Nigeria on Fire again after Kidnap of Nnamdi Kanu as Petroleum Industry Bill Brews more Trouble in Niger Delta Region

The All Progressive Congress (APC) led government, of Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria, may have incurred the wrath of the people of the oil-rich Niger Delta region with the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly.


On July 1, 2021, Nigeria’s National Assembly which is made up of the Senate and House of Representatives each passed a Petroleum Industry Bill. Both versions of the Bill, which are similar, will go through the reconciliation process before going for the President’s assent.


The Petroleum Industry Bill was first passed approximately 14 years ago, amidst protests from some groups in the Niger Delta who rejected the spirit and letter of the law. Just like 14 years ago, different groups including youths from the Ndokwa and Isoko tribes have protested, even going so far as to describe it as a scandalous coup against the people of the Niger Delta.


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The Ndokwa National Youth Movement (NNYM) says the 3 percent equity participation allotted to host communities in the Bill is just below what had been expected by the Niger Delta.


In a statement by its Secretary-General, Presley Idi, NNYM said: “While tracking the progress of the bill, our major concern was centered on the host community trust funds, with initial proposals pegging it at 10 percent but after review by the committee, 5 percent was finally agreed”.


Some Officials of the Ndokwa National Youth Movement (C) Asaba Metro


“However, to our greatest surprise, upon the passage of the bill, we learned that the host community trust fund has been further slashed to a mere three percent, with a whopping 30 percent introduced for what they termed ‘frontier exploration,’ This, we see as a coup against the people of Niger Delta, and we will resist totally,” he said.


According to the bill, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would pay 30 percent of its profit into the frontier exploration fund, which is intended to finance exploration of oil in new areas with prospects.


Mr. Idi adds that over time, the people of the Niger Delta have continued to suffer from the effects of oil exploration and production in the region without any form of adequate compensation.


Dubbed one of the most polluted places on earth by institutions such as Amnesty International, the Niger Delta has suffered decades of massive oil spills, poisoning of the region’s water and land, which in turn denied the population their agriculture and aquaculture-based livelihoods.


In the face of this massive pollution, Mr. Idi believes the Senate and House of Representatives should have used the bill that has been passed to rectify years of exploitation without compensation for the people living in the Niger Delta.


“Instead of the National Assembly using this golden opportunity to correct this anomaly, they instead chose to shortchange us the more and this we will not accept,” he warned.


“For the sake of continuous peace in the region, we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, not to assent to the bill, when it’s sent to him because doing so, will cause serious chaos and uproar that may destabilize the entire Niger Delta,” he added.


Isoko National Youth Assembly (INYA) through its President Amos Etaluku shares similar sentiments castigating the National Assembly allocating a mere 3 percent to host communities that are bedeviled by the environmental effects of crude oil exploration, exploitation, and gas flaring.


The Niger Delta Congress (NDC) believes the lawmakers of the National Assembly and by extension the government have ulterior motives, as the allocation of just 3 percent to their community is intended to facilitate and cover up the purloining of the resources from the Niger Delta.


Ovunda C. Eni, Acting Spokesperson of the Niger Delta Congress


Acting Spokesman of the Congress, Ovunda C. Eni said in a statement on Sunday, July 4 that while the NDC was not surprised by the actions of the National Assembly, the bill was still contemptible and an act of aggression.


He also added that his organization had noted the treacherous active and passive roles played by the political leadership of the Niger Delta, which facilitated the disrespect of their people.


“This, we find embarrassing and sad. Just like the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill) to us is a criminal document since we’ve never assented to it and its enforcement can only happen by force and not with the cooperation of our people,” he emphasized.


The NDC reminded all oil-producing companies operating in the region that what they are engaged in is a legalized robbery, which is also an act of aggression.


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The passage of the PIB comes at a time when there is a fresh threat by a militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers. The Avengers are accused of trying to cause instability in the Niger Delta region by targeting oil installations and political actors perceived to have colluded with the Federal Government to undermine the people of the oil-rich region.


The group published on its website that the “operation shall be coded Operation Humble aimed at bringing down targeted oil installations in the Niger Delta region capable of humbling the economy into permanent recession”.