The Federal Government has been accused of using the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to set up a slush fund for illegal siphoning of Nigeria’s commonwealth into private pockets.
Reacting the content of the PIB, the League of Professionals for Strategic Advocacy said in a statement that legislating the utilisation of 30 percent of annual profit of the state oil company for exploration in the Chad basin and other frontier basins amounts to setting up a slush fund.
“The 30% allocation of NNPC earnings for Frontier Basin Exploration is a slap on the sensibility of Nigerians, especially the accommodating people of the South-South. Who does that in a world where capital deployed into business is at the risk of the investor whose ultimate goal is profit making?” the group stated in reaction signed by Prince Obaro Unuafe, convener; Pius Mordi, chairman and Fred Akpewe, the secretary.
“Oil exploration is a profit driven business and private organisations have been in the forefront of oil and gas exploration and exploitation in all facets of Nigeria’s oil and gas development.
“The sudden and dubious resort to legislating that a huge chunk of revenue from the state oil company for exploration in an area where over N177 billion and another $340 million had earlier been spent in seismic activities without result is fraught with underlying schemes.
“Such a scheme is, in effect, a slush fund. There is no reason for the National Assembly to create a slush fund under the guise of Frontier Exploration. This idea has inherent criminal tendencies and must be rejected for all it stands for”, they said.
The group rejected the three percent stake approved by the Senate for the Host Community Trust Development Fund, describing it as an aberration.
“We are convinced that three percent is a far cry and does not match all the sacrifices of the oil producing region to the Nigerian State. We demand that this should be scaled up to 10% during harmonisation of the bill by the two Chambers of the National Assembly.”
The group frowned at the alteration to the template for determining host community whereby any community where any pipeline is laid should benefit from the Host Community Trust Development Fund. “This is uncalled for and is contrary to the intendment and understanding of what the Bill was projected to achieve,” the group noted.
The endorsed the stance of the 17 southern governors who rejected the distortion to the definition of host communities and the setting aside of 30 percent of NNPC’s profit for exploration in the “frontier basins”.
“We commend the Governors for their bold stand in pointing out the outright fraud perpetrated in the course of the passage of the bill,” they stated.
In rejecting the PIB, the group said that, “On the strength of the above, we call on the National Assembly to reverse itself and do the needful when the versions passed by both arms come up for harmonisation. We cannot take this unless the percentage to Host Communities is scaled up, communities with no oil exploration activities but having oil pipelines laid through them be expunged from the Host Communities Trust Development Fund and again, the issue of Frontier Exploration Fund jettisoned.
“For emphasis, we are calling on our representatives at both the House of Reps and Senate to stage a back out in the event that the demands of our people are not acceded to at the Harmonization Conference by the rest of the Nigerian lawmakers.
“It is our belief that these demands will be acceded to going forward. If the reverse becomes the case, we may not guarantee what happens thereafter, because our people cannot afford further milking of our natural resource without commensurate compensation from the revenue it generates.”