By Valentine Amanze
Civil society groups have rejected “the current version” of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for failure to address community, economic and environmental concerns.”
The groups, which include, We the People, CAPPA, HOMEF, and ERA/FoEN, also advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the document.
They declared their position after reviewing the state of the nation’s environment including the contentious PIB in Lagos on Wednesday. The groups’ stand was read by Mr. Ken Henshaw.
Host Communities Trust
The groups faulted the PIB for making the incorporation of the Trust the exclusive responsibility of the oil companies operating in the area, while giving the oil companies overriding powers to decide who becomes member of the Trust and other governance structures.
According to them, the provisions for the establishment and governance of the Host Communities Trust downgrades the participation of communities, while overtly promoting the role of oil companies. They pointed out that the PIB gave the companies power to nominate all members of the Board of Trustees with only an obligation to ‘consult’ host communities.
On the paltry three of five percent earmarked for host communities, the groups said that it was an indication that the PIB would continue the historical treatment of host communities as oil colonies and sacrifice zones under the control of profiteering companies.
“It also indicates that the government still holds the erroneous and unfortunate view that communities where crude oil is extracted from do not have the capacity to direct their affairs. This is not only untrue; it is also insulting. It is our recommendation that in the harmonization of the PIB, the Host Communities Trust be incorporated and governed by members of each host community.
“We also recommend that contrary to what is in the PIB currently, the oil companies should not be the ones to determine who is a host community,” the groups stated.
Community Responsibility for Protection of Oil Facilities
The groups also criticized the placement of the responsibility of protecting oil installations on host communities. They wondered how unarmed communities could confront armed gangs, who vandalize the oil facilities. According to them, the proposal stems directly from the erroneous view which has been peddled by oil companies that communities are responsible for sabotage on pipelines and oil theft. They warned that if the provision was upheld in the bill, it could result in consistent denial of benefits which could in turn engender regular conflicts, while advocating for total deleting of the clause.
The groups called for a total ban on gas flaring contrary to what is contained in the PIB. They pointed out that Gas flaring had been illegal in Nigeria since 1984.
“In 2005, a Federal High Court in Nigeria reaffirmed the illegality of the practice and held that gas flaring amounted to a violation of the constitutional right to life and dignity of the people.” they stated.
The groups also raised alarm over the proposal in the PIB for the utilization of 30% of NNPC profits on oil exploration in the frontier basins mostly located outside the Niger Delta.
They pointed out that while the PIB expects the NNPC to become a profit-making enterprise, it already dedicated a hefty chunk of its expected profit into the search for additional crude oil. They said that Nigeria has for decades invested heavily and futilely in the search for crude oil in the same basins. “Rather than spend so much of the expected profits of NNPC on exploring for oil in unlikely places, we propose that the government considers investing the same percentage of NNPC profits in generating clean and affordable energy for Nigerians, or even supporting an environmental remediation fund aimed at remediating years of pollution, livelihood loses and health impacts of oil extraction,” they said.
The groups reminded the government that the world was moving away from crude oil, wondering why a provision was made in the PIB to make more investments in that regard. They also said that the PIB paid no heed to issues of climate change.
The groups however pointed out that the PIB ignored the extreme harm inflicted on the Niger Delta, and said nothing about a region-wide environmental remediation effort which ought to start now.
The bill passed by both chambers of the National Assembly have done none of the above, the groups said.