By Luka Binniyat
David Ugolor Executive Director African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) based in Benin Edo state spoke to Vanguard on what oil communities would want to see added to the PIB
What is your going to be your input as community member of an oil producing area, as an NGO into the Petroleum Industry Bill?
First of all, I want to say that I am happy that this Bill is being presented by the executive arm of government. And I am happy that the National Assembly deems it fit to organise this Public Hearing. However, we are insisting, that first and foremost that the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry be transparent. This law must open the industry for all to see what is going on there. There is too much opacity and wuruwuru going there to the disadvantage of the country, and especially to the Niger Delta.
The next most important issue that we affected communities want is that of equity participation in the business. Because we are the ones that bear the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation. You need to see the effect of gas flaring on our communities. We want some degree of ownership in both the upstream and down stream oil sector. This will go a long way in sustaining the peace process that the Federal Government is embarking on. This will also secure the investment of oil companies there. But, that cannot be achieved without some legal backing, and this is the avenue to push this desire.
Besides that, the issue of the investment of the Petroleum Training Institute Efurun and the relocation statement by the Federal Government is not good for the peace process at all. Because you will agree with me that there was crisis of unprecedented proportion in some part of the Niger Delta. And that kind of statement is not in the interest of peace. But, I am happy that government is now reversing its stand. And this public hearing is another area we hope to contribute to making more peace as long as we are guaranteed justice in the law.
Do you think that your demand is the average demand for all oil producing communites?
I cannot assert my views on them.
I believe that every community has its parcilar problem and demand. That I whyÂ I would want tis Bill to be taken toÂ areas of oil producing communities to get the feeling of other communities. It is not enough to sit in Abuja and propose laws. Because as you have heard of the outcome of the meeting of the South-South Governors , it is a reflection of the people of the South-South. And I want the National Assembly to take the stand of our governors very strongly when reviewing the law And the most important aspect is that of ownership. And as you know, are asking for 50% ownership.
Are talking of 50% equity participation, or 50% derivative, which will mean adjusting the constitution?
Well, we want both. But, for now, and for the purpose of this Bill, we want 50% equity participation in all oil and gas investment in our communities. This is even in the best interest of the oil firms, because it would secure their investments. And we hope to push that into the propose law.
Oil and gas business takes huge money to invest. Where are these poor communities going to raise money to finance there equity?
You don’t have to worry about that. Let the law be approvedÂ first. But, I want to tell you that the State and Local Government can raise that equity.. It is not a new thing I an suggesting.
The State and Local Government can raise that money and hold the profit in trust for the communities. And this was buttress by the outcome of the South-South Governors meeting in Asaba. They have agree to have what they call a Sovereign Wealth Fund. That can be used as the vehicle for funding such ventures for the communities. And once that is achieved, all communities will know that each pipeline that passes through their backyard is secured. Because it is their investment too. This will lead to the natural death of militancy in the region.