Senator Abdullahi Adamu represents Nasarawa-West Senatorial District. In this interview, he spoke on the Petroleum Industry Bill and the contentious aspect of it during the second reading of the PIB in the Senate. The former governor also refuted the allegation that the north controls more oil blocks than any section of the country and challenged those behind it to come out with the real fact. Excerpts:
The PIB has divided the senate. Why?
First and foremost, I don't want to say that the PIB has divided the senate; the senate is not divided. The fact of the matter is that it's the parliamentary culture to debate any issue. When you bring an issue that is very important to the life of the country, you naturally get some heated, spirited debate and this was what happened in the case of the PIB debate. At this stage, we have only discussed the basic and general principles of the bill in the Second Reading. We have not gone to the point of public hearing and coming back to taking the bill section by section in its very minute details to debate before it is accepted. So, what you have heard is the emotion the draft bill has generated.
What are the issues on the ground? I, for one, my position that I have been canvassing is this: Any mineral, be it solid, oil or gas that exist anywhere in Nigeria belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and, therefore, the Federal Government of the day is holding trust for every one of us. My position is that because of this constitutional provision, the part of the bill that is proposing the break-up of the NNPC and its affiliated agencies and commercializing them and, therefore, throwing out the holding to shareholders, and therefore the fortune, the future and life of the people, will no longer be determined by government per se once that is done it will be determined by the shareholders.
As far as oil and gas are concerned that contravened the existing constitutional provision that we have sworn to uphold and protect. You cannot say that what belongs to all of us will now belongs to a few people who know what the oil industry is, who know the pros and cons of it and have the means to buy it up once its thrown to the market. Those our citizens, be it from the north, east, from the west or from the south-south that may not have the means to partake in the purchase of the privatized NNPC will be shortchanged. The issue here is not just matter of profitability, it is about ownership, it's our common wealth. The constitution say so, it belongs to all of us. The federal government is only holding it in trust for us.
It's just like land, it belongs to the state; it belongs to all of us, but the state is holding it in trust for us. The same thing is with oil, gas and solid minerals. That is one part of it that is in contentious. The other part of it is the fact that we have Mineral and Mining Act. Some of the provisions in the Act as we have in the bill contradict some of the provisions of the Mineral and Mining Act that is today in place in Nigeria. So, we are not only talking about the contradictions in terms of the provisions of the constitution, but there are contradictions also with the existing Mineral and Mining Act. Over and above that, if you go over the proposed bill there are lot of duplications that will come to the surface. One, some of the agencies that were being proposed to be established are lots of duplication of efforts. There is also the fear that the provision for the regulatory agencies for all of the gamut will end up being the divided fortunes of NNPC because as it is being proposed in the bill. It's going to have little or no regulatory agencies. The DPR, as we have it today, regulates what is happening in the oil prices and what have you. We do not have any strong regulatory agency to regulate the outcome of what is being proposed. It's our considered opinion that the functions that the bill is assigning in various aspects of it, various subject-matter of the bill have vested so many powers in the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Nobody is after Diezani. She is there today; she may not be there tomorrow. Jonathan is there today; he may not be there tomorrow. Nigeria did not start today; it won't finish today. So nobody is talking about whoever is in office today, but we are talking about the principles of it. The office of the Minister is more than empowered, its being given too much power to the exclusion of other institutions of government that are supposed to serve as eagle eye on what is happening. The minister is responsible for appointments, decisions and signing of international agreements all things like that. The National Assembly has little or no role whatsoever in the proposed bill.
Why is the 10 percent to the producing communities contentious?
Somehow, the proposed bill is proposing 10 percent for what they called host communities. This is a bit offensive. Somebody would say it's a very thoughtless provision. The fact of the matter today is that the 13 percent derivation, which is being paid for the last thirteen years now, cannot be justified. I supported derivation. When it was coming into being I was in office then in 1999. We started from five per cent and we argued that if we were sincere and there is what is called good governance and there is limited or controlled corruption that 13 percent plus other funds that are provided for oil producing states by our calculation at the end of last year we have spent N13 trillion. If you add the allocation from the federation account they have received nothing less than N19 trillion to N18 trillion. The N13 trillion is from derivation alone. The concept of derivation is supposed to ease the problems the oil producing communities faced.
