ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has restated the position of governors of the southern states that it is an injustice to allot three per cent of oil revenue for the host communities that bear the brunt of exploration and exploitation activities.
He also warned that the definition of a host community in the just passed Petroleum Industry Bill by the National Assembly was a time bomb if not properly addressed.
Diri spoke on Tuesday when he featured as guest on Channels Television breakfast current affairs programme, Sunrise Daily.
In a statement by his media aide, Daniel Alabrah, Diri said prior to Monday’s meeting of the southern states governors in Lagos, the states had been in consultation with relevant stakeholders on their position, which he said was a minimum of 10 per cent to oil producing communities.
He said it was unthinkable and unacceptable to people of the South that a provision of 30 per cent profit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was inserted in the controversial bill for “frontier exploration” in areas that were not clearly specified.
“Diri strongly condemned the definition of oil producing communities and host communities to include areas where pipelines are laid,” the statement said.
He called for a reversal of such a proposal, saying it was a time bomb that if not properly addressed could create an avoidable crises.
He restated his commitment and that of his colleagues in the Southern Governors Forum to continuous dialogue to resolve issues that border on the challenges faced by oil producing communities and states.
Answering a question on open grazing, Diri described cattle rearing as a private business that the states have power to regulate, stressing that there was no going back on the ban of open grazing in Bayelsa, which he said was no longer sustainable.
He stated that the ban was in force in the state since he assented to the bill on March 11, 2021.
On the issue of the governors’ resolve that the president of the country should emerge from the South in 2023, he said although it was a political decision that required consultations and lobby, a president of Southern extraction in the next election would encourage peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.
He said: “Governors did not wait until now to speak on the PIB. Speaking on behalf of my state, we had a position and it was made very clear during the public hearings.
“It is unthinkable and total injustice to allot three per cent to oil producing communities. We stated our position of 10 per cent.
“The definition of host communities or oil producing communities is also worrisome. Oil producing communities should not be where pipelines are laid. If the issue of what an oil producing community is is not addressed, it is a time bomb that could explode.
“The issue of cattle grazing is a commercial, private activity. I do not see why we needed anybody’s opinion to regulate a private activity. We have a duty to protect our people. That is why we have state assemblies. In Bayelsa it already came into effect since March 11, 2021. Open grazing is no longer sustainable. We need to stop it.
“On the issue of Southern presidency, the governors would have to engage in lobby. But it is only natural justice for the south to produce the president after President Buhari’s eight years. It is not constitutional but a gentleman’s agreement to encourage cohesion and peaceful coexistence.”