National News

FG to hold townhall meetings in Niger Delta after Presidential assent on PIB

The Federal Government would engage with oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta over the three per cent equity allocated to them in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, gave the indication in Abuja, yesterday, when a group of Ijaw elders, leaders and critical stakeholders visited him to congratulate him on the passage of the PIB after 20 years.

Sylva urged the host communities to effectively manage their funds, lamenting the situation where communities in the Bonny Island could not access funds paid to them by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) following court cases instituted by some individuals.

According to him, he has extracted the commitment of multinational oil firms to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region, urging the elders to continue to sensitise communities on the need to secure public assets in their areas.

He said: “We are planning, alongside the Minister of Information, to hold town hall meetings in the host communities after the Presidential Assent to the PIB. We need to have more stakeholders’ engagement on the three per cent allocated to the communities. People need to know that it is from production costs and not from profit. The production cost is always higher than the profits.

“Today, I can tell you authoritatively that we are on the last mile of the oil economy. Economies around the world are now discussing renewable fuel.

“We must understand that very soon we might wake up and find out that oil is not as valuable a commodity as we thought before.

“Coal did not finish before the world moved away from coal. There is still a lot of coal deposit in Enugu today but if you give some of it to someone, he might not appreciate it because the world has moved away from coal.

“We must support every effort to ensure that the oil we have today is produced and sold so that we can get the benefits.

“For the past 20 years we have been struggling to pass the PIB and that introduces a lot of uncertainties in he horizon because when you are in the process of amending your laws, investors would hold on to see what the amendment will be.

“That was why since the last 20 years, investments in the sector was on hold. Last year, there was over $50 billion investment in Africa and what came to Nigeria was $3 billon because of the uncertainty in the sector.

“Our main challenge is resource management. If we manage all the money coming to the Niger Delta, NDDC, 13 per cent derivation, three per cent host communities funds and even the one from the Amnesty Programme, we won’t have some of the issues currently confronting us.”

Earlier, the 33-member delegation led by Chief Timi Kay Ogoriba commended the minister for the unprecedented reforms in the petroleum industry, especially the radical expansion of the gas sector.

On the PIB, which had lingered for 20 years, the delegation lauded the minister for handling the herculean task of working with the 9th National Assembly towards its eventual passage.

The delegation noted that by this great feat, Sylva’s footprints in the sands of time would remain indelible. 

The delegation, however, advised the government to sustain its enlightenment efforts as regards the three per cent component of production costs standing as host Communities Development Trust Fund in the Bill, emphasising that knowledge and understanding of the magnitude of socio- economic benefits the trust fund guarantees would go a long way to assuage fears and concerns.

By Ebi Perekeme 

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