By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday vehemently rejected the plots by Senator Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra South) to amend the act establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with a view to smuggle Anambra State into the oil producing states in the country, otherwise known as Niger Delta states.
During the controversy that arose while Senator Uba was battling to sell the amendment bill to his colleagues, the senators representing the three states which had laid claim to the ownership of the oil wells being drilled by Orient Petroleum Ltd, including Enugu, Kogi and Anambra, argued that the greater percentage of the oil well is located in their respective states.
Presenting the lead debate, Senator Uba said the bill which seeks to amend the NDDC Act CAP N86 LFN 2011 passed First Reading at the Upper Chamber on October 22, 2014.
Uba said the bill seeks to include Anambra State as one of the member states that make up the NDDC, hinting that when passed, Anambra State would join the league of oil-producing states of: Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Edo, Ondo, Imo and Abia.
He stressed that President Goodluck Jonathan had designated Anambra State as an oil-producing state, while inaugurating Orient Production Facility in Aguleri-Olu on August 31, 2012.
He listed areas to be amended to include: Sections 2 (1) (b); 4 and 30 with the insertion of Anambra State.
“The inclusion of the state as a member state in the NDDC will douse the violent agitation that would have aroused from these communities for government neglect”, he submitted.
But other senators who bared their mind on the matter vehemently opposed the bill, insisting that it should not go through Second Reading, until the issue of ownership of the oil wells is resolved by National Boundary Commission (NBC).
They argued that since the matter is being contested by Kogi and Enugu States, coupled with the fact a Presidential Committee headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, had been set up to resolve all contentious issues, it would be wise to step down the bill temporarily.
First to speak was Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North) who said: “It is a controversial issue and will instigate further agitations in Kogi and Enugu States. I want to call on my friend (Andy Uba) to withdraw the bill until the time is right. But if he doesn’t, I urge my colleagues to oppose it”.
Atai Aidoko (PDP, Kogi East), spoke in the same vein, explaining that should the bill pass Second Reading, “The disaster that will happen in Kogi and Enugu States will be unimaginable”.
While Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, asked that the three states of Enugu, Kogi and Anambra be included as oil-producing states in the amendment, Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central) advised that the bill be dropped in the interest of peace.
Others who spoke in the same vein include: Ayogu Eze (Enugu North) and Helen Esuene (Akwa-Ibom South), who all opposed the bill for its wrong timing.
At this juncture, the sponsor of the bill, Andy Uba, withdrew it, but said that the issue of ownership of the oil wells has not been upturned by President Jonathan, to allow the relevant committees on the resolution of the conflict resolve the dispute.
In his ruling, the Senate President, David Mark, said the nine senators of the three states contesting the oil wells should work together with the relevant committees and the National Boundary Commission to resolve the issues at stake.
He said since none of the senators have tangible facts to buttress the rightful owner, there is need to have the bill withdrawn to enable more facts to be gathered from the Presidential Committee.