By Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie, Festus Ahon, Joseph Erunke, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Egufe Yagbuforhi, Godwin Oghre, Perez Brisibe & Ochuko Akuopha
ABUJA — CONDEMNATIONS, yesterday, trailed the National Assembly’s proposal to remove host communities’ fund and local content from the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB.
Vanguard had exclusively reported yesterday that the National Assembly had, among other issues, proposed to remove the host communities’ fund in a new petroleum industry bill, now known as Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB.
Also, some members of the House of Representatives and prominent citizens from the Niger Delta, including Chief Ayiri Emami, Senator Roland Owie and Senator Anietie Okon, flayed the move by the National Assembly, describing it as capable of returning restiveness to the region.
Reacting to the development, National Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria, Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, Dr. Mike Emuh, said: “The 10 per cent equity was an executive proposal in the original bill expected to be paid by prospecting oil companies to the host communities; it is not government money.
“It is the best tool in favour of host communities in the history of oil production in Nigeria. So if the federal government proposed such in favour of host communities, why should the National Assembly abort it? Are they trying to cause renewed crisis between the communities and oil companies?”
He said HOSTCOM was grateful to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration which proposed the 10 per cent equity, adding that the National Assembly needed to toe the path of progress and pass the bill with this provision intact for the host communities.
“That bill has been with the NASS for eight years. They must not give the impression that the HOSTCOM fund is the contentious content that has made it impossible for them to pass the bill for so long because that is what their action now implies.
“They should not create chaos. NASS should reverse that decision within 14 days. We don’t want our children, our people to react in unpleasant manner before they redress this anomaly,” the HOSTCOM leader added.
In search of options
For Prince Yemi Emiko of the Warri royal family, it would be hasty to jump into conclusion over the reported removal of the host community funds, urging stakeholders to study the new bill critically to see the options provided by the NASS in place of the vexed removal.
“We know there is 13 per cent derivation guaranteed by the constitution to the communities through the state and council. There is also 3 per cent by oil companies to NDDC.
“When I was in Chevron, there were issues around the 3%. The oil companies want to know how well the agency is spending what they have paid in before they will continue to pay more.
“We need to go back to the drawing board and say, if you are removing the 10%, what are the options left? If we are going to increase the 3 per cent due to NDDC from oil companies, say to 10 per cent, that is one good way to go.
“I do know what the communities want is that the money should be paid directly to them, but that will further create its own crisis inside the communities and that is a major concern.
“Right now, if you want to get the community people to kill themselves, just go there and make a cash payment of N1billion, or far less, then come back the next day and see if that community is still in existence.”
It’s inciting— Ayiri Emami, others
In his reaction, Delta investor and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Ayiri Emami, said the reported removal of local content input in the new bill “is as inciting as the removal of the 10% equity fund.”
Ayiri, who spoke in Warri, yesterday, said: “We will kick against this flaws in the new bill and we will do that with all sense of duty as host in the producing environment.
“Local content has been a protective tool to guard against discrimination against contractors and job seekers in the oil producing states.
“Why we are agitating that the local content act as currently operational is not being fully honoured and implemented by the oil companies, it is inciting that we are being faced with removal of the act. It is something we won’t take. We will resist it with all our might.”
National Coordinator of the Mandate Against Poverty, MAP, Chief Bobson Gbinije, said the removal of the communities’ fund from the PIB would be resisted by all Niger Deltans through intellectual militancy.
He said: “Enough is enough of this horrendous theatrics of suicidal enslavement from 1956 till date.
“All our governors, politicians, legislators and activists must come together to fine tune the logistics. It is a war that must be won”.
On his part, Chairman of the Oil Mining Lease, OML 30, Delta State, Chief David Edegware, said the bill would be vehemently resisted by the host communities.
He said: “At present, the host communities have been completely forgotten because the level of development here is grossly insignificant compared to what they are taking away from our land.
“There is no tangible development in the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta and to come up with a proposal to remove the development fund will be totally resisted by the people.”
In a similar vein, former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Rowland Owie, warned that removal of the fund would sow the seed of discord among the host communities, the government and the oil sector.
Senator Owie, who urged the National Assembly to note that the PIB remained the key to the development of the oil sector in Nigeria, said it would attract both local and foreign investors for the development of the host communities.
He said: “The National Assembly should know that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is the key to the development of the oil sector in Nigeria which will attract both local and foreign investors for the development of the host communities.
“Removing the fund will sow the seed of discord among the community, the government and the oil sector, meaning that the oil will be destroyed. Benin has a parable that the child who says the mother will not sleep by crying throughout the night will not sleep as well.
“When the community is neglected in the PIB, oil exploration and development will not take place.”
Senator Anietie Okon noted that the move had moral questions, adding that what formed the justification for allowing others benefit from mining rights and the pittance from the oil was being denied oil producing communities.
“It is an unconscionable act of impunity and oppression and further evidence of the heinous plot to subjugate people whose resources have sustained this country,” Senator Okon said.
Asked to comment, Senator Matthew Urhoghide said: “I cannot comment because the PIB has not been officially presented on the floor of the Senate to senators. It is still a hearsay; it is dangerous commenting on a document you do not have the details.”
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa also warned against the removal of Host Communities Fund in the Petroleum Industry Bill,PIB.
He insisted that the aspect of the bill which sought special fund for development of petroleum producing communities could not be tinkered with, saying the people concerned would not accept such action from any quarter.”
Members of the House of Representatives also, yesterday, slammed their Senate counterparts for the development.
One of the lawmakers, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, PDP Abia, who spoke to Vanguard described the position of the Senate as another form of imperialism and colonialism in the 21st century.
Nkem-Abonta, who is House Committee Chairman on Public Petitions, said: “If 10 per cent meant for host communities was actually removed, then what happened to the fund allocated to the frontier states that are yet to discover oil?
“If is true it was not touched and the Senate expunged that of the host communities, then anybody in doubt should visit the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta states and see the level of damage inflicted on the lands caused by oil exploitation and exploration.
“In other climes, oil producing states take everything and pay tax to the centre, like the states in the United States that produce oil,” he said.
On his part, Daniel Reyenieju, a third timer in the House and a member of the adhoc committee on PIB from the 6th through the 7th House, said: “The PIB was not structured or it wasn’t a law that was brought in to favour any section of the country. It has to do with good governance of the oil sector which has to be economic and the development of this country which is predicated on oil.
“I was in the 6th Assembly when the PIB was introduced under the chairmanship of Tam Dieffy Bricks from Bayelsa State. He was removed as chairman and Bassey Ottu was brought in.
“We did all we could, and in the last minutes of the 6th Assembly, we were about considering it clause by clause and we lost it, because we couldn’t push it through and the Assembly wound up.”
Meanwhile, the new version of the PIB, would be presented on the floor of the Senate in the next two weeks.
Disclosing this to Vanguard in a text message, yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, (Upstream), Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, said: “Sorry, until I present the Bill on the floor of the Senate in the next two weeks, I have no comments.”