Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the Senate to amend certain provisions of the controversial Petroleum Industry Act.
However, the President was, in a manner befuddling, silent on the contentious three per cent equity share approved for the host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill approved by both chambers of the federal parliament.
For us at EnergyDay, it would seem the opportunity to conciliate the aggrieved host communities who have frowned at the recommended three percent was not availed by President Buhari.
The joint National Assembly committees that worked on the PIB had proposed a five per cent equity share for the development of the host communities, but the Senate led the campaign for its reduction to three per cent while the House of Representatives approved the panel’s recommendation.
The conference committee set up by the presiding officers of both chambers in their recommendation, fixed the equity share at three per cent and was invariably approved by the National Assembly.
The development generated into controversy with senators from the South-South geopolitical zone kicking against it and asked Buhari to resolve the impasse by seeking amendment to increase the equity share to five per cent.
EnergyDay, like most stakeholders and Nigerians were however surprised that the new amendments proposed by the President did not address the concerns of the South-South stakeholders.
Rather, Mr.President’s fresh request for amendment only dwelled on the need to review the administrative structure of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
In the amendment sought by Buhari was the need to increase the numbers of the non-executive board members of each of the regulatory agencies from two to six, in order to capture the six geopolitical zones.
He said, “The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 provided for the appointment of two non-executive members for the board of the two regulatory institutions.
“I am of the view that this membership limitation has not addressed the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country.
“Therefore, I pray for the intervention of the 9th Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of our national unity.
“Needless to add that this amendment will provide a sense of participation and inclusion to almost every section of the country in the decision making of strategic institutions such as oil industry.
“If this amendment is approved, it will now increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six; that is one person from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.”
One of the highlights of the amendment is the removal of the Ministers of Finance and Petroleum Resources from the board of the two agencies.
According to the President, the two ministers already had constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations.
However, for many stakeholders, especially from the South-South region, the President has once again missed another opportunity to calm tensions in the restive Niger Delta.
For us at EnergyDay, the passage into law of the time-worn PIB into Petroleum Industry Act is a major achievement for this government.
Be that as it may, it would detract nothing from Buhari, if he had gone a whole hog to address the yearnings of the people of the region for upward review from three percent.
History and posterity would have remembered him as one who righted a major wrong against a people with a large size grudge for injustice meted out to them for much of our post independent history.
EnergyDay is at a loss as to the haste with which the administration is pursuing amendment on structure alone without as much as giving a thought to the agitation of the aggrieved region.
This medium calls on the administration to show fidelity to the Petroleum Industry Act, and in the future amendment ,there should be a review of the three percent in favour of the host communities