Says bill injurious to host communities

Public hearing just parade to fulfill all righteousness

Points out alleged outrageous, impervious provisions Buhari should review

By Samuel Oyadongha

CHAIRMAN, Board of Trustees, BOT, Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development, CEPAD, Surveyor Furoebi Akene, is taken aback that the National Assembly, NASS, in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, last week, closed its eyes to across-the-board proposals of Niger-Delta stakeholders at the public hearing conducted by its Joint Committee.

Akene, who spoke to NDV in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, said the newly passed PIB was not only a snare to the host communities producing oil and gas, but very hazardous to their survival.

He, therefore, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to rationally appraise the contentious areas of the Bill and ensure they were satisfactorily addressed before assenting to it.

Secretary as Legal Adviser
“Juxtaposing the draft bill and the one passed, it becomes clear that the public hearing by a joint committee of NASS was just a jamboree to fulfill all righteousness for the bill as it is passed now has very small insignificant differences from the draft bill, despite the submissions and presentations made in diverse areas by a wide spectrum of high caliber professionals and technocrats.

“Some of the sections where we (participants) raised concerns and made submissions against the provisions of the draft bill but not reflected in the passed bill include that of Secretary to the Commission. Participants went against the dual role of the Secretary to double as the Legal Adviser to the Commission and went further to recommend that the positions of the Secretary and Legal adviser be separated and also stated the position of the Secretary should not be limited to lawyers only, but all the recommendations of the participants were not considered.

“Participants raised the issue of lack of provisions for the payment of royalties and others to the host communities in Sections 86 and 87 for leases and renewals, but not reflected in the passed bill.

Court shouldn’t decide ancestral land
“On Section 101: Damage to Protected and Venerated Objects, participants raised objection to Subsection 1(a) of section 101 and moved that it should be expunged because it is an ambush to the natives. Subjecting sacred areas that are ancestral lands preserved as sacred from generation to generation and is conspicuously known by everyone in the community and their neighbours to be ascertained by a court process is oppressive, but it is not considered in the bill passed

Host communities denied compensation
“Again, on Section 103, financial contribution for remediation of environmental damage, while participants raised the issue of no provisions for payment of compensations to the risk bearers (the host communities) for the loss of their economic livelihood and health hazards since they are subjected to the brunt of the petroleum activities, the bill passed ignored this very important concern of the host communities, thereby making the law appear draconian.

“The negative impacts of crude spills on the physical and social environment are so enormously devastating, including the health and economy of the people that ignoring it is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the host communities.

Ludicrous to pay gas flare penalty to FG
“Whereas  Section 104  dwells on gas flaring penalties, in passing the bill into law, the National Assembly completely jettisoned the cries of the participants on the negative impacts of gas flaring. The negative effects of gas flaring in the ambient environment vis-à-vis the host communities and the inhabitants are enormous in diverse ways, including health and food security.

“Therefore, it is ridiculous to pay fine to the Federal Government without considering the risk bearers. This is oppressive and pervasive so provisions should be made to cushion the risk burden of the people in form of payment of compensations and other palliatives outside measures that should be taken to stop the negative effects. Ignoring this submission is really murderous in nature.

Abandonment, decommissioning, disposal
“Our submission that a subsection should be added to this section to reflect that abandonment, decommissioning and disposal will not be complete without duly handing over the land back to the original owners (the host communities) is ignored. This is exactly what was done to the dry wells that were drilled in the North and Middle Belt in the early 1950s

3% equity share unacceptable
“Section 235 deals with Incorporation of Host Communities Development Trusts. The participants’ submission that the host communities are shut out of relevance and participation in the affairs that concern them by virtue of the provision of subsection (4) and subsection (6a) is not considered in passing the bill.

“On Section 240 detailing sources of funding for petroleum Host Communities Development Trust, though the percentage has been increased from the initial 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent, the most appropriate probable value as submitted by the host communities and other experts was 10 per cent.

READ ALSO: PIB: We can’t guarantee peace, security in N-Delta, if equity share isn’t 10% —Clark, HOSTCOM

“While Section 242, which is the Board of Trustees’ Composition, Management, among others, in the submissions of the participants from the host communities and their states, they frowned at the insults to the sensibilities of the host communities,    particularly subsections 1 and 2. A situation where the host communities are denied the selection process of people that will be taking decision on their behalf is unacceptable, and as such should be addressed properly, yet no correction of such was done before passing the bill.

“Again on Section 243, which is Duties and Functions of the Board of Trustees, the fear expressed by the participants as to the alienation of the host communities pursuant to the provisions of section 242 and 247 were not considered in any way before passing the bill.

Ensnaring host communities
“Looking at Section 250 which is the duties and functions of the Host Community Advisory Committee, the submission by participants that the provisions of subsections (d) and (e) of this section are traps to ambush the host communities for destruction as have been experienced in some innocent communities in the oil-producing areas in the Niger-Delta and that subsection (e) of this section should be expunged or should be modified to free the host communities of this trap, was not alluded to in passing the bill.

“This is really dangerous to the survival of the host communities. The memories of host communities being invaded and destroyed leading to deaths of loved ones in some cases by the Nigerian military on the excuse of looking for criminals of which the host communities have no control, is still fresh in the minds of the people.

“Another area of concern to us is Section 257 which is deduction of payment for Petroleum Host Community Development. Participants from the host communities and the states protested against the provisions of Subsections 2 and 3 of this section that they should be expunged for it is oppression against the host communities and recommended for the increase in the proficiency of their surveillance and security system to meet up their security challenges.

“The system should not increase the plights of the defenseless host communities. It is a known fact that most of the crude oil spills that are declared sabotage are actually equipment/instrument failure, but for the conspiracy between the oil companies and the Federal Government regulation agencies, they are declared sabotage. Additionally, no mention is made in any section of the entire bill about oil spills, clean-ups, remediation, recovery and payment of compensations to oil spill victims. This is also ignored in passing the bill,” he said.

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