Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has said that the role of state governments had been deliberately undermined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which implementation is expected to begin this August just as Ogoni ethnic nationality in Rivers State and Owaza community in Asa, Ukwa-West Local Government Area of Abia State, Hosts to Oil Mining Lease, OML 11, have appealed to the Federal Government to rescue them from untold hardship and deprivations. The communities also stated that they would resist Sahara Energy company on its reported move to resume operation of OML 11. The communities said this at the inauguration of Ogoni-Asa-Imo-River OML 11 Oil Producing Communities Executives, which took place at the palace of the Eze Oha 1 of Etitioha Owaza Oil and Gas Ground Kingdom. Speaking, chairman of the newly inaugurated executive, Gani Topba, stated that the Rivers and Abia oil-producing communities have not given social license to any company to resume oil exploration in their area.
Ewhrudjakpo said this when he received in audience a 15-member delegation from the Bayelsa Amazons Advocacy Campaign Group in Yenagoa. Lamenting that governments in the oil and gas producing states in the Niger Delta region had virtually been reduced to mere observers, he noted that there were a lot of lacunas in the PIA which clearly put the oil-bearing areas in disadvantage. According to him, the prominent shortcomings in the Act, as passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Muhammed Buhari had denied the state governments their full participation in the implementation of the PIA. He said “We have some lacunas in the PIA law. You can’t deprive a man of his right and expect him not to complain. Considering the way that law is couched, they have actually reduced the role of the oil bearing states to that of on looker’. I am really worried that those who made the law have, as usual, undermine the state in terms of exploration and management of oil resources. And you know that anything that does not have a legal backing, lacks the potency for its enforcement.”
Responding to some of the requests made by the group, he assured them that government would set up a committee to monitor and follow-up the implementation of the PIA in the state. Ewhrudjakpo, who called on the group to properly articulate their agenda for gender equity, promised that the interest of women in Bayelsa would be adequately protected in line with the provisions of the PIA. In her remarks, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social Development and Empowerment, Hon. Faith Opene explained that the agenda being championed by the women group was aimed at achieving 30 per cent representation of women in the PIA implementation. Speaking on behalf of the Bayelsa Amazons Advocacy Campaign Group, (BAACG), Princess Egbe, appealed to the state government to ensure the inclusion of women in the membership of the board of trustees and the management committees for the PIA implementation in the oil-producing communities. Egbe who is the convener of the advocacy group also submitted that capital funds be equitably distributed without any form of discrimination against women in the various oil-producing areas.
Meanwhile Topba said that although the communities have resolved with FG on the Niger Delta Petroleum Company, NDPC, but that the oil firm must do the needful by properly consultating with the owners of OML 11. He said “There have been agitations in this part of OML 11 when Shell License was about to be renewed. We all gathered here, and did a meeting demanding that Federal Government should not reissue the license. We all agreed that Federal Government should give the license to Niger Delta Petroleum Company (NDPC). And, today, the Federal Government has given NPDC the license. Now, there are issues that surround it and they are a lot. The community supported NDPC, but NDPC needs to have proper discussion with the community. NPDC has taken over the facility, but has not had talks with the community. But, they are having an agreement with Sahara Energy to enter the place. How could you not do an agreement with another company and you want to bring in another company? So, are they undermining the interest of the community? The community will not accept Sahara energy, because they had an agreement with NDPC.
“So, NPDC needs to come with their plan and discuss with the community. Then, the communities will now tell them their own interest. Before any other partner with NDPC, the community and NDPC will have an agreement. We have rejected Sahara energy totally. So, if NDPC wants to come here, they should drop Sahara Energy.” The paramount ruler of Owaza community, Eze Obioma Nworgu, bemoaned that for the past 50 years of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, operation in the areas that they benefited nothing. Nworgu cried that despite their contribution to the economy of the nation, that they still lack good healthcare, education facilities, youth employment, good roads and other infrastructural development. He added that the lack of social amenities have contributed to insecurity in the area, urging the FG to save the oil-producing communities, particularly Owaza, from untold hardship.