DELTA State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, yesterday, complained about the situation in which the Federal Government had turned oil-producing states and communities to beggars for the oil and gas produced in their own territories.
The governor, represented by his deputy, Prof Amos Utuama, spoke at the Ist Delta State Oil and Gas Industry Stakeholders' Conference, which commenced, yesterday, in Warri.
He noted that lack of equity for oil and gas communities was responsible for the crisis in the Niger-Delta and urged that the incongruity be redressed.
Uduaghan stated, "We must recall that in 1969, the course of Nigerian history was changed and the nature of economic relationship between States and Federal Government was altered in 1969 with the promulgation of the Petroleum Decree by the military government..."
He said the decree took away the rights of the States on minerals produced in their territories and placed it squarely under the exclusive control of the Federal Military Government.
His words, "Since then, oil and gas producing states have become beggars for the oil and gas produced in their own territories and now depends on allocations from the federal authorities to meet their needs and to solve the multifarious problems like the monumental environmental destructions, which accompany oil prospecting and production."
According to him, "Every other policy in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria took its roots from the Petroleum Decree of 1969 and has further contributed to the increasing alienation of oil producing communities and states from the benefits of oil, while leaving them to suffer the hazards and permanent damages arising from oil production.
"The overwhelming control of the oil and gas industry and the benefits arising therefrom by the Federal Government is unprecedented and unknown in any other sector of the economy or indeed anywhere else in the world.
"So many institutions, agencies and businesses have been created to monitor, police, take and spend profits from the industry by the Federal Government without ceding any role, responsibilities of direct benefits to the states and communities in whose territory the oil is produced.
"It is the attempt to win back some of these roles and responsibilities that Delta state needs a well structured institution in the nature of the Ministry of Oil and Gas to drive the process for state and community participation in the industry and also to help promote training and investments that will prepare our people to master and own the business ventures of oil exploration, production, processing and marketing," he added.
He asserted, "The state is also committed to the crucial need to have the independent capacity to monitor and keep records of production figures from our territory. We must move away from the dependence syndrome , which makes us rely on federal agencies to supply production figures for the computation of accruing benefits from our own resources".
The governor charged the Ministry of Oil and Gas in the state to "maintain close monitoring of companies and investments in the sector to ensure that justice is done in the employment or our people and the utilization of skills that are abundant in the state",
He said the state had developed its own gas master plan, but noted that the oil and gas industry was not growing at its optimum and the state was losing revenue to other states because of the unjust importation of skills that were abundant in the state and mandated the Ministry to "stop these abuses and stem this hemorrhage that is bleeding the state of its needed revenue".
The governor expressed hope that the Nigerian Content Law, otherwise known as the Local Content Law and the envisaged Petroleum Industry Act would help expand and deepen the participation of government and people in the business of oil and gas in its entire spectrum.
He urged participants at the conference to brainstorm and come up with ideas on how the Local Content Law and and Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, would function to the benefit of the state and other stakeholders.
Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who, similarly, was represented at the conference, commended the Ministry of Oil and Gas, Delta State, for coming up with the dialogue, saying the outcome would help to streamline operations in the industry.
Commissioner for Oil and Gas in the state, Mr. Omamofe Pirah, in his welcome address, said, "The conference seeks to forge a harmonious relationship between oil and gas companies, their host communities and government in order to ensure peaceful co-existence.".
"Furthermore, it is aimed at building consensus among all the stakeholders, while pursuing and implementing growth factors that will increase investments in the industry in order to grow employment and other profitable engagements for the people of Delta state.
"This goal has informed the need for the development of a template for a Global Memorandum of Understanding, GMOU, to guide host communities and oil and gas companies' engagements", he said.
General Manager, Nigerian Content Division, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. R. M Wilcox, who was also represented at the conference, said the Escravos-Gas-To-Liquid project was a typical example of how government/host community co-operation could drive the oil industry.
He disclosed that over 18,000 Nigerians were employed in the multi-billion dollars project, while Warri Port, Warri, has been revitalized as a result of the project and more than 100 lcoal contractors empowered.
Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, who was represented by Mr. Timi Jemide, said the law was a regulation that would put many things in place in the industry and appealed for understanding and patience in the implementation.