Decentralisation Of NDDC Will Make It More Effective –  Reyenieju | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Decentralisation Of NDDC Will Make It More Effective –  Reyenieju

Reyen
Posted: Nov 28, 2016 at 7:28 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Hon. Daniel Reyenieju is a House of Representatives member representing Warri Federal Constituency of Delta State. In the interview with AHMED MUSA, he spoke on the delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the need to decentralize the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Excerpts:

One of the issues you have been so passionate about since coming to the House is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), now the longest bill pending before the National Assembly. Why is the bill being delayed so much?

? It is unfortunate that year in; year out, we keep repeating one issue which ordinarily should have been for the development of this nation, most especially taking into cognisance the fact that the sustainability of the Nigerian economy is predicated on oil.  We are a mono-commodity nation. So, one would have expected that anything that has to do with oil should be given the highest of priority. Unfortunately, we have the longest bill in the House since the 6th Assembly, the 7th and now the 8th Assembly, and still nothing tangible seems to have been done about it. It is very worrisome and gives one cause for concern.
But, the parliament is goes slowly, but surely. We will arrive at the destination. So, I hope that one day, irrespective of the fact that Nigerians are tired with the delay of the PIB, it will become a law in the country in whatever form. But, the law itself has no eyes to see who to favour. What the law sets out to do is to institute a world best practice in our country, to make the oil sector and our economy the best governed environment to  make our economy grow. But, I wouldn’t want to say that it has been politicised, but the will to change it from what it used to be to what it ought to be has been very slow and resisted by those who have been in the system. If not, I do not see any politicisation of the bill.
Most people who don’t know what the bill entails would want to say that it is pro-South South, or its anti -North. But, there is nothing in the bill that is pro-South South or anti-North. It is all pro-Nigeria. Only recently, I was in the PANDEV conference at Chief EK Clark’s house when people said that the PIB should be raised as one of the action points to be discussed with Mr. President. I got up and I asked the elders, including EK Clark that what is in there for the South-South that would make you want to discuss it as an action point with Mr. President?  Somebody said, the environmental issue, I said ‘and so what?’ Another said “the 10 percent issue”, I said no. All these don’t make the PIB a pro South-South bill. Luckily, I went with a copy of the bill and I gave it to them. The only area that tends to tilt in favour of the South-South is the 10 percent Host Community Fund.  At the time the bill was passed in the 7th Assembly, the 10 percent had been watered down to make every nooks and cranny of this country a host community to petroleum products. So, what’s pro-South-South and what’s anti-North? There’s nothing there. People do not know.
But because oil is in the South-South, any time issues are raised about oil, they are seen as being pro-South South. The South South people do not control the oil. It is the Nigerian government which controls the oil. Each time this issue is brought up, it gives me great concern as to people casting aspersions regarding the bill itself to either be pro and anti. For those who keep saying that it is pro-South South, I would want to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they have never gone through the bill to see what it is all about. It is just about good governance of the oil sector. For those who said the bill is anti-North, I also want to give them the benefit of doubt to say they haven’t gone through the bill to know what’s in it for the North and what is for the South. It’s purely a pro-Nigeria law. There’s nothing in support of the South South and nothing negative as anti-North.
I still have the bill in the House which I submitted about a year and 6 months ago, and I’m waiting for it to go through the Second Reading and it’s being delayed for obvious reason. So, many other versions of the bill have been coming in from the ministry, the Office of the Minister. So, I’m waiting. Unfortunately, I have my doubts if the bill will be able to see the light of the day in the 8th Assembly. I doubt it.

If you said the bill has not been politicised, what else can you call the deliberate delay of the document that is considered very crucial to the economic survival of Nigeria, with regards to oil?

