By Tordue Salem – Abuja
The piece of legislation, which was first introduced in 2002, is now, for the first time undergoing a public hearing for passage into law in April.
But the CSOs and some leaders in the South-South, insist the piece of legislation, as currently being considered, does not protect the interest of communities from which the federal government and oil mining companies, extract petroleum resources.
Prince Edegbuo, the spokesman for the group of CSOs and Programme Manager, Democracy and Good Governance, Social Action, accused the House of Representatives Committee on PIB, conducting the Public hearings, that ended on Thursday, of ignoring the interest of host communities.
“We consider the manner the House, has handled host communities and civil society contributions in these hearings, as deliberately aimed at ensuring those critical voices are not heard. As the Petroleum Industry Bill, is critical to the functionality of the oil and gas sector and the Nigerian economy m, it is of utmost importance that all stakeholders are treated equally and accorded the same opportunity to discuss its contents and proposal”.
He recalled that “On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, representatives of oil-bearing communities and civil society organizations from Niger Delta, were denied the right to participate in so-called Public Hearings, organised by the Senate”, adding that “Again, we noted a similar display at the House of Representatives Hearing on January 27, where members of oil host communities, were denied access to the public hearing”.
According to him, “while we support a speedy passage of the Bill, we are more interested in such Bill’s content and quality. As currently proposed, the PIB 2020, is inadequate to address the environmental, human rights, and livelihoods concerns of host communities. The proposal for a host communities development fund does not support the participation of the communities in decision making.
“The governance structures proposed for the host communities fund, deliberately deny any meaningful level of community party, while covertly promoting oil companies’ control and prominence”.
The coalition also rejected a provision in the Bill emphasizing control of resources by oil companies, warning of conflicts in the future.
“Oil companies described as settlers in the Bill, are empowered to set up the Board of Trustees of the Trusts and conduct needs assessment and produce development plans on behalf of the host communities. We believe that level of emphases on oil companies, could fuel oil industry divide-and-rule tactics and stoke communal conflicts”.
Earlier, His Royal Majesty, Ovie Monday Obukuhwo Whiskey of Idjerhe Kingdom of Delta State, also kicked against the contents of the Bill.
He reiterated that his kingdom and others in the region were not carried along in the drafting and processing of the PIB.
He also demanded compensation for the death of over 100 persons from a pipeline explosion by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC.
The monarch who opposed calls for the scrapping of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, also urged the National Assembly to include leaders of the region in every decision affecting their communities.