Mitee: Niger Delta only against aspects of PIGB
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and past Chairman of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Ledum Mitee has said that it is unfair to say people of the Niger Delta rejected the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) hook, line and sinker. He told KINGSLEY JEREMIAH that offensive parts of the bill must be amended if it must be seen as facilitating the people’s wellbeing.
The denial of assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) by President Muhammadu Buhari, has elicited diverse reactions. What do you make of that decision?
On a general note I am concerned about how we play too much politics with the issue of lawmaking.
I don’t understand why the executive would say that a particular law is confrontational, or not in line with policy direction of an administration.
Laws are not supposed to be about a particular administration; laws are supposed to be above a particular administration because they are not a policy direction of any administration.
So, that should not be a reason for rejecting a law.
We have all clamoured for reforms in the oil and gas industry and it is important that these reforms should be carried out.
Having said that, let me add that while I disagree with some of the provisions of the PIGB, I think to completely reject everything is not helpful.
There are areas of that bill that I think are not good for the Niger Delta people, especially the aspect that says that assets could be sold out, just like in the past where our commonwealth were sold to the highest bidders.
What that means is that the commonwealth and the property of the Niger Delta will now be sold to someone who possibly made wealth through illegal means.
Those areas are questionable and I would have been happier if the rejection was on that basis. It is a setback that we are not able to pass the bill.
But the understanding in the media is that Niger Delta people, including you have rejected the bill. Is that the true situation?
To say we reject the bill is not true. There are aspects of those bills that we rejected.
For instance, there are aspects that reduce the 13 per cent derivatives to the region.
There is also aspect of the bill that put total control in the hand of people in Abuja or politicians, and there is also the issue of host community.
So, there are specific aspects of that bill that we the Niger Delta people rejected.
It is important that those areas should be the subject matter of far more detailed conversations, than what we have had.
Government needs to know that when you are talking about oil blocks, you are talking about people’s ancestral graves or land and that it is not just like a desert that you can just give to people.
Most times when I see what they call oil blocks, it appears to me like the “Berlin Conference,” where people can stay in Abuja and share my land to people to exploit and get money without seeking my view.
Clearly these are some of the issues that must be addressed. The rejection must be based on those deeper issues than mundane things that bother on pride or politics.
This bill has been in the works for 17 years and stakeholders from the region like you were expected to be following it up. Why didn’t you make necessary contributions or observations. Why is the alarm coming at this point?
Some of the things that come to the National Assembly, especially bills like this need to be function of the expressed view of those affected.
In other words, some of these bills should start from the bottom up.
One of the best ways to add to a problem is to exclude the people who are affected by the problem.
Once you elect people to the National Assembly they do not come back to the people to ask what their views are.
The best way to take is always to start from the bottom. What do the people want?
Sometimes, there are views that are expressed at the top and at the bottom, but they mean different things to the people even when the same words and language are used.
For instance, if in Abuja you say oil theft, then you are referring to those young men who go after oil with their jerry cans, but when you go to the community and hear about oil theft, they are referring to people in Abuja, who are stealing the oil from the people in the Niger Delta and developing other places.
How do we bring this extreme views together? I think that is where things are missing.
I think also that these are supposed to be the consultations that we needed to arrive at before we can get a bill about an industry that touches the lives of all Nigerians.
Are you in any way saying that representatives of the region at the National Assembly added to the failure of the bill?
When you are in government you are part of an establishment, it doesn’t matter so much the views you express because the blood of the Niger Delta people flows inside you.
However, it does not necessarily mean that the views that you express as a government is that of the Niger Delta people.
That is what I refer to as identity theft.
Now, were the people of the area consulted and they expressed their views in one direction? It is until that is done that you can now say that is the view of the Niger Delta people.
I have not seen any time that people were consulted when the PIB is before the National Assembly and asked what should be done.
What should have been done with the PIB would have been, after the bill has been proposed, it should have been handed over to consultants, who would come up with what they think, and that would consequently become the view of the people.
It is after this has been completed that it would have been taken to the National Assembly for public hearing.
Meanwhile most of the people in the local communities of the Niger Delta do not even know what is happening.
Why should we not allow them in an issue that touches their lives?
What should be the next line of action?
We need a deeper conversation. Maybe we can go back to the drawing board, but I don’t think the time is there anymore for this administration.
Everything that you see now is no longer governance but politics. Every action of government now comes with a lot of competition.
I think after the election, there should be more painstaking way of looking at the issues and thereafter coming out with a bill that reflects the views of the people that are affected by the problem, otherwise we will continue to postpone the reform.