Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly continued to receive knocks from oil-bearing areas in the Niger Delta yesterday as residents of Ikarama and Okordia communities of Bayelsa State, rejected what they alleged was a doctored document.
The communities called for the reintroduction of the 10 per cent host community fund in the new version of the PIB before its passage into law by the lawmakers.
Making the call at an environmental parliament held in Ikarama to intimate residents on the provisions of the bill, over 80 participants, drawn from representatives of oil-bearing communities, youths and women groups, advocated the inclusion of the HOSTCOM fund in the bill.
At the event organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), the participants unanimously called for the reinstatement of the host community development fund.
A monarch, Chief Ediwini Lambert, noted that though the political leadership in the region had not effectively managed the derivations and other resources that accrued to the area, it was not enough to deprive them of what rightly belongs to them.
Local residents, including Mr. Moses Seleowei and Chief Raphael Warder, expressed delight at the interest of ERA in advocating for the rights of the rural oil communities and enabling them to make inputs in the legislative process.
They called for a more holistic approach on the issue, regretting that host communities that had faced the adverse effects of oil exploration for decades, were left out in the new legislation.
In his comment, Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN, Mr. Alagoa Morris, said the session became necessary so as to get feedback from host communities and present such for effective advocacy on the new bill.
Reviewer of the current provisions in the bill, Dr. Tari Dadiowei, underscored the need to include environmental governance, community participation and security in PIGB.
Dadiowei, an expert in Conflict Resolution, examined the various components of the draft bill, and pointed out that the bill in its present form, did not guarantee community participation and protection of the environment.
According to him, the bill is silent on who will bear the ecological debt when the oil resources are exhausted and was highly skewed in favour of the international oil companies and their profit motive.
The participants resolved that the legislature should ensure that the 10 per cent Host Communities Fund which was recommended in the previous version was reintroduced before its passage into law.
They regretted that since 2008 when efforts were first made to introduce the PIB it had yet to see the light of the day.