Stakeholders in Niger Delta have urged President Muhammad Buhari not to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) because its intent is the privatisation of the country’s oil and gas resources by vested interest.
They also warned that if the bill is signed into law by the President, derivation accruable to oil-producing states will be drastically diminished and might trigger off a new wave of unrest in the Niger Delta.
A former Group General Manager, Upstream Investment Division of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Joseph Ellah, in a paper titled “Implication of the new PIGB for Nigeria, Niger Delta and the common man,” which he presented at the University of Port Harcourt, Claude Ake School of Government yesterday, urged the President to be weary of the bill because no oil producing country has ever privatised its oil and gas resources which the bill tends to achieve.
Ellah said that the proposed creation of a National Petroleum Company had been designed by the National Assembly to pave way for the country’s assets to be transferred to one or two individuals who have what it takes to approach the stock exchange for the purpose of buying the oil and gas assets which was originally owned by the people of Niger Delta.
According to him, similar attempts had been made in the past to appropriate the oil resources through the leasing of assets and contract/asset management Degree of 1995; vision 2010, NAPIMS ltd, PIB and NNPC Ltd.
Ellah warned that if the president signs the bill to law, the country will suffer a major blow as it would be denied of profit of oil and gas sold, as it will now merely rely on petroleum product tax and royalty due to the fact that the country no longer has participatory interests.
He stated that with the divestment of the oil and gas reserves, there would be no need for the other sections of the Petroleum Industry Bill or even discussion on restructuring the oil sector.
According to him, the ultimate aim of the lawmakers was to destroy the NNPC, sell off the oil and gas reserves to a few Nigerians and foreigners, and then leave the people of the Niger Delta and the rest of ordinary Nigerians to wallop in abject poverty.
Ellah also faulted the so-called incorporation of the Nigeria petroleum liability management company because it was an aberration, noting that this section was added to the bill by the lawmakers to ensure that the buyers of the oil and gas assets under privatisation do not have any liabilities.
Director of the Claude Ake School of Government, Prof. Eme Ekekwe, said a thorough analysis of the bill clearly reveals that the people of the Niger Delta and the entire nation would be further impoverished for the benefit of those who want to capture the Nigerian state.
He called for the commercialisation of the NNPC and its subsidiaries, which will in turn totally eliminate political interference and nepotism.
Similarly, Dr. Sofiri Peterside warned that if the bill is signed, the economic landscape of Nigeria, particularly the Niger Delta, will witness major destabilising tremor and can easily tilt over.