PIB is Solution to Hostilities Between Oil Companies and Host Communities, Says Okowa

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Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has said the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) should be taken seriously as it will reduce the level of hostilities and lack of trust between the host communities and oil companies.

Speaking when members of the Senate Joint Committee on PIB led by Senator Omotayo Alasaodura paid him a courtesy visit in Asaba, Okowa stated that the passage of the bill and signing it into law should be concluded before the campaign for the 2019 general election commences.

The governor who commended the committee on Petroleum Host Communities Bill for visiting the state to take the views of the host communities and know how they live in the creeks, advising that all components of the PIB should be considered for the desired results to be achieved.

“I want to appreciate the national assembly for the interest you have for the passage of the PIB, we are glad that you are here to visit impacted communities, have a first time knowledge of effects of oil exploration and have interactive session with the people,” the governor said.

He continued: “I am glad that you are here and this particular bill (Petroleum Host Communities Bill), though, it may be the most smallest, is the most important bill, because, if you do not have the bye-in of the host communities, the likelihood of success in the entire petroleum industry will be challenged.

“Things are getting better in the oil communities but, we believe that more can be done and this bill will actually remove every doubt and every fear will be taken care of when it is signed into law, I believe that it will give a lot of room for development in the host communities and that will reduce agitations and allow for a peaceful environment for the operation of the oil companies and when you have the kind of environment that is needed for oil companies to operate in, then, we know that we have greater resources for us as a people and as a nation,” Okowa said.

Alasaodura had said they were in the state for the people to have input in the PIB, noting that Delta State is one of the greatest stakeholders in Nigeria’s oil industry and getting the views of the people was very important to ensure that the bill meets their aspirations.

He disclosed that efforts are on to ensure that the bill is passed and signed into law before the campaign for the 2019 election commences.

At a stakeholders meeting between the committee, traditional rulers, president-generals of ethnic nationalities, and other relevant stakeholders, inputs were made of what the people expects from the PIB.

The governor at the stakeholders’ meeting took different sessions of the bill, stating that communities should in conjunction with the oil companies, appoint members of board of trustees for the Oil Producing Communities Development Board of Trustees; inclusion of enterprising development should be included into the capital project funding of the trustees; that professional managers for the projects must come from the host and impacted communities as the communities have pool of professionals in all fields, among other suggestions.

Alasaodura assured the people that decisions have not been taken concerning the bill and the views of the people would be considered, adding that there will also, be public hearing on the bill before it is passed and signed into law.

N3.2bn Fraud: Kalu Bought London House with Proceed of Fraud, Says EFCC
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it was not aware that former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to former Unites States President, George Bush, over a $1.7million Potomac house which a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, purchased in 2003.

A forensic investigator with the EFCC, Chidi Chukwuka, who appeared yesterday before the Federal High Court in Lagos where Kalu is facing trial for an alleged fraud, said the alleged letter between Obasanjo and Bush was none of the anti-graft agency’s business.

Chukwuka, who was fielding questions from Kalu’s lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), under cross-examination, equally denied knowledge of the existence of any similar correspondence between Obasanjo and then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.

“I suggest to you that it was not only the EFCC that was interested in the property in Exhibit W1. I said so because then President Obasanjo had correspondence with then US President Bush,” Kalu confronted Chukwuka.

Responding, the investigator said: “My office is in the EFCC, not in the US.”
“You may not also be aware that Obasanjo was in correspondence with then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with respect to some properties,” Kalu suggested to the witness.
“Not to my knowledge,” he replied.

Asked by the SAN whether the EFCC discovered in the course of its investigations that the former governor acquired a “family house” in Boston, Massachusetts, “as far back as 1997”, Chukwuka said he did not investigate the property.

“We are aware that the first defendant, by Nigerian standard, it is possible he has a house in the US but the house in the US was not subject to investigation; so, we did not pay attention to that,” he added.

“Did you find out that the area where that family house was located had racial issue on account of which he put it up for sale?” the lawyer asked the investigator.
“It was not part of our investigation,” he said.

The lawyer further suggested to the investigator that “as a result of the racial issue, the first defendant sold the property for $3.8m in 2003,” to which, Chukwuka again replied that “it was not part of our investigation, sir.”

“Did your investigation show that the Potomac house was acquired with proceeds from the sale of the Boston property?” Kalu asked the investigator.

“We found an account where $1.7m was drawn and paid from a Nigerian bank,” the investigator said.

“Did you uncover an account from Nigeria or any part of Africa where $1.7m was drawn to pay for the property?” Kalu asked.

“It may interest you that the suspect was investigated that time and he had foreign accounts and funds were moved from Nigeria into those foreign accounts,” the investigator said.

“I suggest to you that the property in Potomac was funded from an offshore account in the US,” Kalu put to the investigator, who then responded, “You are right.”

“Specifically, that fund was from Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan; that was where the house was paid for,” Kalu said, to which Chukwuka replied, “Yes.”

The witness, however, said he was not aware that the ex-governor is a “legal permanent resident” in the US who holds a green card.

The witness said he was aware that Kalu filled and submitted assets declaration forms in 1999 and 2003.

“Did the asset declaration forms of 1999 and 2003 show the first defendant to be a pauper, a person who has no means or worthless?” Kalu asked the investigator.
“I may not be able to express opinion on that,” the investigator replied.

Chukwuka confirmed that the petition leading to Kalu’s trial was authoured by Abia Leaders Forum, raising allegations of money laundering and stealing against Kalu, who was still in office as Abia State governor.

The investigator confirmed that the petition was signed by Senator Enyinne Abaribe, who was impeached as Abia State Deputy Governor by the House of Assembly.

“You must be aware that the process of impeachment led to bad blood between the signatory and the first defendant,” Kalu said.

“We were not aware he was impeached; so, we didn’t take that into consideration. We looked at the issues before us and we followed it professionally,” the investigator said.

“I suggest to you that that bad blood led to Exhibit G (the petition),” the SAN said.

“My Lord, like I said earlier, in our practice at the EFCC, we look at issues in a petition without emotions or personal feelings towards persons that are involved,” Chukwuka responded.

When the SAN suggested to him that Abaribe signed the petition because he had scores to settle with Kalu, the investigator said, “As an investigator, experience has shown that the best result you can get is from the enemy.”

Justice Mohammed Idris adjourned further proceedings till Friday.‎