Port Harcourt — As the Joint Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, tours the country for stakeholders’ inputs, Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade, has charged the National Assembly to handle issues in the Bill with circumspection, to avoid contentions that could trail its passage into law.
Addressing the Committee members led by its Chairman, Senator Sabo Muhammed Nakuda, during a courtesy visit, Ayade said owing to its delicate and controversial nature, “the details of the PIB remains a subject for further analytical dissection.”
The Governor added that “inspite of the haste with which we want to drive the PIB, we must exercise ecclesiastical caution to ensure that the PIB bill does not throw up other developments that will bring about other contentions and continuous struggle.”
Specifically, he flayed the focus of the Bill which he noted, centered more on oil bearing communities, with scant regard to communities that suffer direct impact of exploration activities.
“While we make haste, we must show caution as the people of Cross River State have a very strong feeling that the PIB must address their unique concern, the PIB focuses so much on producing communities without emphasizing on the adversely impacted communities.
“We are the most impacted, because all the oils within the Akpami fields find their way into Cross River State.
“Right here where you sit, directly behind my house here, is the Calabar River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean directly into the Akpami wells. One of those wells is just 36 kilometers from here. When there is a spill, where does it go to? It comes here.”
Ayade who lamented the plight of some of his coastal subjects whose main occupation is fishing, said “our people depend on fishing, our state has been completely dislocated from the oil producing states.”
On the state’s non oil producing status, Ayade queried : “I do not understand how on earth Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom States, as well as Cameroon will have oil and only Cross River will be non-oil producing state.
As a professor of science, and one who had worked in the oil industry before coming into politics, there is no science, no spiritualism, no magic that can explain this except politics.”
“The PIB must address that. You cannot even in law and even biblically, take from a brother who has so much to give to a brother who has little. But to take from a brother who has nothing to give to a brother who has more, is a political issue that the National Assembly and indeed the PIB must cure.
“A good example is how Cross River State gets less than N2billion allocation in a month, while a sister state will be dealing with N12-13 billion. Such an unequal distribution of wealth exacts pains and anguish. It is unnatural and that is the essence of the National Assembly.
“For an egalitarian distribution of resources, this nation can only become one when there is fairness, equity and justice. That’s all we seek and that’s all we crave as a state.
“So I agree with the need for us to show some speed in passing the PIB, but I feel that the people of Cross River State have been treated unfairly. Where is the moral conscience of this country, a state with a population of 4.2 million people gets a little over a billion naira while another state with about the same demography gets N14 to 16 billion monthly?”