Their land for agriculture is devastated, their water is polluted because of oil exploration and this was what started the struggle by the likes of late Ken Saro-wiwa, Isaac Boro and Nigerians appreciated the genuine struggle of these people.
The derivation is expected to take care of the suffering of the oil producing communities, but this N13 trillion that we have coughed from the common pool, we asked a polite question, if we were sincere, if we were fair, how can you put this kind of money for the host communities yet as I talk now some of them have no water to drink, no road to their villages, no electricity.
There is a village where the oil was discovered in 1956 in Bayelsa state. As I talk to you, there is no water, no electricity, no roads, no better hospital in that place today. Where is our conscience? Where are the leaders of this community? Why are they not benefitting from the derivation funds? Now in the 21st century somebody is asking us to bring 10 percent for host communities! We are not being honest. When we failed to implement the provisions of the constitution and looking for cheap way out and people of like minds say no to this. I have many friends from the south-south; I cherished my relationship with them, but when the truth comes, we should speak it out. The situation in which one state out of 36 states of the federation will get allocation that a whole zone with six or seven states will get does not make for equitable society.
Oil is not like agriculture. I'm a farmer, I plant cassava, I sweat to plant it, I sweat to clear the field, sweat to plough the soil, apply fertilizers, harvest it at the end of the day, take it to the market. It's my personal sweat, but this is not the same thing with oil. Cocoa, palm oil, cotton groundnut, hide and skin and rubber - these are the products we started Nigeria with. The investment Nigeria made between 1956 was from funds from these products. Nobody, nobody will stand up today and say we are not stakeholders, that the oil belongs to him or to them, that is not in the books. We fought the Nigerian civil war. I lost an uncle, I lost cousin in Nigerian civil war. I lost my half-brother in the war. Go to Port Harcourt, go to military cemetery and see the people there. They fought and died in the war to keep Nigeria as one. To keep Nigeria as one is not for one or two of us, but for all of us to be sure we enjoy political equality, economic equality, equal opportunity across the board. The majority must not oppress the minority, nor an imaginable oppressing of the majority by the minority. That is my position.
What is your take on the allegation that the north has more oil blocks than other zones of the country?
The person who makes that contribution in the senate is my friend. I like him; he is a very vocal guy, very intelligent. Yes, he made a revelation. If it's true these people did not give themselves the oil blocs. If the allocation of oil blocs is the height of inequality in Nigeria today and it could stop Nigeria's problems stop it. But you don't say because eight or seven northerners have oil blocs that justifies your wanting of additional 10 percent. At the end of the day, it will be 23 percent for five or six states of 36 states, I say no. The contribution on who owns oil blocks was not honest enough. He didn't tell the whole story.
I challenged him to make public the records of those who have had oil bloc allocation during Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abubakar, Abacha, Shonekan; who got during Obasanjo's second coming Yar'adua and during Jonathan today. I challenge anybody with information on this to bring it out. Nobody from my father or mother relations got oil bloc allocation. I'm educated enough, enlightened enough, held positions enough in Nigeria. I may have benefitted from oil through the allocation but I don't own oil bloc. I'm comfortable enough, but if we want to be honest where are the Lulu Briggs of this country? Don't they own oil blocks? Why are not mentioned?
Let him bring out the details of those who have oil blocs. You don't just bring eight or nine allocations as evidence of oil blocs owned by the north. That is trash. I accepted the principles of disclosure for the benefit of the debate, but let the whole country has the full disclosure, the whole story, not part of the story. Let's go to the archive, the NNPC is there. We can get the names of those who have oil blocks it's there. Is it just Sani Bello or T. Y. Danjuma who has foundation and has been giving his money to people everywhere around the country? He is not a fool; he fought to keep this country together. Let them bring the whole names out, not just eight from the north, two from the west, one from the east and none from the south-south. This does not make any sense! The oil is our joint property. It was found with our collective investment from cocoa, cotton, groundnut, rubber, hide and skin and timber these are what started the oil company. The oil companies were afraid of using their money for the exploration, so they wanted a cover that was what brought about joint venturing between them and the federal government. Then, it was not oil money; it was money from these products. So, we founded oil together and we equally fought to keep Nigeria as one indivisible entity. So, nobody should say the oil belongs to him or to them.
What pressure did you face from oil companies?
I don't have any oil company that has talked to me as Senator Abdullahi Adamu. But I know they have been going about the places in the country, but no oil company or staff of any oil company has come to me because I don't need anything from them.