By Simeon OSAJIE
The Executive Governor of Delta State and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Vice-Presidential Candidate Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has called for proper enforcement of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to effectively check oil theft in the country.
Okowa stated this on Sunday, 11th December, 2022 while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘People’s Townhall’, a special programme for presidential candidates in the 2023 general elections.
He said that Nigeria wasn’t getting maximum benefit from its oil production because it was hamstrung by high-profile oil theft, including illegal oil bunkering, which had negatively affected the country’s oil production quota.
Gov. Okowa stated that Nigeria was losing out of natural gas resources due to its inability to harness it like other nations, but assured that Atiku Abubakar administration would continue with the country’s gas development plan as alternative source of revenue.
“While other countries are getting a lot more resources from oil to develop other sectors of their economy, we don’t seem to benefit from that because we are producing less than what we ought to produce.
“There is the need to ramp up production by dealing with illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta through strong community engagement and by ensuring implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“We can also achieve that by ensuring the communities have a buy-in and also work with security agencies to deal with oil theft.
“The gas sector is one sector that we tend to ignore. When we come in next year we will ensure continuation of the gas development plan, and that reforms are carried out critically to rake in more resources for the country,” Okowa said.
On subsidy removal, the PDP vice-presidential candidate said PDP administration that would be headed by Atiku Abubakar would be committed to fuel subsidy removal because it was draining resources of the country.
According to Okowa, Nigeria cannot continue to borrow to fund fuel subsidy while other critical sectors are facing inadequate funding.
“Subsidy removal is important because other critical sectors like Education and Health are suffering; so, removing subsidy would free more funds for the development of those sectors which provides critical services to those at the lower rung of the society.”
He said that Abubakar would provide the much-needed leadership to salvage the nation from its current travails.
“We are in a critical situation in our nation and for us to move forward we need a team with relevant experience and I am proud to be on the ticket of Atiku Abubakar as his running mate.
“Atiku is a man with huge experience and a very humble leader and he will provide that critical leadership that the country needs to resolve its insecurity challenges,” Okowa stated.
On militancy, Okowa said that the agitators saw themselves as being excluded and not part of leadership of the country.
He said that Atiku-Okowa administration would embark on massive employment to get the non-state actors to drop their weapons, adding that bringing development to their doorsteps would solve the problem of militancy in the Niger Delta.
Going further, Governor Okowa added: “Once the right leadership is provided, militancy will disappear. People feel disadvantaged, they feel excluded. When Atiku becomes president, people will be given sense of belonging; there will be full implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act and we will have an efficient NDDC.
“We did in Delta under my administration. After our intervention in the creeks, the people realised that there was the need to allow government to function so that they can get the benefit due to them.”
He also assured that Atiku Abubakar administration would ensure a proper running of NDDC, explaining that an efficient NDDC would be beneficial to the people in oil and gas host communities.
He added that the host community fund provided under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) will be given priority by the Atiku-led administration, come 2023.
“When all these are provided and the people can see them, militancy cannot make a comeback. When we came into government in Delta State in 2015, it was very tough for us.
“But, after two years when we started engaging the people by providing infrastructure in the various communities in the creeks, which the people had thought they could never get, the people realized that the best thing for them was to embrace and work together with the government to develop those communities,” he disclosed.