The dysfunction underscored by the House of Representatives’ rejection of the motion praying it to direct oil companies to relocate to areas of operation as directed by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, is regrettable.More curious is the scandalous response of legislators from the South-South, to the rejection of the popular motion that was sponsored by Goodluck Opiah.
Opiah had in a motion entitled: “Calling Oil Companies to Establish Operational and Administrative Offices in the Niger Delta Region, where they engage in Exploration and Exploitation,” prayed the House to mandate its Committee on Petroleum Resources to liaise with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Ministries of Niger Delta Affairs and Petroleum Resources to review policies and guidelines of oil companies regarding location of their administrative and operational offices.
He argued that there was need for all oil companies to open offices in the communities where they are engaged in exploration.
He said that the practice of the companies siting their offices outside their areas of operation is responsible for the decisions that are “inconsiderate of the real effects of their exploratory and exploitative activities in those communities such as pollution, environmental hazards, degradation and underdevelopment.”
But swiftly, the trio of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Aminu Shehu Shagari, APC, Sokoto, enthusiastically volunteered to disparage the integrity of the person who gave the directive soon after Britain objected to the move. They described the motion as “ill-conceived and inconsiderate.”
It is important to note that locating administrative headquarters of oil companies outside areas of operation has been an enduring source of friction between oil companies and host communities, provoking disaffection, which undermines security.
Little wonder, therefore, the Acting President’s bold move to break the ugly legacy of mistrust was applauded after he toured the Niger Delta and pledged to direct oil companies to comply with the directive. Rather than encourage the translation of this optimism into reality, the move was ambushed by some legislators.
This is a sad commentary considering the fact that these people are in the house as the representatives of the people.
Several groups in the Niger-Delta region have condemned the conspiracy even as its champions, Dogara and Gbajabiamila, struggled to defend their unpopular action with the limping allegation of lack of security in the Niger Delta that is, otherwise, safe to be milked, with disdain, by oil companies with scant regard for host communities.
Ijaw Youth Council (IYC)and Isoko Development Union (IDU) through their spokespersons,have expressed their displeasure over the misguided action of the lawmakers, which is likely to impact negatively on the stability and development of the region.
“We strongly believe that this action has the potential to derail the seeming calm in the Niger Delta… “We condemn the antagonists of Opiah’s motion, and categorically and unequivocally condemn Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s unfortunate comments that ‘as a businessman, I cannot be forced to site my business where I know it is not safe.’
“If the region is not safe for the IOCs to site their administrative headquarters, as the Speaker insinuated, how come it has been safe for them to carry out their main business of oil exploration and exploitation for close to 60 years?” the organization asked, alleging that short-sightedness by legislators needlessly delayed passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and retarded the viability of seaports outside Lagos.
We are convinced that as pulse of the people, legislators would consider the angry backlash that greeted their rejection of a motion that is transparently popular and retrace their steps to save face.
It is compelling for them to review their action because of the hilarity of legislating against a matter of huge public support as this and need for self-redemption. There is no action that is beyond review.
Instructively, by this action, the legislators have imposed crisis of credibility on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration with their misguided action, which reinforces policy dysfunction. It is equally regrettable that some legislators condescended to partner with mischief by echoing the lie that the Niger Delta was unsafe only for responsible investors but safe for oil companies who dread considerations for rules of responsible corporate citizenship.
Dogara’s parliament should also explain why a democratic institution endorsed the sad legacy of impunity and disregard for public opinion, which is what this is all about. Reactions across the region are emphatic on the need to review, which is the inevitable course of self-redemption open to the law-makers. Oil companies relocating their operational headquarters to areas of operation is not only overdue, but also a matter of honour that demands protection by lawmakers as defenders of ordinary citizens.