The Bayelsa State government has said the role of state governments has been deliberately whittled down in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

The implementation of the Act is expected to begin this month.

Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo stated this yesterday when he hosted a high-powered 15-member delegation from the Bayelsa Amazons Advocacy Campaign Group (BAACG) at the Government House in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Ewhrudjakpo noted that governments in the oil and gas producing states in the Niger Delta region had been reduced to mere observers.

The deputy governor said there are lacunas in the PIA which put the oil-bearing states at a disadvantage.

He said the prominent shortcomings in the PIA, as passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Muhammed Buhari, have denied the state governments their full participation in the implementation of the Act.

Ewhrudjakpo said: “We have some lacunas in the PIA. You can’t deprive a man of his right and expect him not to complain. Considering the way that law is couched, they have actually reduced the role of the oil-bearing states to that of a siddon looker.

“I’m really worried that those who made the law have, as usual, undermined the state in terms of exploration and management of oil resources. And you know that anything that does not have a legal backing lacks the potency for its enforcement.”

Responding to some of the requests by the BAACG, the deputy governor said the state government would set up a committee to monitor and follow up the implementation of the PIA.

Ewhrudjakpo, who advised the group to properly articulate its agenda for gender equity, promised that the interest of women in Bayelsa State would be adequately protected, in line with the provisions of the PIA.

Women Affairs, Social Development and Empowerment Commissioner Faith Opene said the agenda being championed by the women’s group was aimed at achieving 30 per cent representation of women in the PIA implementation.

Speaking on behalf of BAACG, Princess Egbe, urged the state government to include women in the membership of the board of trustees (BoTs) and the management committees for the PIA implementation in the oil-producing communities.

Egbe, who is the convener of the advocacy group, also submitted that capital funds be equitably distributed without discrimination against women in the oil-producing areas.