*Wants PIB passed
Port Harcourt — Stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, on the ongoing renewal of oil mining leases and oil prospecting licenses, for operators.
Data from the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, says a total of 42 oil bloc licenses held by some international and indigenous operators will expire this year, with most of them falling due for renewal in June.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had also announced that the Federal Government was targeting about $2billion revenue from the renewal of oil and gas leases, as the renewal of the licenses would encourage more investment in the nation’s oil and gas industry.
But various stakeholders in the Niger Delta who spoke on separate interviews with our correspondent, all agreed that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB and the restructuring of the country would address all the issues confronting the oil and gas sector.
They explained that host communities should be encouraged to participate in the oil and gas sector, so as to bring peace and to douse the incessant tension and agitation caused by marginalization and under-development of the region.
The President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC Worldwide, Eric Omare, said while it was okay to renew already operational blocs, transparency must be applied in renewing licenses for blocs that are not producing, especially since most blocs were awarded through questionable circumstances.
According to him, “I read the story of the ongoing renewal of oil blocks in the newspapers just like most Nigerians. First, renewal of oil blocks could be for already operational/producing blocks or blocks that are yet to produce.
“For the already producing blocks, it is not really too strange for them to be renewed. However, for the blocks that are yet to produce, we expect utmost transparency to be applied in the sense that such oil blocks need not be renewed for several reasons.
“First, for the life of an oil block to elapse without the owner getting it to produce oil shows that such a block owner lacks the capacity. And secondly, considering the fact that most of those blocks were awarded under questionable circumstances, there is no reason to renew the blocks.
“Furthermore, for us in the Niger Delta region, we demand that in any case of renewal or award of oil block, we should be given a right of first refusal to address the injustice of the past. This is a key demand of the Niger Delta people and this is one of the means to achieve sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region,” Omare said.
Also, a community development consultant and expert in modular refineries, Mr. Pat Obiene, said the right of first refusal should be given to host communities in the Niger Delta region, as these communities could partner with capable firms to operate the designated blocs, which in turn will reduce crude oil theft, vandalism, and insecurity
“I must say it is quite pathetic that the President Buhari-led Federal Government will be remembered for political hypocrisy of the highest order in the history of Nigeria.
“Otherwise, everybody knows that the oil-bearing communities particularly in the Niger Delta have been patiently waiting for the passage of the PIB into law and importantly addressing the petroleum host community bill component of the PIB which is expected to address issues like licenses or renewal of oil block licenses in the interest of host communities, yet nothing is done till now.
“Whereas the minister of state for petroleum resources is going about happily celebrating the over $2billion revenue the federal government will generate from this deal without any share to host communities.
“So you can see how insensitive the federal government is to the difficult situation and interest of the oil producing communities and this and other unjust approaches by the federal government over the years, we have observed as a people are fundamentally responsible for the violent crude oil agitations you witness across the Niger Delta.
“Especially the increase in illegal crude oil refining camps in the creeks and the subsequent supply of adulterated petroleum products causing unquantifiable damages to our environment, individual lives, state and national economy.
“If the federal government is sincere to address the plight of the oil producing communities, they ought to involve the oil producing communities with ‘a right of first refusal’ in the process of giving licenses or renewal of oil block licenses to investors?
“This is even more important in terms of providing adequate security for oil and gas installations when you give the communities oil block licenses. And better still save the federal government over $75million I hear it spends yearly on JTF to protect oil and gas installations. The federal government should not question the communities technical capacity. Communities have the intelligence to engage a foreign partner that can assist them to operate the designated oil block. All they need from the federal government is the political right and economic right to so do.”
But for the President-General of the Ogbakor-Ikwerre Cultural group, Prof. Simeon Achinewhu, the ongoing oil bloc license renewals should be halted until the Petroleum Industry Bill, has been passed and the country is restructured for fiscal federalism to be entrenched.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria has been operating as a military system of government. Until we have a restructured country where we practice true federalism, then we can have a sense of direction.
“We must restructure. Nigerians must decide how they are going to stay in unity. Every federating unit must be equal, not where Rivers State is the treasure base of the nation, while Abuja is the treasurer.
“PIB will address all these, but they will not allow it to be passed. The Federal Government should not renew any oil bloc, they should pass the PIB first, after all, those holding the blocs do not have the capacity, they (oil bloc owners) usually resell the blocs.”