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A PIB-centered phone-talk with Joseph Evah

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 26, 2018 a gas flare burns at the Batan flow station operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the onshore and offshore assets in the Niger Delta region. – Nigeria’s parliament on July 1, 2021 voted to approve a long-delayed oil and gas law that aims to attract new foreign investment to the OPEC country’s petroleum industry.<br />The Petroleum Industry Bill or PIB had been under review in the National Assembly for nearly two decades, beset by disagreements, including over how much revenue should go to local communities in oil-producing regions. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

To help douse the swift and conflicting reactions, utter confusion and frustration raging in the minds of the Niger Deltans and other stakeholders, occasioned by the inexplicable and unexpected provisions of the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), I sought a telephone conversation with Comrade Joseph Angodeme Evah, Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, a few days ago.

Beginning with the 3% allocation to the community, he said; well, as you can see, every normal human being from the Niger delta is against the 3% or 5%. They are in support of the community’s demand of 10%. Yes. Although, like the Bible says; no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house Mark 3:27. Those who want to frustrate us or make nonsense of our heritage are now sponsoring some of our children who are betrayers to work against our common objective.

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We are telling the Federal Government that they are creating tension in the Niger Delta that no human being can control. This is the time the Government is talking about Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB. This is the time that the Government is worried about Sunday Igboho of the Yoruba nation. All these agitations are because of injustice. Instead of the Buhari government doing something to build our unity, he is by his actions encouraging the separatist movement. If it is at this time that this kind of bill is coming up, it means the government is also encouraging separatist movement in the Niger Delta.

How would he evaluate the role played by the representatives from the south-south region? He gave this tragic-comic reply: We said they should come and give us a report of what happened, we are waiting for them. We have called their telephone lines, and all their phones are not working. I have called some of them and their phones are not working. Some of them at the National Assembly are my cousins. They are all betrayers and they are hiding. We cannot fold our hands for something that in the next ten years will backfire on us.

In the next ten years from now, anybody can become Nigerian president and do whatever they like, because they believe that the Niger Deltans are the only people that send betrayers to the National Assembly. We will not encourage that.
We expected them to walk out of the National Assembly. Other regions have in the past walked out of the National Assembly. And there was reconciliation because those people walked out of the National Assembly. What have they been sitting down doing? What are they benefiting? So we are angry. People from other tribes see them as betrayers of their region. 

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On 13% derivation, he captures it this way; we are not saying 100% as our expectation but because we are human beings, we will continue to talk to our leaders, let this thing be workable.

In 1999, I made a submission to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I remember telling him that the 13% derivation should be changed, and should not be given to the Governor because the governors see the 13% as a Christmas party.

Instead, he added, let us apply what Babangida did. Babangida used to trade by barter to build Abuja. He started the 13% with Julius Berger because Julius Berger could not be corrupted. Julius Berger built the Aso rock; Julius Berger built 90% of all the facilities. It was Julius Berger that changed Abuja to London.  So, if he gives part of that 13% to Julius Berger Construction Company, you will see that Niger Delta will change to London.

How will the region remedy the situation bearing in mind that Mr. President is yet to sign the bill into law? Eva responded: That is why we are appealing to the president to do the needful so as not to encourage separatist movement in the Niger Delta. He should send the bill back to the National Assembly for them to revisit it again. Even the Supreme Court reverses itself when the need arises. So why can’t the National Assembly? That is our advice for him
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.

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