By: Augustine Ogar.
” The details of the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) remains a subject of further analytical dissection”….. Ayade.
These were the profoundly philosophical assertions of His Excellency Sen Prof Ben Ayade, the Governor of Cross River state expressing his fear as regards the ongoing process at the National Assembly to enact a law to guide the operations of the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria.
Ayade spoke truth to the egg heads at the Nation’s highest legislative body when the Joint Committee on PIB touring the country for Stakeholders inputs led by its Chairman Sen. Sabo Muhammed Nakuda visited him recently in Government House, Calabar.
The Governor’s concerns and worries about the PIB is timely and legitimate. Taking a cursory look at the PIB still undergoing tinkering at National Assembly, it is clear that the bill may brew another round of agitations when passed into law especially, as the the exclusion of Cross River state from the benefits accruable to Oil producing states is pot pori of injuries, reawakening the injustices that have been metted to the state by the Federal Authorities over the years.
It is unimaginable to think that Cross River which is properly located in the Niger Delta Region as a litoral state with the longest river transversing it; having the largest coastal line; with numerous creeks and with the largest landmass in Niger Delta Region is unaffected by the natural wealth of the land given by God to the people of this region or that the Environmental impacts of the Oil exploitation, pollution and other hazards associated with the Petroleum Industry which is the main stay of the Nigerian economy.
Without fear of equivocation, one can conclusively say that Cross River is an Internally Displaced State (IDS) among the comity of states in the Niger Delta region and among Nigerian states which is orchestrated by federal politics and baises. As Ayade often puts it, ” we have been reduced to soul, spirit, body and want”, by the federal government. No thanks to Nigeria’s fabricated Identity. The nation masquerade as a federating entity but actually imposes a centrist government supported by the so-called monthly federal allocations dole out to States. This ” feeding bottle” monthly payments have made the struggle for the center most attractive to individuals, groups and sectional interests which has assumed primitive dimensions in recent years to the extent that sectional interests, nepotism and corruption has been elevated to the height of state policy and craft.
This is absolutely a negation of the principles which the Nigerian nation was founded upon by our fore-fathers such as: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Owolowo, and Sir, Ahmadu Bello. The Nigerian nation was originated based on multi- plural, multi- cultural, multi-economic and multi- political bases which birthed the then regional governments: Western, Eastern and Northern and later Mid- Western regional governments.These were clearly conjugal governments born on the alter of justice, equity and fairplay.
Indeed, the ” righteous indignation” of Ayade is understandable given that Cross River situation as an IDS is even incomparable with that of IDPs because a situation where about 4million people occupying the same landmass as the Republic of Cameroon or Togo, have been emasculated economically, socially and politically is unacceptable, and to say the least, most humiliating!
It is glaring that the battering which Cross River has undergone in the hands of Federal Authorities in all ramifications is monumental. How can Cross River be made an orphan in a region of” Oil Wells”?
There is no doubt that what has befallen the state is a deliberate attempt or conspiracy by certain forces to reduce the state to a beggar in the wealth equation of Nigeria. This is the only state in the Niger Delta Region that goes home with a monthly Federal allocation of just about #2 billion ( akara money) as compared to other states in the region like: Akwa Ibom, Delta or Rivers which gets #15 billion and above monthly.
In my own empirical calcutions, the litany of injustices suffered in the hands of Federal Authorities by Cross Riverians as a people is legions. Firstly, the ceeding of the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula in 2007 without a plebiscite to Cameroun Republic in an agreement brokered by the United Nations to satisfy the whims and caprices of International Powers without compensation or resettlement of thousands of IDPs who have been abandoned as “stateless” person to the care of Cross River government will remain a soar point whenever contemporary Nigeria history is discussed or written. Secondly, the Supreme Court judgment in 2013 which handed over 76 Oil Wells belonging to Cross River to Akwa Ibom state instead of settling the main issue in dispute as to whether Cross River was or still a litoral state will go down in history as one ” kangaroo” judgement procured at the alter of underhand dealings.
Again, unofficially, without a constitutional amendment, the state had been delisted from the 13% derivation meant for Oil Producing states even though Cross River seats on hydrocarbon deposits in Odukpani and Ogoja basins. Still, without a proper amendment of the constitution and by virtue of loosing out of the 13% derivation funds, Cross River had been made a nominal state in the allocation of Niger Delta Development Commission’s ( NDDC) scale thereby giving the state ‘ zero allocation’ of projects.
It is morally reprehensible that the state is excluded from the Federal government amnesty program available to all states in the Niger Delta Region to stamp out Youths restiveness even after Gov. Ayade singlehandedly brokered a peace deal with the Bakassi Strike Force which arose after the ceeding of the Islands to wage “war” against the nation.
Perhaps, one sad fact is that Nigeria is governed by might and money mongers. The serious minded persons who are ready to build a nation-state in the corridor of power are few and insignificant. While, a multitude of pretenders and moneybags control the politics of the day.
Truthfully, Ayade’s advice” in spite of the haste with which we want to drive the PIB bill, we must exercise ecclesiastical caution to ensure that the PIB bill does not throw up other developments that will bring about other contentious and continuous struggle” to the Joint NASS Committee on PIB must be heeded and taken to the bank if controversies, reopening of old wounds or future agitations must be avoided after many years of drafting, rephrasing and redrafting of the PIB bill that has passed through many sessions of legislative inputs.
The state must not be abandoned as in other times in the PIB bill. The issue of delisting Cross River state from Oil Producing Status must be properly addressed in the PIB bill even, if it amount to creating a ” special status” such as, “litoral oil environmentally impacted state” or” oil contiguous state”in the Niger Delta Region.
Again, it not too much to ask the Federal government to make available to Cross River, some special derivation funds from consolidated revenue for the loss of Bakassi Peninsula.
Excluding the state from the benefits of the PIB will be a” sacrifice too many”, for a state that has given so much to national cohesion and stability. Cross River must survive as a proper constitutionally recognised entity in Nigeria! No more, no less!