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  • * As Clark, PANDEF kick, Describe it's Assent Despite Their Opposition As Insensitive

By Isreal Onwudiwe (Energy Editor) and Janet Bassey (Governance Reporter, in Abuja)

After nearly a decade of legislative, executive, and stakeholders intrigues and oil politics, the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was finally signed into law on Monday, August 16, 2021, by President Muhammadu Buhari, at his State House private residence in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The bill received a Presidential assent just a month after the National Assembly approved the draft petroleum document on Thursday, July 15, 2021, which has undergone several years of legislative tinkering under successive Senate and House of Representatives sessions, despite the reforms the bill would have engendered in Nigeria's oil and gas industry.

According to the provision of the PIB Act, it provides for a legal, fiscal, regulatory, and governance framework for the nation's petroleum sector and the contentious issue of the development of host communities and associated matters by the operating oil companies in Nigeria.

There has been varied stakeholders' contention in the PIB over the 3% allocation of revenue to the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, while a fund for the exploration of oil in frontier basins, mostly in Northern states, received 30 percent.

Leaders of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria's South-South led by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark and the Southern Governor's Form promptly turned down the quota, with representatives insisting on either 10 percent or a minimum of 5 percent which was previously okayed by the federal representatives in the National Assembly. But the Senate, instead, harmonized the bill for immediate endorsement by the president.

Industry analysts however view the President's assent to as an indication that Buhari has agreed with the 3% percent provision as contained in the document.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement shortly after the approval of the PIB by his boss, announced that the President okayed the Bill on Monday, August 16, as an expression of his determination to fulfill his constitutional obligation.

Adesina however added that “The ceremonial part of the new legislation will be done on Wednesday, after the days of mandatory isolation would have been fulfilled.”

President Buhari, since his return from his trip to London on Friday, August 13, 2021, has been restricted to his private quarters at the Presidential Villa where he is observing a five-day quarantine as required by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has reacted swiftly to the president's assent to the PIB, describing it as insensitive despite some objections and stakeholders outcry that trailed its recent passage by the National Assembly.

The opposite to the bill arose from its 3 percent provision for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund while leaving 30% of NNPC Ltd's profit for the Frontier Oil Exploration Fund.

National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Hon. Ken Robinson, in a statement on Monday, August 16, 2021, said the PIB substantially failed to meet the expectations of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities whose ecosystems have been terribly ravaged as a result of the 'unconscionable' operations of the oil companies.

Leader of PANDEF and the Ijaw nation, Pa Edwin Clark, weeks ago, recently warned that the oil-bearing communities will not accept anything short of 10 percent as the actual annual operating expenses of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations for funding of the Host Communities Trust Fund. He also warned that if this happened, there will be no guarantee for peace and security in the Niger Delta region.

PANDEF said in their statement that, “this assent by President Buhari simply speaks to the repugnant attitude of disregard, propelled by arrogance, disdain, and contempt with which issues concerning the Niger Delta Region are treated, particularly by the present Administration.

“What this act signifies is an unequivocal message to the Niger Delta people that how they feel and what they say, do not count, at all, in the Schemes of the Nigerian Project.

“That’s insensitive, abominable, and afar every boundary of proper Democratic practice, and, therefore, unacceptable to the good people of the Niger Delta, the critical economic nexus of the entire Nigerian territory.

“The Niger Delta people will speak, shortly, after full consultations, on this callous act, on the best legal and political response", PANDEF threatened. NNL.

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