I think it just has to do with getting used to your old system and wanting to use the old system to work in present day realities. People who have been running the oil industry since 1950s when oil was discovered are used to a particular practice and have not come to terms with the fact that a lot of things would change. Now they see it as not being in their favour. I think that is where we have the problem.  But regarding the politicisation of the bill, I really don’t see politics. It has to do with the players, the IOCs themselves who don’t want the bill to go the way it was put. Well! You could call it economic politics, because while some of the issues have to do with the IOCs, others deal with operators, and you also cannot exonerate the NNPC completely from that complexity. They are also involved. These are people that tend to protect the old order. They don’t want to see the emergence of the new order to take care of current realities on ground. The present realities are that things must run with the jet age-computerised world which most people are not really used to.
I strongly believe that most of the things you see as politicised should be things that play between party A and party B. But we are talking about a mono product which the economy of this country rests on. So, every party in government should strive to sustain that mono product so that the nation can keep grinding forward. But, a situation where the party in power does not even see the need to push the bill through just like they push the budget through leaves much to be desired. That should be the same way they should have pushed the PIB through, because the PIB provides money for the budget to run. So, how come you do not want to sanitise the sector that gives the impetus for the budget to run? But, every year, you keep pushing the budget to go through. Is it that we are comfortable and satisfied with what we have and where we are? That question is now left for the government in power to see what to do with the PIB.

Let’s talk about the host communities. ?As somebody representing host communities, how do the host communities see the fact that the PIB is not coming up?

Coincidentally, before now, the people have never agitated to be paid money directly to keep an eye on or to protect oil infrastructure or government assets. But, because things are changing, people now want to see that government is more related and involved with the grassroots in a more direct manner. People no longer want any intermediary between them and government in terms of transmitting benefits. People now are saying that the NDDC has not worked for them. Ordinarily, the NDDC is supposed to be an interventionist agency which is primarily created to cater for the needs of the people that produce the oil. But, if you ask an ordinary man on the street of the South-South, he would tell you that they don’t even feel the impact of the NDDC. So, they want a direct involvement, a bottom-up approach, where if they want roads, they say, pay me my money so that I decide what to do with it – which has its own consequences which might come much later. They feel they are being short-changed by those interventionist agencies from the direct the benefits they ought to get. Most people would tell you, the NDDC is not working, the Niger Delta Ministry is not working and some other palliatives that should go to the communities are not being received. So, what they are clamouring for is: transport these funds to us and we will help you protect your facilities which are oil installations. And I think it is going to work.
As a member of the 7th Assembly when we were considering the host community clause of the bill, it said, “for any community that receives an X-amount of money and a breach occurs within that community, it forfeits the next month’s share, and from that next month’s share, such broken facility would be repaired”. So, with this clause, nobody would want to see facilities within their community tampered with for fear of losing their own benefits. So I think that’s one of the good sides of the Host Community Fund. People want it, people need to take ownership of facilities found within their domain. But, the main issue is for the government to show the will, that we must device a means to reach the communities directly.

You said the NDDC is not working for the people. Are you by implication calling for the scrapping of the NDDC? If so, what alternative would you be proposing?

As for me, I have a bill right in front of me for Conflict Decentralisation and Reorganisation of the NDDC. For example, Lagos is going to be an oil producing state any moment from now which makes it a beneficiary of the NDDC. Then you expect a man who just needs a clearance from the NDDC to jump all the way from Lagos to Port Harcourt. I don’t know if you understand it. Then you expect a traditional ruler from my place to move to Port Harcourt, I don’t think that’s fair. I have had issues as a member of the National Assembly from a core oil producing area. I have had issues just to see the Acting Chairman, Semenitari. I had to fly from Abuja to Port Harcourt only to get to Port Harcourt and the lady said she was unavoidably absent. I couldn’t see her. I tried and tried, but it wasn’t possible. So, you can imagine what it means for somebody who is not financial buoyant to move into Port Harcourt and then be told to go back because the boss is not available. Unfortunately, as I flew in, others got there by road. And as I speak, we couldn’t see her until she left. So, take that and juxtapose it with what other citizens will be going through in the hands of people that are running these agencies.
These are some of the reasons why we say this agency needs to be completely decentralised for effective service delivery. It is not effective. You see, when you take that out, you can now come to the Host Community Fund issue. Don’t forget that the fund is not coming from the government. It is coming directly from the profits of multinational companies which operate within the region. So, it is not even a government fund. For them to be in business, they need to part with some little percentage of their profits after tax for the host communities as part of Corporate Social Responsibilities. That, some of them are actually doing. But is it enough?