PIB: Landowners demand definition of ‘host communities’ from Senate
By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA – Even as the fate of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, hangs s at the National Assembly, landowners where oil and gas resources are being exploited in the Niger Delta region have written to the Senate President David Mark, asking for explicit definition of the use of the term ‘host communities’ as contained in the bill.
Operating under the aegis of the Association of Families of Oil and Gas Producing Communities, ASFOGAPCOM, the landowners in a memorandum sent to the Senate argued that government policies or laws didn’t cover landowners, whom they said are the primary and grassroots stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.
The memorandum, which was signed by the President of ASFOGAPCOM, Mr. Joseph Abinogun, and 25 other read in part:“while the draft is eloquently put together and properly intentioned, we wish to bring to the fore our observation on the use of the word ‘host communities’ in the compensation section of the draft bill.
“It is the use of the term “host community (ies)” and the attendant chaos which it has caused from the myopic interpretation of the community leaders against oil and gas landowners and the grave danger which it portends if allowed to remain that way that prompted our agitated minds to present this position paper to you for serious consideration.
“As earlier mentioned, one of factors militating against oil and gas landowners is that of obnoxious laws. For instance, while the Federal Government is making a sing song of local content policy in the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry, nowhere in its policies, laws or even the Local Content Act of 2010 was landowners ever mentioned or accommodated, yet the landowners are the primary and grassroots stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.
“Instead, the term “host communities” is being branded about without spelling out who the respective stakeholders are, in clear terms. As a result, community leaders are taking undue and reckless advantage of the term to oppress landowners in the region and this ambiguity has been generating serious conflicts between landowners and the communities with many such cases still pending in various law courts.
“If no community can exist without the various family units, how come those who own the land are being disenfranchised? We are too narrow and selfish to address the needs of landowner.
To this effect, the group urged the upper legislative chamber that, “that use of the term “host communities” in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, be given a clear and definite definition in the interpretation section to mean : “that in the case of a land owned by a community, compensation or rent be paid to the community with un-impeachable title.
“That in the case of a family own land, compensation or rent be paid to the family with un-impeachable title. In the case of a personal land, compensation or rent be paid to the person with un-impeachable title.
“In the 10% Petroleum Host Communities, PHC Development Fund in the proposed PIB draft, we strongly appeal to the National Assembly to create a virile mechanism for formal recognition and integration of oil and gas landowners as a separate and interest group/stakeholders to avoid a clash of interest or crisis.
“That the formal integration and accommodation of oil and gas landowners be reflected in subsequent government policies and that of its agencies.”
The group in conclusion, urged the Senate President to use his office to take into consideration its recommendations to avoid complications or litigations when the bill is eventually passed.