New PIB Bill ‘ll Kill Oil Industry – Sen. Maeba
7 Oct 2012
Sen. Lee Ledego Maeba represented Rivers South-East in last Senate. In this interview with Ruth Choji, the former chairman, Senate committee on petroleum Upstream criticises the new PIB bill, suggesting that it is fraudulent. He also reveals how his bill on the immortalisation of late playwright activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed in the Senate.
How is life after the Senate?
I am enjoying my life; I can see the other side of being very free. I still monitor what is being done in the chambers. Anytime I see something wrong, I call the person concerned and say, ‘hey boy, what you are doing, isn’t good. Stop it’.
You were the chairman, Senate Committee on petroleum upstream, could you share some of the challenges you faced while you held sway?
I faced an institution entrenched in corruption and coming to ensure transparency where corruption had been deeply rooted becomes a difficult problem. when I left the Senate after I couldn’t make the primaries, there was this report that, there was an all- night party in the NNPC and I asked the person why they had the party and he said it was because ‘Mr. Trouble was gone’. How did I become Mr Trouble? Because I ensured that the right thing was done.
As chairman on petroleum for 8years, I have never gone to NNPC for one day for projects or contract. I did not go to any foreign or local oil company to solicit for contract or favor, yet everyone thinks that I am rich, that I am lifting petroleum products. I did not lift one barrel of crude oil and I do not have any cargo. I stand to challenge anybody who has anything to come forth with it.
You once sponsored a bill on the immortalization of Late Saro Wiwa, why was it killed?
It was the remembrance of Ken Saro Wawa which was 10th of November and I came with the motion which I felt was not controversial.
My colleagues from the South East came and told me that it was Ken Saro Wiwa that ruined the effort of the South/East during the Biafra war and that they were going to oppose the motion except if they will immortalize all the people that were killed in Biafra, that Ken Saro Wiwa was a spy. Then my friends from the North came and said, Ken championed everything against the North on oil. I was shocked and I said, but the man has died.
They said except if we will honor all the people that have died from that act. The Ogoni people came and said we will have to immortalize the Ogoni four that were also killed. So there was a barrage of three blocks against Ken Saro Wiwa’s immortalization. But my joy was that I moved the motion, ken Saro Wiwa fought for this democracy, as far as I am concerned, he was hanged for fighting for freedom. I stand by that motion until tomorrow and if I have another chance, I will still table that motion.
There has been renewed agitation on the on-shore, off shore dichotomy, what is your take on this?
I think it is a wrong agitation. That is what is wrong with the current petroleum bill sent to the senate now. The first bill we brought to the senate talks about the 10% for host community which is called derivation fund. This are the host communities within the cadastral map and that means that, you must live within the particular area to benefit from that fund.
If Shell has oil fields around the community, they will pay 10% of its earning to that community host account in that fund to be used for the development of the community. In our senate, it was agreed by all the senators that, the money should go to the community not the estate government. Our thirty-five member of the committee accepted that bill. We believe the communities are suffering and the state governments have mismanaged the derivation funds. The funds were meant to develop the community, not state capitals.
Are you saying the funds being channeled to the Niger Delta region for instance is not being effectively utilized?
That is what I am saying. A state like Rivers state alone received almost N4trillion in the last 13years from the federation account. Tell me where is this money? I have looked round Rivers State and I did not see where that money has been spent. The city remains the same, no development; all we hear is big development on newspapers.
So you are not in support of the agitation for the review of revenue sharing formula?
I don’t believe in that. What every Nigerian should know is that people live in these communities where oil is produced. In the North where oil is being discovered, it will affect them. When you say on - shore off shore dichotomy, it means you are challenging the people living in the community. Lukman bill referred to people who live in operation areas, he used a clause.That clause could cause war because their people are living in this oil producing areas.
That dichotomy law should be put to rest because it can burn this country away. Yobe state internal generated revenue cannot be more than a hundred million a year, but they need up to two billion plus to run the state. Where is this coming from? Oil. We must respect the people that are living in these communities before oil was discovered and that was why we insisted that the monies be paid directly to the communities to develop themselves.
Most people would have expected the PIB bill to have been passed by now, what is still holding it?
The delay is because of manipulation from ministry of petroleum and from NNPC. When Obasanjo formed the oil and gas implementation committee, it was because they didn’t want the NNPC or ministry to have direct influence on the PIB bill, that was why a committee with experts was drawn and I was part of that committee. We did our work and brought out recommendation and passed it. It was brought back to the ministry by Yar’Adua administration.
This bill was supposed to reform NNPC and the bill was sent to them. How would a judge decide in his own case? It is a clear case of the organization that needs to be reformed becoming the reformist. We created the National Petroleum Commission to supervise the whole industry, NNPC does not want anything that will supervise them, that it will dissolve their powers, but they have no powers.
Petro brass has over thirty –two billion dollars in asset all over the world. They have more than six refineries around the world; they have more than two hundred oils wells around the world. They have everything, NNPC is of the same age with petro brass. NNPC has nothing outside this country and there is a reciprocal clause, that any company doing business here, NNPC should go and have an oil block in their country. NNPC has not done that.
Where you surprised at some of the revelations that came out during the fuel subsidy probe?
I was surprised because for 8years I was a senator, I thought not of downstream, but to know that these things were happening in the downstream sector? What was the chairman of the downstream dong? We made the whole world to attack PTDF. So it means there was a gap for that kind of corruption to take place there.
But what will it take to reform the oil sector?
It will start with the new PIB bill sent to the National Assembly, the bill will invariably kill the entire industry .we have so much competition now and, counties like Ghana, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea and the rest have discovered oil. So if we don’t take time, we will become the largest producer of oil in Africa that will stand down as the worst oil producing nation.
We have no business removing the physical terms because it is like sharing the return on the investment that has not started. But in the old bill, we put in all this things in place; we even put the required qualifications for people that will head the institution. So my appeal to my colleagues is that, the bill that was laid clause by clause by the 6th senate is the best bill.