Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
As the National Assembly prepares to kick off debates on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Ijaw youths monday cautioned against the removal of the oil-producing communities’ fund clauses in the bill.
Speaking through their umbrella body, the Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC), the body warned that removing the clause that is aimed at uplifting the oil-bearing communities from poverty, would be counterproductive as it could incite the people to return to bear arms.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s version of the bill, which could not be passed during the life of his administration, had provided for the fund in Section 116, which set aside the special fund for the people resident in oil-producing areas. It stated: “There is established a fund to be known as the Petroleum Host Communities’ Fund.”
Stating the purpose of the fund, Section 117 of the bill said it “shall be utilised for the development of the economic and social infrastructure of the communities within the petroleum producing area”.
The bill also created the Petroleum Host Communities’ Fund and prescribed 10 per cent of the net profit of upstream oil companies to be paid into the fund for the development of the host communities.
But the Ijaw youths in a statement by the IYC spokesman, Eric Omare, said there was a plan to remove the special fund clauses from the bill and warned that doing so would attract angry protests from the oil-bearing communities, particularly those in the Niger Delta.
“This plan is obviously an invitation to renewed hostilities and agitations in the Niger Delta region. The IYC enjoins Nigerians and men of conscience to reject this plan,” they said.
Explaining that the oil communities’ development fund was a laudable initiative aimed at making oil-producing communities stakeholders in the oil resources produced in their area as well as address the challenge of sabotage and associated challenges. The youths said the planned removal of the fund would upset the relative peace currently prevalent in the Niger Delta region.