By Juliet Oyoyo
Hon. Ben Roland Igbakpa, Member House Of Representatives representing Ethiope Federal Constituency, in this interview with JULIET OYOYO, gives an insight into the now controversial Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB and the 3% allocated to Host Communities. Excerpts:
The race for who becomes governor of Delta state especially now that it has been zoned to the Delta Central Senatorial District has seen others from the various zones jostling for the position. What is your take and how do you see the 2023 governorship election in Delta state?
Well, 2023 is still some time away but, looking at the principles of fairness, equity and justice, it is only good that the zoning arrangement as we have always enjoyed it, should continue. For me, I still believe that it is the turn of Delta Central because, that is what has been giving us peace. I must agree too that many of the elections have been dogged with people from other senatorial districts even when you know that it is not your turn. They are human as they also have a right to contest but, in Delta state, we have an unwritten agreement that, power rotation as founded by our fathers from the state agreed and that is what we are all following, that power rotation should go round according to the senatorial districts.
The Okpes, according to reports, despite the dominance of the Urhobos with their numerical strength in Delta state, are of the opinion that they are not Urhobos but Okpes and as such, the governorship position in the 2023 election be zoned to them. What is your take?
I do not think that the Okpe man has ever said that he is not an Urhobo. Delta Central has three constituencies and their take is that Ethiope Federal Constituency has had it, then, the Udu/Ughelli have also had it and, they are saying that it would only be fair that they are allowed to have it.
However, I do not want to go into all of that because, there are so many issues surrounding it. If we have to look at that and take it as a topic for discussion, most times, you will find out that; for instance, they are also human beings. Some people may be tall but that does not make them intelligent and the same also can be said that, some people are short but very intelligent. Some women are beautiful facially but they do not have those other components. Now, some may have the components but are not beautiful. That is the dynamics of this world.
Every part of Delta state has had one part of one thing or the other. So, I do not think that at this stage of our nationhood, that we should be discussing federal constituencies when it comes to issues of governorship.
We should be talking of the best hand that should do it because, in one way or the other, we had something to hold unto. It does not necessarily mean that it has to be governor.
We are talking about political patronage and, Delta central has had one thing or the other. Maybe, by the time our leaders sit on the table, they will agree on where it should go to. Alternatively, they can decide that, the best candidate that is acceptable by the people should go for the ticket. Nevertheless, what I am asking for is that the governorship should be in Delta Central.
The herders/farmers clash has become worrisome and, of recent, we heard that you had a problem in Ethiope Federal Constituency. How were you able to tackle this and, how do you think such reoccurrences can be forestalled in the future?
Well, on the herders/farmers clash, most times, I refuse to agree; I hate using the words, ‘fulani herdsmen’ name because, that automatically reduces it to an ethnic thing. A criminal is a criminal whether you are doing so under the guise of a herder or, that you are doing so simply because you want to do it. In my constituency, we have been relatively lucky, yes, we had some issues, especially attacks. Not too long ago, we had issues that involved one of our Councillorship candidate and others to mention but a few and that is after my constituency and were already in part of Edo state.
However, it is a bad situation and a very bad omen. The federal government needs to sit up and this is why there is the need for State Policing so that people can understand their areas and follow through with the securing of their areas instead of brining in strangers who do not know the terrain or understand the environment. Criminals will have their way around all the place if this continues.
It is not a child’s play and it is not just about Ethiope Federal Constituency or even the north. it is about the entire country and we need to sit down and rejig our security architecture to get the best out of it. Without security, we cannot have peace and there will be no development.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB as recently passed has seen the host community getting 3% and, this has attracted anger especially from the Southern region of the country. What is your take on that?
This anger is said to have emanated from the fact that most of the members of the legislature, particularly those from the South in the Green Chambers (House of Representatives), refused to stand up to defend their constituents on this Bill. Also, it was learnt that the members of the PDP in the Green Chambers, did not stand up to protest against the Bill that is not in agreement with the party
Well, we are here as members of the National Assembly and, if we are going to talk as Nigerians; members of the National Assembly then we should be nationalistic in our approach to issues.
If we decide now, to have a stake, because, the oil and gas industry has been there over the years (for over 40yrs now), there is no time that anything has been allocated to the host Communities and this is the first time that such is ever been done. What we have had in the past is to sign a GMoU and, in many instances, these companies never honoured these GMoU’s. Now, for the first time, we have gone beyond that and certain percentage has been given and there is still room as the door is not closed yet. There is a conference committee that will discuss with the Senate because, the House of Representatives passed 5% and the Senate passed 3%. So, there is still room for the Conference Committee to meet. Once they meet, they will harmonize and, by the Grace of God, get the 5% that we are looking for.
There is this issue of these frontier basins. Frontier basin is not limited to one place. It is going to be all over the country; this is anywhere that the seismic data are not available to know whether they have oil or not. I still have a quarrel that the 30% allocated to that is too much.
However, in all of this, we are Nigerians; we must give and take to have a united country because, if you claim that your community produces this oil as a host community, when there is gas flaring, how does it go? Where does it get to; is it only in my community? Can I control that? Can I contain it? If there is oil spillage, will it stop in my community? The answer is no. It will get to other communities and therefore, that is why it should be impacted communities. The Frontier Basin Fund is not for the North only.
Inasmuch as I disagree with the 30% because it is too much, looking at the fact that oil, after some time, the world all over, are looking at alternative source of energy now, people are going into gas. We should be thinking of Gas revolution and, if we agree, that is the way to go, I do not think we need to put in too much. But, in parliament, once the Gavel goes, everybody takes responsibility for all that have been discussed.
Let me take you back a little bit. You talked about insecurity. Let us look at it from a national perspective. What would be your advice in view of addressing such challenge?
The first is that, I believe in engagement because, when somebody is angry and, nobody is answering you, you will want to do something that will bring the attention of whoever that is in charge, to see that; look, I am here and I am human. I do not subscribe to hostage or ransom payment. It should be like, people that can have conversation with these bandits and these people; bring them together and let us talk to them and know what are the issues and then, we know what can be done. The country has expended so much billions of dollars in buying equipment, taking care of our troops, yet so many of them have lost their lives. Many of them have been maimed while their wives have become widows at young ages. We must also not forget that some of those that have died are women who served their fatherland thereby making their husbands, widowers. Children have lost their parents and this is vice versa. Also, several villages have been sacked and for me, the right thing to do, is to apply the carrot and stick approach. I feel we should call them and discuss while the troops take up on those ones that are not ready to come to the table to discuss.
Well, I do not agree with amnesty. However, you can talk. When you talk, it is only somebody that will come out that you can give amnesty. Somebody must come and say; look, I am done doing what I am doing and I am not going to do it again. You just see that repentance and then, you can then say okay, since he has agreed, let us see what we can do for the person but certainly not somebody that you do not know, like the unknown gunmen that people do not know. How do you now grant amnesty? I do not agree with amnesty but I will however, agree that there should be room for discussion, no matter how tedious the situation is, let us see that it ends at the round table.
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