PIA Inadequate in Addressing Challenges of Niger Delta Region, Says Group

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The Petroleum Industry Act (2021) is inadequate in providing solutions to the ecological and environmental challenges of the Niger Delta region according to  observation by stakeholders at the Third Niger Delta Socio-Ecological Alternatives Convergence (NDAC).

Highlighting the recently approved Niger Delta alternative manifesto for socio ecological justice, Mr. Ken Henshaw noted that while oil has been extracted from the region for over 64 years, the people in the area have been subjected to poverty, less developed and remained more unsecured.

At the event organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in Abuja, he said the communities in the area that had borne the brunt of oil extraction and Nigeria’s oil economy for over six decades deserve urgent and immediate attention.

He however regretted that they are made to pay for offences not committed just to deny them the right of benefit from the 3 per cent as provided by PIA.

Henshaw, who is the Executive Director, We The People, highlighted the provisions on community responsibility for protecting oil infrastructures which he said effectively criminalises the people.

He also raised issues with the provisions on gas flaring which permit the practice, provisions on establishing the host communities funds which give primacy to oil companies, arguing that it fails to capture the interest and concerns of the communities.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Director of HOMEF, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, noted that the Niger Delta is an undeniable sacrificial zone whose degraded situation must be realigned for the wellbeing of the people and the environment.

He decried that the region had been placed on a bloody slab and visited with unrelenting  abuse by the forces of ‘extractivism’, internal colonialism and dispossession.

  “It has been recklessly exploited right from the time of slavery to the time of colonial monopolies and current realities where it is raped for the sake of keeping a waning petroleum civilization on life support,” he maintained

Bassey explained that the programme did not only highlight the huge socio-ecological challenges of the region but also proposes very clear pathways out of the quagmire.

He said: “The convergence notes the extreme negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the region as well as the massive deforestation and diverse erosion of both the land and the coastlines.

“We note that while the region is made up of a complex ecosystem of streams, rivers, creeks and the sea, potable water is a rarity due to incessant oil spills and the dumping of hazardous industrial wastes into both surface and ground water”.

Speaking further, the HOMEF executive director stated that the manifesto foregrounded the struggle against the reckless pattern of crooked divestment schemed and allegedly promoted by the international oil companies (IOCs).

He said: “The plans by the international oil companies to sell off their onshore fields to domestic oil companies and either leave Nigeria or move into deep offshore locations has been roundly condemned as a ploy to escape responsibility and accountability for close to 70 years of unbelievably horrendous pollution of the territory through oil spills, hazardous produced water, toxic wastes and gas flaring”.

He however, urged the National Assembly to act on the matter of existential consequences for the people and the territory, saying that the communities cannot afford to be left stranded in the toxic brew bequeathed to them by the oil companies.

The stakeholders also called for the remediation and restoration of all impacted territories and for payment of reparations for the damage suffered in past years.

“We should point out here that even the first oil wells drilled, exploited from the 1950s and abandoned in the 1970s, are still polluting the environment because there has not been a proper abandonment and decommissioning process,” he said.

Chairman of the convergence, King Bubaraye Dakolo, noted the need for collective voices for changes in the region.

He said: “We must have our environment restored. The country has benefited hugely from the resources from the Niger Delta but the region has not felt the positive of the benefits of the natural resources.”

He described the PIA as an anti-people law brought against the Niger Deltan people.

 “A law that criminalises the host producing communities, we are going to ensure the right thing is done, they should clean and restore the environment before divesting”, Dakolo added.

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