Normalcy may soon return to the troubled Niger Delta region, as strong indications have emerged that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), currently before the Senate will be fast-tracked and passed soon to immediately address serious issues affecting the people, which in turn have led to the current escalation of crisis in the area.
Some Senators made the disclosure when the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), led by Senator Tayo Alaosoadura visited the management team of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in Benin City, Edo state.
They revealed that the endless conflicts between host communities and International Oil Companies (IOCs), which have given rise to militancy, will be finally addressed when the bill is passed.
Responding to how the PIB will address the issue of militancy, Senator Alaosoadura revealed: “The issue of host communities and oil companies operating there are part of what we are going to consider in the PIB. We want a very smooth relationship between the host communities and the International Oil Companies (IOCs). We have to address that issue in order to end this militancy.
“For now, we are calling on all parties to seize hostilities. The presidency is already in dialogue with Niger Delta leaders. Some of us in the Senate are also appealing. Let us use what we have now to build a viable country. All of us must put our heads together.”
The PIB is currently before the Senate and has already passed second reading. Three Senate Committees, namely, Petroleum (Upstream), Petroleum (Downstream) and Gas, are currently working on it. They are expected to submit their reports soon.
Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, tried in vain to ensure that the bill was passed since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
Meanwhile, Senator Alaosoadura who spoke on behalf of five other Senators, who were also on the fact-finding mission, has hinted that some companies currently under the control of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), will soon be granted full autonomy.
“What we are interested in is to get efficient entities from what we have now.We want to set companies free and create new ones. What we are aiming at is efficiency in the oil industry. The PIB will address these issues,” Senator Alaosoadura added.
Mr. Yusuf Matashi, Managing Director of NPDC who narrated the difficult terrain in the oil-rich area, called on the Senate to move fast and come up with ways to end militancy. He said the hostilities were adversely affecting businesses in the area.
He said: “The President must have his information before making such accusations that those blowing up pipelines are insiders. The pipelines of about 87 kilometers in the area are difficult for security agencies to manage.
“If you know the worth of the pipelines, you will not get close to it. We have 55 per cent stake in the ownership of pipelines. The pipelines are over 40 years old. It is only costing us more to maintain them. When PIB is concluded, NPDC will not have to depend on NNPC to survive. PIB to break NNPC monopoly”.
By Ehisuan Odia…
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