Former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Seriake Dickson has warned that chains of injustices metted out to oil producing communities in Nigeria in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) may spark off fresh violence in the Niger Delta region.
Dickson now a Senator representing Bayelsa West District in the National Assembly described PIB and the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 by the parliament as offensive and insensitive to concerned Nigerians.
The ex-governor spoke with journalists in Abuja over the perceived shortcomings in the two bills.
He justified the backlash being faced by the Senate from Nigerians over the amendment made to clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act, which according to him, unconstitutionally subordinated independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
The former Bayelsa State governor specifically declared that the PIB passed with 3% for Host Communities Fund, will not in anyway, help Nigeria and investors in the oil and gas sectors.
According to him, the 5% earlier recommended by both committees of the National Assembly which is even lower than the 10% being demanded for by stakeholders across the various oil producing communities, was supposed to have been retained in the interest of peace, fairness, justice and equity.
He said: “When PIB was first introduced and forwarded to the National Assembly by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, 10% was proposed for Host Communities fund and Frontier Basins for exploration of oil as against the Bill recently passed, giving 3% to Host Communities and 30% to Frontier Basins.
“These, as far as the people of Niger Delta or oil producing states are concerned are unjustifiable and look like opening another chapter for unrest in the area which will not benefit anybody.
“Imagine the problem the country has been facing with Boko Haram insurgency in the North East for the past ten years, the Armed banditry and Kidnapping also being faced in the North West within the last three to four years as well as agitations being faced in South West and South East, to now be added up with avoidable crisis in the South-South.
“Those of us from the area did our best to prevail on our colleagues to listen to us and buy into our demands but number or majority position was used which in actual fact do not build a nation with diversity like Nigeria.
“Might and majority do not build a diversified nation like Nigeria, but presence of justice, fairness. Mere reliance on numbers without fairness, equity and justice is inimical to nation building,” he added.
He, therefore, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the bill, but send it back for more consultation.
He disclosed that he along with other lawmakers from the zone staged a walk-out from the dinner night President Muhamnadu Buhari had with the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, held before the final consideration and passage of the bill when they discovered that it was 3% being canvassed for host communities.
“It was a terrible evening for us on account of the 3% proposal, which as a politician of conviction and not that of convenience, led to my walk-out from the dinner along with some other senators.
“We put up the required moves on the floor of the Senate to push it up to 5% as recommended by the joint committees of both chambers but those who rely solely on numbers, have their way,” he further argued.
On the controversial amendment made by the Senate on Clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act, Dickson said the backlash being received by Senate over the amendment was not unexpected because the original proposal made in the clause had already taken care of whatever exigencies being envisaged on electronic transmission of election results.
“As a member of the Senate Committee on INEC, the phrase of where and when practicable used in clause 52(3) was enough to take care of any exigencies, making the amendment which included NCC in the entire process, unnecessary and unconstitutional.
“Fortunately, a window of striking out that amendment is already provided by the House of Representatives which adopted the clause as originally proposed.
“So it is expected that the earlier version of the clause, will be the one to be adopted by the confluence Committee which will be set up by both chambers for the required harmonization of reports before transmitting the bill to the President for assent,” he said.