Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State on Wednesday asserted that the state will be greatly favoured if the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed. This, he acknowledged, is because of the peaceful disposition of its oil producing communities as well as the infrastructures put down by his administration in those communities.
Receiving a delegation of the National Assembly Joint Ad hoc Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill at Government House, Umuahia, the Abia governor stated that Abia has the record of being the most peaceful oil producing state as oil producing communities in the state have not had any face off with oil companies operating in Abia.
However, the Abia chief executive regretted that despite the cooperation and quiet disposition exhibited by these communities, the state and communities in question get little or nothing in return. This, he maintained, leaves them neglected and abandoned.
The governor lamented that the oil companies which do business in the state do not pay taxes in Abia, but rather reside in a neighbouring state from where they come to Abia with the help of heavily armed security guards to do their business and leave.
He therefore commended the committee for the initiative to talk to Nigerians on the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, noting that “the major problem we have in Nigeria is the issue of trust”.
While admitting that there is need to talk to the people, the governor pointed out that many Nigerians do not believe the government, even as he stressed the need for the government to encourage the people to believe in the country.
According to him, the sensitising tour to oil producing states/communities for the Bill will make Nigerians to feel carried along in legislative business, pointing out that it would help to assuage fray nerves and make the people feel part of government.
Ikpeazu also emphasized the need for engagement in value addition on petroleum products as against sole dependence on crude exportation
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan, had stated that the Committee is covering Abia and Imo States at the sensitising tour, adding that the visit will help to educate the people on what they stand to benefit from the Bill.
Senator Akpan contended that as a country, Nigeria has no choice than to pass the Bill, saying however, that parliament, stakeholders and executive must all work together in order to have a consensus on it.
He explained the main thrust of the Bill is the creation of a Trust Fund for the host oil bearing communities without government interference and that the bill places responsibility on the host community to protect the asset in their vicinity in order to create a balance and stability on their God given resources.
The Committee, he added, will visit oil producing communities before departing Abia State for Abuja.
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Ifeanyi Uba, Senator Bidoun Olujimi were part of the sensitisation tour.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.