The minister of state for petroleum resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva has assured that the federal government would engage with oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta over the three per cent stake allocated to them in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Sylva disclosed this in Abuja yesterday, when a 33-member group of Ijaw elders, leaders and critical stakeholders led by Mr. Timi Kay Ogoriba, visited him to congratulate him on the passage of the PIB after 20 years.
Sylva urged the host communities to effectively manage their funds.
He expressed dismay at a situation in which communities in the Bonny Island could not access funds paid to them by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) following court cases instituted by some individuals.
The minister said he had extracted the commitment of multinational oil firms to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region and urged the elders to continue to sensitise communities on the need to secure public assets in their areas.
“We are planning, alongside the minister of information, to hold town hall meetings in the host communities after the presidential assent to the PIB.
“We need to have more stakeholders’ engagement on the three per cent allocated to the communities. People need to know that it is from production costs and not from profit. The production cost is always higher than the profits.
“Today, I can tell you authoritatively that we are on the last mile of the oil economy. Economies around the world are now discussing renewable fuel.
“We must understand that very soon we might wake up and find out that oil is not as valuable a commodity as we thought before,” he said.
The minister enjoined the Ijaw leaders to support every effort to ensure that the oil in the region is produced and sold “so that we can get the benefits.
“For the past 20 years we have been struggling to pass the PIB and that introduces a lot of uncertainties in the horizon because when you are in the process of amending your laws, investors would hold on to see what the amendment will be.
“That was why since the last 20 years, investment in the sector was on hold. Last year, there was over $50 billion investment in Africa and what came to Nigeria was $3 billon because of the uncertainty in the sector.
“Our main challenge is resource management. If we manage all the money coming to the Niger Delta, NDDC, 13 per cent derivation, three per cent host communities’ funds and even the one from the Amnesty Programme, we won’t have some of the issues currently confronting us.”
Earlier, the Ogoriba-led team had commended the minister for the reforms in the petroleum industry, especially the radical expansion of the gas sector.
On the PIB, the delegation lauded the minister for handling the difficult task of working with the national assembly towards its eventual passage.
The delegation, however, advised the government to sustain its enlightenment efforts as regard the three per cent component of production costs standing as host Communities Development Trust Fund in the Bill.
It emphasised that knowledge and understanding of the magnitude of socio- economic benefits the trust fund guarantees would go a long way to assuage fears and concerns.