…..“Whatever you agree on, we will accept. At least, let us start from somewhere,” Mr Akpabio says.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio has urged the National Assembly to quickly pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), irrespective of whatever percentage of revenue is allocated to the oil producing communities.
There has been outrage, especially in the Niger Delta region, over the three per cent share recommended by Nigerian lawmakers who recently passed the bill.
A former minister, Edwin Clerk described the bill, as passed, as “satanic and unjust”, and said oil companies may be stopped from their production activities if the percentage of revenue allocated to oil communities is not reviewed upward.
While the House of Representatives recommended 5 per sent as equity holding for the host communities, senators pushed for 3 per cent.
The original bill brought to the Senate by the Executive was 2.5 per cent for the funding of the Host Communities Trust Fund.
Southern governors in their meeting on Monday in Lagos rejected the three per cent proposed for the host communities; they said five per cent share would have been better.
But Mr Akpabio thinks otherwise.
“It is not the percentage that matters,” the minister said on Monday to reporters in Abuja, according to a statement from his spokesperson, Jackson Udom.
“The bill has been there for over 20 years. I am speaking for the Niger Delta people. Let them not use the issue of percentage to delay the passage. No matter the percentage approved, we will accept it, whether 3, 4 or even 5 per cent. If they use it well, we can go back to demand for an increase.
“Let me appeal to my former colleagues in the National Assembly to pass the PIB Bill into law so that the people of the region will begin to have a new lease of life. Let them not allow the argument on the percentage to delay the passage of the bill.
“Whatever you agree on, we will accept. At least, let us start from somewhere,” he said.
Coming from an official whose ministry oversees the development of the Niger Delta region, Mr Akpabio’s position is likely going to deepen the controversy around the bill.
On Monday night, as soon as Mr Akpabio’s spokesperson, Mr Udom posted on a WhatsApp group the press statement containing the minister’s remarks, a member of the group scolded him, saying he should have advised the minister against taking such a position.
“This is a very sensitive issue that has been rejected by the southern governors, yet your principal (Akpabio) does not care,” the man said.
Mr Udom exited the group after complaining that the fellow had insulted the minister.
PREMIUM TIMES later spoke with Mr Udom and asked him if he was not bothered that people may consider Mr Akpabio’s opinion as being unpopular.
“Well, it is the minister’s opinion, and he is entitled to it,” he responded.
He said the minister’s media briefing took place at the time that the southern governors were holding their meeting.
The minister was not aware of the position taken by the governors on the PIB, he said.
The PIB was introduced in 2008 by the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua but suffered setbacks as the National Assembly failed to pass it.