Port Harcourt — The people of Niger Delta region, as custodian of oil and gas resources in the country, should be backed constitutionally to have a say in every organization and agencies saddled with petroleum resources, says an industry expert and stakeholder in the region.
A former Group General Manager, Upstream Investment Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Joseph Ellah, said people from the region should be constitutionally represented on the board of every ministry, department, and agencies that have to do with oil and gas development.
Ellah who spoke in Port Harcourt disclosed that the call was imperative since it was the people of the region who suffers the brunt of crude oil and gas exploitation, ranging from oil spills, gas flaring and a degraded ecosystem.
He explained that the United States of America contributes the highest to the World Bank and, therefore the US produces the Managing Director of the World Bank every time and wondered why the reverse was the case in Nigeria and her crude oil host communities.
According to him, “The Niger Delta people as custodian of oil should be allowed to have a say in all the organizations set up for petroleum resources.
“We have NNPC, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, they should have a right by law, that they have to be represented on the board.
“The Niger Delta people should have to say in what is happening in the oil and gas sector, as a law. Niger Delta contributes a great deal and the highest to the national revenue, but we don’t have any say.
“If the government want to sell oil blocks, Niger Delta people should have the first right of refusal. You took the oil from them and made it national, now you want to sell it again, give them the right of first refusal. If they cannot buy it, then you sell to someone else. But you should not take it from them and give to some other persons while they become beggars.”
The former NNPC boss also advised the people of the Niger Delta to demand a Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, that would respect the host communities and allow them to control their resources.
“We should look forward to a governance bill that helps Nigeria grow its oil and gas reserves, respects the host communities and controls its oil and gas resources.
“A bill and a law that enables Nigeria to refine all the crude oil it produced and propels the country towards a gas-based industrial revolution since we are indeed a gas province dotted with some crude oil.
“Great wealth will be created for Nigeria, Niger Delta, and investment partners, and our GDP will grow, providing hope for many future generations of Nigerians.”