South-South Governors have reopened their fight for equity and justice in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking to amend barely weeks after he signed the legislation. They have also decided to join the suit currently before the Supreme Court of Nigeria over collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) between Federal Inland Service (FIRS) and Rivers State.
These are part of the six-point communique that was read out by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who presided over a meeting of the South-South Governors Forum at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday.
While the governors declared that they unequivocally support collection of VAT by State governments in Nigeria, on PIA, Okowa said they regretted that the President and the Federal Government generally failed to give reasonable consideration to requests made by the region during the dialogue with the special federal delegation led by Buhari’s Chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Already, the Senate at its plenary session of last September 29, passed for second reading the PIA (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which seeks to amend the Administrative Structure of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Leading the debate on the bill, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya (APC: Kebbi) stated that the provisions for amendment deals with the Appointment of Non-Executive Board Members; Removal of the Ministries of Petroleum and Finance from the Board of the two Institutions; and Appointment of Executive Directors, as contained in Sections 11, 34, and 41 of the PIA, 2021.
Abdullahi in his submission informed his colleagues that the bill, if passed, will increase the Board membership of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, and allow for balanced geopolitical representation, participation and inclusion in the decision-making process of the oil industry.
President Buhari in a letter dated September 16, 2021, had informed the Senate of his decision to transmit the proposed Bill for consideration and passage. The Bill which was unanimously adopted by lawmakers was referred to the Committees of Petroleum Upstream, Petroleum Downstream and Gas for further legislative action.
The South-South governors are however, demanding that President Buhari and the National Assembly should take necessary measures to review some unfair aspects of the PIA in the spirit of fairness and equity, urging that the amendment should include clear definition of host community and that the trustees should be appointed by state governments.
Notable among their requests, according to Governor Okowa, are the relocation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) subsidiaries and the headquarters of international oil corporations to the Niger Delta, and a completion of a number of federal projects in the region, notably roads.
After an extensive deliberation at the meeting that was attended by Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, and Douye Diri of Bayelsa, they also approved the South-South regional security architecture which will be launched very soon, and equally resolved unequivocally to supports the decision for states to collect VAT and to join the suit before the Supreme Court.
While this is predicated on the fact that most states of the power bloc have already established their security outfits, the governors also called on President Buhari to uphold the tenets of the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by appropriately constituting its board.