The sparring between senators over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) got messier Wednesday as Chairman, Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Ita Enang, accused northerners of reaping the benefits of indigenous crude oil exploration and production in the Niger Delta at the expense of indigenes of the area.
At the resumption of debate on the bill, which has divided the senators along the fault line between the North and the South, Enang, who represents Akwa Ibom North-west in the Senate, accused influential northerners of being owners of about 83 per cent of the entire oil wells in the Niger Delta.
The bill was re-presented for a second reading on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday but faced stiff opposition from northern senators who rejected three sections of the bill while some others opposed its passage in its entirety.
The debate on the bill will end today, during which its fate will be decided.
At the Tuesday debate, some Northern senators argued that the oil producing states do not deserve additional compensation having allegedly attracted N11 trillion since the advent of democracy through various programmes and projects.
Enang, in his contribution to the debate on the PIB, urged his colleagues to exploit the opportunity during consideration of the bill to demand the revocation and re-allocation of all oil blocks, which he said excluded original oil producers.
Enang, who described the trend as a negation of the spirit of equity and fair play, alleged that a single northerner who owns oil wells in the Niger Delta is richer than the entire oil-producing states.
He displayed a document containing names of Nigerians who own oil wells in the Niger Delta to buttress his allegation.
The document showed how the oil blocks had been allocated to northerners with only a few owned and operated by people from the South-west and South-east zones.
The document, which gave a breakdown of ownership of oil blocks in the Niger Delta, named one Alhaji Mai Deribe from Borno State as the owner of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 110, which according to Enang, nets an average of N4 billion monthly.
A further breakdown, according to the document, showed that Mallam Sanusi Lamido (believed to be the son or relative of the Emir of Kano) is a major shareholder and Director of Seplat/Platform Petroleum (SAPETRO), which also operates ASUOKPU/UMUTU marginal field.
It said SAPETRO Services Company Nigeria Limited and Brasil Oil Services became operators of Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 246.
It also showed former Minister of Defence, General T. Y. Danjuma, as the founder of South Atlantic Petroleum Limited and Chairman of Eni Nigeria Limited.
Other northerners who own oil concessions include Alhaji Sani Bello of Kontagora in Niger State, said to own AMNI International Petroleum Development Company, operator of OMLs 112 and 117; former Petroleum Minister, Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman, is said to be the chairman of Afren Energy in partnership with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/Vitol trading deal; Alhaji Aminu Dantata's Dantata Petroleum and Gas Limited which operates OML 108; and Alhaji Indimi of Oriental Energy Resources said to be the operator of OML 115, Oldwork field and Ebok field.
Also, the document named former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the late Gen. Shehu Yar'Adua and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, as owners of Intel, which has substantial stakes in Nigeria's oil exploration industry both in Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe.
The document also claimed that Alhaji Saleh Gambo of North-east Petroleum owns OPLs 276 and 283.
Other than businessmen of northern origin, Enang named others with stakes in the oil industry to include Chief Emeka Offor of Starcest Energy Nigeria Limited, who is said to own OPL 291 that was later sold to Addax Petroleum. Offor is said to still possess a stake in Addax's operations in Nigeria.
Dr. Mike Adenuga's Conoil is described as the largest indigenous oil exploration company in Nigeria, with six oil blocks while Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum is the operator of OML 108.
Of all the individuals named in the document, none of them hails from the Niger Delta.
Enang said: "The federal character, which is a principle applicable in every aspect of our national existence, should also be brought to bear in the application of our oil blocks, marginal fields and prospection licences."
While Enang was making his presentation, northern senators who had been vehement in their stance against Sections 116 - 118 in the PIB, which provide for the remittance of 10 per cent of the net profits of oil companies to host communities, became unusually quiet, as the presentation allegedly exposed how substantial returns on investment from oil operations in the Niger Delta literarily went back to the North.
In his contribution to the bill, Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), said: "I was initially opposed to this bill, but now, from the debate so far, I am convinced that the Senate is ready to work on it without favour or fear.
"We have reached a consensus that the powers proposed for the petroleum minister should be whittled down.
"Also, a consensus is being built around the proposed National Frontier Exploration Agency and that there should be a surer source of funding for this agency.
"I agree that the host communities should be taken care of, but 90 per cent of the senators who have contributed to the debate agreed that the additional 10 per cent fund for oil producing communities is too much."
He said that the bill had exposed the inadequacy of implementation of the 13 per cent derivation funds, adding: "We should amend the constitution to give the oil producing communities 10 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation and the remaining three per cent will go to the state governments for whatever they want."
In her contribution to the debate, Senator Chris Anyanwu (Imo East), supported the proposal to give funds directly to oil producing communities, adding that in Brazil, 18 per cent of the oil revenue goes to host communities.
"The fund would calm the restiveness in the sector. Any community in the country where there is oil would benefit from the fund," she said.
On his part, Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, said the Amnesty Programme, the Niger Delta Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) were created to redress the neglect the region had suffered, but expressed disappointment that that had not been the case.
"This bill is not implementable and it is practically impossible to give money to pipeline host communities. What is the projection of the host community fund? We need to ask questions about all these," he added.