By Udeme Akpan
THE Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria, Producing Oil and Gas, HOSCON, Dr Mike Emuh, Monday, urged different groups in Niger Delta to come together to maximize the benefits of the recent passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, into law.
Niger Delta groups, including the Host Communities Producing Oil and Gas, HOSCOM, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Ijaw National Congress, INC, the Movement for the Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, MOSIEND, Ikwere People Congress, IPC, Worldwide, Itsekiri Liberation Group, ILG, Forum for Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta, FENND, and the Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities, CROGHCOM and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have opposed the provision of three per cent of the budget of oil companies for the development of host communities in the PIA.
But in a telephone interview with Vanguard, Emuh, who has been canvassing peace and unity, said: “We cannot continue to protest at this stage because the PIB has been passed into law. We should work together to articulate our positions for the future review of the PIA.
“The unity and peace we are talking about are necessary for the successful planning and execution of projects and programmes in the host communities. We should engage experts to produce development plans, work with Local and foreign investors to implement them, knowing that no development will take place in an atmosphere of crises.”
Emuh, who praised President Muhammadu Buhari and the 9th National Assembly for the emergence of the new legislation, said: “I have been asking the communities to accept the new Act, even though we intend to canvass for the amendment of some provisions, including the section, which gives a landlord status to the oil companies.
“With the PIA, we now have direct funds for the development of the communities. In the past, because the 13 per cent derivation was given to States, the oil and gas communities, that suffer the negative impact of operations lost about N44 trillion to the States.”
While assenting to the PIB, President Buhari had said: “We are all aware that past administrations have identified the need to further align the industry for global competitiveness, but there was a lack of political will actualise this needed transformation.
“This lack of progress has stagnated the growth of the industry and the prosperity of our economy. In the past ten years, Nigeria has lost an estimated 50 billion dollars worth of investments due to the uncertainty created by the non-passage of the PIB.
“The Act also provides for a direct benefit framework that will enable the sustainable development of host communities. I appeal to the host communities to look carefully at the contents of the Bill, which in the implementation will bring real and lasting benefits to them.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had also said: “The host communities are winners as well. It may not be necessarily exactly what some of them had hoped. But you know from zero to over $500 million and with time, such issues will be further addressed.
“This time around, there should be no excuses for anybody to tamper with this money. The host communities have suffered enough, even when NDDC was established, I’m sure it was established because of the host communities’ issues and yet the host communities did not get much attention.
“This time, the host communities have been specifically mentioned and these funds should go there. We want to see people who will be appointed, taking this as trust and do what is right.
“Of course, there will be so much employment and jobs especially in the midstream of the value chain. This midstream has not been in existence so to speak. What we have is the upstream and then, the downstream. When our refineries will be better and more will be established, I’m sure the value chain will have opportunities for more Nigerians to have jobs and so on.
“This is something we all have to address with some optimism and hope that it would be okay. But because we are human beings, no act of human beings could be perfect. So when we are able to see issues, the National Assembly is there. Bring them for amendment.”