Niger Delta Youths, under the auspices of Anioma Youth Forum Worldwide, have stated that the recent signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law may spark new unrest in the region, calling it as an aberration to the oil-rich region.
This comes as the Defence Headquarters stated that the military was prepared to prevent a breakdown in law and order in the region.
However, the forum’s National President, Nnamdi Ofonye, said that the Federal Government’s inaction could spark a new agitation.
He said, “We will collectively take a stand in our meeting today (Sunday). In as much as the eventual signing of the bill into law is one that all of Niger Delta has been craving, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be what we expected.
“The three per cent is still a far cry from what we thought, and this goes to show that our representatives do not take our plight to heart because if the bill that was just signed was presented for the general well-being of the people, it wouldn’t have generated controversy.
“If the generality of the Niger Delta is against the bill, I see no reason why our lawmakers did not stop it at the National Assembly. This is what we always got because when we ask for the constituency briefing, they don’t see it as anything but a waste of time.
“We have cried to them about what we want but most of them went to support the bill against the wishes of the people. They have failed us.
“The Niger Delta will renew its agitation. In fact, there have been some threats in some quarters. But we, the youth of the Niger Delta, are networking and speaking among ourselves to know what next to do.
“I do not want to pre-empt any group now, but currently, we are all planning to meet to review the so-called law. So far so good, the law has not gone down well with the youth of the Niger Delta. We will make our position known soon.”
However, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, in an interview advised anyone aggrieved with the law to seek means other than violence to seek redress.
He added “The military is ready at all times to address the issue of security concerns. We have all it takes to ensure that the peace and stability enjoyed in the Niger Delta remains and keep everyone secured.
“I believe they will resolve whatever their grievances are and it won’t degenerate into any crisis. However, we are always prepared to ensure there is peace in every nook and cranny of the country.”
Meanwhile in line with the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure an efficient oil and gas sector for economic development in Nigeria, the president not only assented to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) but has approved a steering committee to oversee the process of implementation of the act.
The committee, according to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, will be headed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Other members of the committee are: permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Executive Chairman, FIRS, Representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Senior Special Assistant to the president On Natural Resources.
The primary responsibility of the committee shall be to guide the effective and timely implementation of the PIA in the course of transition to the petroleum industry envisaged in the reform programme, and ensure that new institutions created have the full capability to deliver on their mandate under the new legislation.
According to the president, the committee has 12 months to complete the assignment and periodic updates will be given to the president.
In the week under review, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) assured Nigerians that the Federal Government has no immediate plans to increase the price of petrol following the signing of the PIB into law by Buhari.
According to the Corporation, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timpre Sylva, revealed this at a news conference to mark his second year in office, adding that the ministry had delivered on its promise to have the PIB passed into law.
Sylva highlighted the achievements of the ministry in the last two years to include the reduction of smuggling of petroleum products which has brought down the daily consumption of petrol from 66million liters per day to 52 million, reduction of cost of crude oil production by five per cent, with the possibility of hitting 10 per cent.
He said though the subsidy regime has ended with the coming into effect of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the government was mindful of the impact of deregulation on Nigerians and so would not rush into its implementation to ensure the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.
The Minister further explained the incorporation of the NNPC Limited as required by the PIA and the, the three percent host community fund as enshrined in the act.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari who spoke after the signing of the bill allayed the concerns of the oil producing communities, explaining that the three per cent approved under the new Petroleum Industry Act for Host Communities Fund could be bigger than what the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) currently gets.
He clarified that the law mandates the payment of three per cent of oil companies’ operating expenses in the previous year to the host oil communities, which are mostly in the Niger Delta.
According to him, with about 16 billion dollars total operating expenditure by the oil and gas sector last year, as much as 500 million dollars could accrue to the Host Communities Fund yearly.
The GMD said although in the past there were attempts to make sure that oil companies provided for the host communities, it was not done in the right manner, even if carried out in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.
He stressed that the signing into law of the new Act essentially means transforming from the Petroleum Act which was enacted in 1969 to a law that is relevant to current realities, adding that with the legislation, the NNPC would now operate under the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
Given the new scenario, Kyari pointed out that the NNPC would become more efficient, slimmer and a much more commercially focused national oil company at par with its peers across the globe, pledging that the company will do better under the new arrangement.
He added that there was already a framework established by government, which would take care of the transition within the time frame of six months to incorporate and transfer assets and personnel, among others.
While the new law envisages a fully deregulated market, Kyari stressed that a number of engagements have been going on to ensure a smooth transition.
However, he said when deregulation eventually happens, there would be safeguards against market manipulation to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are not unduly exposed.