The quests for oil in the Northern region and other parts of the country have received a significant boost with the signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill 2021 into law by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on Monday.
However, the Pan Niger Delta Forum lambasted the President for assenting to the PIB without the amendment of some controversial sections, adding that the move was a way to siphon oil money from Southern Nigeria to the North.
By assenting to the bill which legislation was stalled for about 20 years before it was recently passed by the 9th National Assembly, the President approved at least 30 per cent of the profit to be generated by the proposed Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to go to the exploration of oil in ‘frontier basins’, according to Section 9 of the PIB.
Section 9(4) of the PIB reads: “The frontier exploration fund shall be 10 per cent of rents on petroleum prospecting licences and 10 per cent on petroleum mining leases; and 30 per cent of NNPC Limited’s profit oil and profit gas as in product sharing, profit sharing and risk service contracts. The fund shall be applied to all basins and undertaken simultaneously.”
Section 9(5) adds: “NNPC Limited shall transfer the 30 per cent of profit oil and profit gas to the frontier exploration fund escrow account dedicated for the development of frontier acreages only.”
The PIB also makes provision for the establishment of a Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission which will be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations and also promote the exploration of frontier basins in Nigeria
The frontier basins include Chad Basin, Gongola Basin, Sokoto Basin, Dahomey Basin, Bida Basin, Benue Trough, Anambra Basin, amongst others.
At the moment, crude oil is obtained from eight states in the Niger Delta region which include: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States.
The 19 northern state governments had in 2016 intensified their search for oil and gas in the region with the appointment of a British firm to carry out the exploration activities which was sequel to Buhari’s directive to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to increase the tempo of the crude oil find in the North-East.
With Monday’s presidential assent to the PIB, which would regulate all matters in the oil sector, the oil exploration move of the 19 northern governors had received a huge boost.
But the group led by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, told The PUNCH that the President, by signing the PIB into law without the amendment of some clauses, showed that he had no feeling for the people of the Niger Delta who continue to suffer the environmental degradation which has been the consequence of oil exploration in the zone.
PANDEF spokesman, Ken Robinson, conveying the position of the group, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that it was outrageous and fraudulent, the allocation of 30 per cent for the exploration of oil in the frontier basins, noting that oil business was a private affair and that investors should use their resources in the search for oil anywhere in the country.
PANDEF said it is a very “sad and bad day” for Nigeria that despite the overwhelming outcry of the people of the South-South zone, the President still went ahead and signed the PIB into law.
PANDEF had insisted that the equity share must be 10 per cent for host communities and rejected the 3 per cent allocated for host communities in the just signed Petroleum Industry Act.
The group said: “It is very unfortunate that in spite of the outcry and the condemnation that greeted the paltry three per cent provided for the development of the host communities and the outrageous 30 per cent of the NNPC limited profit allocated for the exploration of oil in the frontiers, Mr President has gone ahead to endorse the bill into law.”
On the allocation of 30 per cent for oil exploration in the frontier basins, Robinson said: “It is an outrageous provision, it is fraudulent, it is a way of siphoning Nigeria’s money. When you allocate 30 per cent of profit for exploration. The oil exploration in the Niger Delta was not carried out with Nigeria’s money. The oil industry is a business and if anybody wants to explore oil, they should spend their money, they should invest their money.
“All that the government needs to do is to create the right environment, the enabling environment for investors to go there to explore oil. If they find oil, fine; if they don’t, that’s business.
“That’s what happened in the Niger Delta; Nigeria did not spend money to explore oil. So, when you take our money, 30 per cent of the supposed profit of the NNPC, it is fraudulent conduit pipe to siphon Nigeria’s money for whatever purposes they have set out for themselves.”
The spokesman said the injustice in the country was one of the reasons the group has been demanding the restructuring of Nigeria.
“These are the reasons why PANDEF and other regional organisations are insisting on the restructuring of the Nigerian state. The structure of this country, the present constitution of Nigeria is fraud and very skewed against Southern Nigeria, not just the Niger Delta people, and we will continue to insist that Nigeria must be restructured.
“Let the federating units, states or whatever control the resources and give taxes to the federal or central government. We can’t continue in this fraudulent process, it is robbery of the Niger Delta people,” he said.