobarakuma Wangagha Degi-Eremienyo had interpreted Dickson’s advice as capable of instigating violence in the Niger Delta
On Saturday, the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC handed down order to its field Commander to get prepared for an attack on oil and gas facilities in the creeks.
The group, in a statement issued by its spokesperson, W.O. Izon-Ebi recently, condemned the 3% provided for the host community in the PIB, just as it voiced its resentment on the 30% provided for Frontier Exploration Fund, (FEF) for oil search in basins outside the Niger Delta region.
It described the bill as an economic coup against the people of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian nation, adding that it amounts to the desecration of the region with environmental degradation and pollution that have been visited on the area for more than six decades. The group said it would fight until the obnoxious sections of the PIB were reviewed by the National Assembly.
The Statement which was titled ‘We Will Defend Our God-Given Resources’, read in part: “For 56 years, the region has suffered desecration of its sacred places like worship centres, lands, streams, lakes and severe environmental degradation without remediation.
“While the government and people of Zamfara state are allowed to control 100% of their gold resource (fiscal Federalism applying in Zamfara State), what the people of the Niger Delta region could get from their own natural resources is a paltry 3% for host communities and in contrast, a whopping 30% for exploration of frontier basins.
“This is an economic coup against the people of the region; it is an insult, a daylight robbery and betrayal by the Nigerian government.
“The region embraced peace because it was the most civilized thing to do in order to give way for proper dialogue, genuine government commitment and re-ideological construct about the Niger Delta region.
“Unfortunately, about 11 years of giving peace a chance in the region, the Nigerian government has rather become ruthless to the region through obnoxious statutes. These are our genuine concerns and our grievances.”
“The commanders in the region have been directed to go back to the creeks and wait for further directive on the next line of action. We will defend our resources and protect our region from further mindless pillage of our God-given resources.”
It would be recalled that barely one week ago, the Host Communities of Nigeria, oil and gas, HOSCON celebrated the passing of the PIB into law by the National Assembly, marking the ceremony with a thanksgiving to God in Greater Glory Mission Church in Warri, Delta State.
The event which was graced by the National Chairman of the body, Bishop Dr. Mike Emuh, the founder of the group, Chief Wellington Okirika and representatives of various ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta including the leadership of Pipelines Surveillance of Nigeria, (PSN) also witnessed a celebration march along major streets of the oil city of Warri.
Addressing newsmen on the occasion, the national chairman of HOSCON, Emuh described the allocation of 3% to the Host Communities as a victory ordained by God, adding that for nearly two decades, the group had prayed to God to touch the heart of the national lawmakers to pass the PIB into law.
According to him, the development calls for celebration because though small, the 3% is a starting point, adding that it be can progressively reviewed upward in the future. He stated that the 3% translates to about N300 billion yearly to be ploughed into the development of the devastated Niger Delta, lamenting that for more than six decades of oil exploitation in the region, there has not been any time N1 billion is invested into the welfare of the pauperized Niger Delta people.
Emuh said: “The South South geopolitical zone happens to be the basket that produces over 90% of revenue into the national economy and there have not been any law that is favourable to the host communities. But as God will have it today, the 9th National Assembly has just signed the PIB into law giving us 3% and in the Bill we are going to have the Host Communities Trust Fund Commission.
“3% from whatever angle is not less than N300 billion a year and we are yet to get even N1 billion a year before. And so, let us start from somewhere. We should appreciate what the National Assembly has done by giving us 3% which is subject to upward review with time.
“So, we want to celebrate the National Assembly. So, here we are saying thanks to the National Assembly, TROMPCON, UPU, IDU, INC, and others for supporting the host communities and for maintaining peace.
“Here we have HOSCON for unity, peace and progress. That is what we stand for. Here we are saying Niger Deltans and all peace-loving Nigerians pass a vote of confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari. He is our father. A man who gives you what belongs to you is who you love. Not the one who deny you your right.
“The Niger Delta we are today is the most peaceful geopolitical zone out of the six geopolitical zones in terms of security. So, I want to say thank you for upholding peace.”
As at the time of this report, The New Diplomat cannot immediately confirm if the militant commanders have returned to the creeks in readiness for action as contained in their statement. Meanwhile, the National Assembly is on its annual recess and would only resume plenary sometime in September, 2021.