From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
As the sentiments and arguments surrounding the passage of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law continue to rage-on, a delegation of the National Assembly Joint Ad hoc Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill this week visited Abia state to hear their own concerns.
The delegation led by Senator Bassey Akpan, also had Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Ifeanyi Uba and Senator Bidoun Olujimi as part it.
Speaking when he received committee at the government house, Umuahia, Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu lamented that despite the cooperation and quiet disposition exhibited by Oil-host communities, the state and communities, in question, get little or nothing in return.
The governor argued that the situation made them to feel neglected and abandoned.
Governor Ikpeazu therefore, asked that Abia be favoured when the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law.
Ikpeazu said 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 the state.
The governor, however, lamented that the oil companies that do business in the state do not pay taxes in Abia, but to states where their Headquarters are located.
He said, ”They 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.”
The governor, nonetheless, commended the committee for the initiative of consulting with 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 was 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 sensitisation tour to oil producing states/communities for the Bill will make Nigerians to feel being carried along in legislative business.
He pointed 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 Akpan explained 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 but 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 that the main thrust of the bill is the creation of a Trust Fund for the 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, plans to visit oil producing communities before departing Abia State for Abuja.