Bill to Amend NDDC Act Could Spark Fresh Oil War in Niger Delta, Aggrieved Senators Warn
The relative peace in the oil creeks of the Niger Delta does not seem to be going down well with some political forces in Nigeria. While they are eager to ensure a higher revenue profile for the Buhari administration, they do not appear to be going about it the right way in the oil region.
Though Oil War in the region easily spark global movements in oil prices that benefit Abuja, human and material costs of containing such uprisings are usually heavy.
In a seeming desperate bid to prevent the drums of war in the area, their federal legislators in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly are kicking against moves by the Senate to include Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi and others that have attained the status of oil-producing states into Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Senators are raising the objection following the consideration of a Bill for an Act to amend the NDDC Act sponsored by Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West).
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo- Agege (APC, Delta Central), Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) and George Sekibo(PDP, Rivers East) lashed out at the conflict-sparking move, just as Omo-Agege described Adeola as a classic meddlesome interloper and advised him and his cohorts to intensify efforts for the creation of South West Development Commission.
According to Omo-Agege, Urhoghide and Sekibo, NDDC was created to address the environmental degradation caused by oil exploration in the region. They asked Adeola to pursue the establishment of a commission to address developmental issues in the South-West instead of seeking to make Lagos and other members of NDDC.
Despite the stiff opposition to the bill by the senators from the oil-producing region, the bill seeking for an amendment to the NDDC Act to accommodate the said states scaled second reading.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, then referred the bill to Peter Nwaoboshi (APC, Delta North) for further legislative action and report back at the plenary in four weeks.
The bill, sponsored by Adeola seeks the inclusion of Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi and others that have attained the status of oil-producing states into NDDC.
The nine states captured in the NDDC Act are Cross River, Edo, Delta, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Ondo.
In his lead debate on the general principles of the bill, Adeola noted: “Following the discovery of oil in Bauchi, Lagos and Ogun, these states have officially joined the league of oil producing states in Nigeria following the discovery of crude oil in Alkaleri LGA, Bauchi; Badagry, Lagos, and Ipokia, Ogun State.
“By virtue of this, the states are entitled to the 13 per cent derivation that is due to oil producing states, according to the provision of Section 162 Sub-Section 2 of the Nigerian constitution.”
In his contribution, Urhoghide said: “I am not particularly against the sponsor of this bill. I just believe that the bill should be properly posited. Today, what each state gets from the 13 per cent derivation is a function of production.
“Today, Gombe is fast becoming a host community, Bauchi and some other states. But to say these states belong to Niger Delta is not possible.
“If the idea is you want to share out of the 13 per cent derivation, they are at will as long as they produce oil but to say they must belong to Niger Delta, it makes a mockery of the idea in the creation of NDDC.”
On his part, Omo-Agege said “we look forward to the day when indeed all states in Nigeria will not only produce oil but produce one form of mineral resource or the other.
“What this lead debate clearly shows is that my colleague from Lagos is a classic meddlesome interloper. The NDDC is a regional development commission. We must draw a distinction between the NDDC and the oil and mineral producing commission.”
Sekibo on his part said, “I congratulate these states where my friend said they have discovered oil. What I don’t know is that whether the oil is in commercial quantity and they are exploring them for sale and the money going to Nigerian coffers. That one, he has not expatiated on that one.
“Are they exploring oil, are they refining oil in these places and has the oil caused any devastation in that environment? The purpose of the NDDC is not just because they found oil there, it is because the place has been so devastated and there is a need to see how they can remedy the place and because that place is so backward.
“Each time there is a law to support a backward people, to support people who are suffering, Nigerians will come out after a couple of years to dampen the strength of that law.
“There is nothing wrong that they are given their 13 per cent derivation, that is if funds from those oils are now in the US, they are exploring them, are they?”