By Egufe Yafugborhi – Port Harcourt
Governor Nyesom Wike on Thursday told the National Assembly (NASS) that any concession less than 10% stakes to host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would no be acceptable.
Wike, addressing visiting members of the NASS Committee on PIB at Government House, Port Harcourt, also underscored the necessity for the PIB to clearly state-specific development projects fund allocated to host communities should be spent to guard against the unproductive distribution of such funds.
He said, “It unfortunate that people produce oil but live in poverty. I believe this PIB Committee will make a recommendation for how a certain per cent must be given to the host oil communities.
“There are issues of education and health. Don’t just say 10 percent to the oil host communities. It must be tied to specific projects so that whoever is in charge will know it.
“So, he or she does not have the prerogative to initiate, like during Christmas, buy and give 20 thousand bags of rice and tag it as a project. Let it also not be that host community people will have this money, and you begin to see assassinations among themselves.
“I have found out that part of the problem we have in communities is that they allow these oil companies to divide them. They cause crisis among them; divide and rule. That is the pattern of IOCs, particularly Shell.”
According to the governor, the mistakes found with the act establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should be avoided because it did not specify what projects the Commission should embark on in the Niger Delta.
He said, “Same thing that has happened to the NDDC should not happen to issues of host communities in PIB. If in the NDDC act, they were able to tie money coming to specific projects, it would have developed the Niger Delta. And you won’t be having people fainting at the National Assembly.
“NDDC will leave their job and begin to buy vehicles for police, army, and asphalting barracks. Is it what NDDC is meant to do? That is where we have lost it.”
He hoped the PIB, “Will also not be like the Electoral Act, after you pass it, they’ll keep it for months. Later they say they can’t assent to it. Then the presidency will throw it back to you and you will keep quiet. That will then show that what you’re doing is only for the interest of your party and not the interest of Nigeria.
“Otherwise, you’ll insist that it is signed. I hope you’ll have the courage to do what is right and this is the time that Nigerians require you to be strong, firm, and do what will move this country forward.”
Deputy Chairman, NASS Committee on PIB, Victor Onyemaechi who led the delegation, said, “A lot of people have been misinformed about the issue of host communities. Some have said host communities are related to the hostility of the producing communities.
But what they (colleagues) have seen in the last four days, has shown to be negative. It has proved negative in the sense that we walked around over 800 meters about three days ago and they saw that even in the dry season, we have to use wood as bridge to get to where Shell is exploring and making all their money.
“They also saw the impact of Shell petroleum operation to people’s means of livelihood where their farmland was burnt and palm trees were burnt to ashes. They can feel it and they can see it.
“Today is not a different story. What we saw today is that a community that is known for fishing, as their means of livelihood, has been brought to a standstill. The boats were there, over 40, 50 boaNts, idle because their water has been fully polluted.”