Controversy trails revelation of oil blocks ownership

2013-03-09
GUARDIAN Newspaper

FOLLOWING the shocking revelation on Wednesday by the Chairman Senate Committee on Business and Rules and Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-west in the upper chamber, Mr. Ita Enang during the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) debate, that about 83 per cent of the entire oil wells in the Niger Delta are owned by Northerners, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and member of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Prof Ango Abdullahi has demanded for the comprehensive and authentic list of ownership of oil wells so that Nigerians will know the truth and the way forward.

Enang had stated that the 10 per cent provision to oil communities was fair and in order, insisting that the amount was nothing compared to what accrues to the owners of the oil blocks, most of who are northerners.

Speaking with The Guardian Friday on the issue, Abdullahi said Enang’s allegation on the floor of the Senate was a mere political debate that needs further clarification and confirmation to ascertain the correct information.

He said: “I have not seen the details of the list of owners and there isn’t a comprehensive list from the government on the ownership.

“I do not care who owns what. My concern is that there is need for the government and its relevant agencies to disclose the full list of owners of the oil wells to Nigerians.

“It is an information Nigerians are willing and will be ready to have so that they know who controls and manages their collective wealth. Such disclosure will give the true picture instead of mere debate and allegation,” he said.

On the issue of 10 per cent allocation to host communities in the PIB (bill), Abdullahi said that it is not necessary. Rather, the host communities should be given seven per cent from the 13 per cent that goes to the states in the Niger Delta region, while the states retain six per cent.

He stressed that there is need for accountability and transparency in the management of the funds that accrued to the region through different agencies since 1999 which amount to N11trillion without something to show for it.

“Unless discipline and transparency is instilled in the management of funds accrued to the region, no amount of money given to the region will change things there as long as wastage and looting prevail,” Abdullahi said.

But on his part, President-General Trade Union Congress (TUC) Mr. Peter Esele, said the debate on the ownership of the oil wells, whether by people from North or South, is unnecessary at this point, but how they used the proceeds from it to empower the people and develop the country is what should bother Nigerians.

He said: “Do you prefer foreigners to own them? I prefer Nigerians to own them instead of foreigners. The questions should be how have the owners used the proceeds from it to develop the country and empower the people for better days ahead?

“Award of oil block license and renewal, especially during the military regime, was done in secrecy which has not helped matters as regards to accountability and transparency in governance.”

Esele insisted that there is urgent need for the passage of the 10 per cent allocation to host communities in the PIB bill that is before the National Assembly.

Reacting to the development, President of Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah congratulated the Northerners for hijacking their oil, stressing that the people of the South-South region were the architects of their problems.

His words: “Niger Delta region produced the highest number of political prostitutes in the country because they do not know what they want and how to go about. The Northerners were able to hijack the oil wells because they are more organised than our people. We have no political or economic strategists in the region that can show the way forward.”

He said that no percentage of the oil money should be accrue to the states. Rather, all of them should be directly used in developing the oil communities which is in accordance with international best practices.

In a similar development, a human rights activist, Ms. Anko Briggs has called for total stoppage of oil exploration in the Niger Delta following the raging controversy over the allocation of over 80 per cent of oil blocks to highly placed Nigerians from a section of the country.

According to her, “My reaction to the development is one of anger and total disbelief that a handful of people can rob a whole region of their resources? We need to know what qualified them, who allocated them the oil blocks. This is criminal and the President must follow necessary procedure to withdraw it from them.”

She further called on the people of Niger Delta region to stand up against the injustice. “I call on Niger Deltans to demand for a total resource ownership, not just control. I will want to encourage the people of Imo, Abia and Ondo states to join in this battle for the soul of the oil-rich region.”

On the PIB bill that has entered its second reading after so much dust was raised, she said: “We are no longer interested in it. It is about 10 per cent and a few individuals have over 80 per cent.

“If going back to the trenches will solve this matter once and for all we will go there, because I am using this medium to call on the people of Niger Delta to stop all oil exploration in the region until this injustice is address.”

 

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