Niger Delta rejects Petroleum Industry Bill

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Some eminent leaders of the Niger Delta region have rejected the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly, saying it does not meet the expectations of oil producing communities.

The National Coordinator of the South South Elders Forum, Anab Sara Igbe, said the PIB bill is a charade designed to distract the people of the Niger Delta from pursuing their valid demands to be involved in the control and management of the resources mined in their land.

Sara-Igbe said the provision for host communities to hold 2.5 percent of the companies producing oil in their land cannot give them the desired benefit as host communities. Even then, he said host communities do not have control over the 2.5 percent from the manner it was provided for in the Bill.

“And even at that the board to manage the 2.5 percent is to be set up by the oil companies. They will set up the management teams. And even in the management teams, the community has no say. So what is the 2.5 percent they are giving to us? They are giving us nothing.

“You can see that the communities have no control over the 2.5 percent as it is. Therefore it is not the best at all for the Niger Delta. I would even advise Niger Deltans to stand up strongly against it because it is a cheat on Niger Delta it is a deceit on Niger Delta. This is just to cajole us and we cannot be intimidated. It is not in any way in the interest of the Niger Delta,” he said.

He said if passed into law, the PIB law will cause more confusion in the Niger Delta. “What is before the National Assembly is an albatross for the Niger Delta? The PIB Bill as it is, is worse than where we are right now. For me, we don’t need it. Let us go back to the original PIB bill that Yar’Adua promised us; not this one.”

He said what the region rather needs is a push for the realization of the 10 percent agreement made with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. “They should give us the 10 percent before we talk about sharing. And we should be having a slot in their board or management team. That is what we need. We should be participants in oil production. That is what we need. They are not giving us allocation. They are not giving us allocation of oil block. And they are now bringing PIB Bill that will rather tie our neck and people should shout, ‘I am loyal.’

Meanwhile, a former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Ledum Mittee, has faulted the choice of Abuja as the venue for the hearings on the PIB Bill. Mitee said many of the host communities could not afford to sponsor delegations to Abuja for the public hearing, and argued that the public hearing could have been held in any of the Niger Delta states.

He asked, “How many communities can access that public hearing? I think this is a very important piece of legislation hearing that the public hearing should have moved to these oil communities so that you don’t shave people’s heads in their absence. They should be able to make contributions to what they think will affect them and for several years to come. So, I believe that a public hearing in the National Assembly already deprives people the opportunity to interrogate and participate because how many people can afford to get to Abuja.”

Mitee also frowned on the section of the PIB, which stipulates that host communities would be surcharged from their entitlements should there be pipeline vandalism in their domain.

“If you look at that provision, it says that if there is any damage, maybe pipeline vandalism or anything, then for each year, the money that would have been due to that community, the cost of repair is now going to be deducted from the cost that we are supposed to get.

“What that means is that you are now punishing the community for any damage to property in their area, whether it is by them or from any other area, the community should suffer. You have put the law upside down. Someone is supposed to be innocent until proved guilty by our Constitution. This time, you are making the communities guilty until they prove themselves innocent. I think this is wrong,” Mitee said.

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