By Eric Omare
The provisions of the Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 submitted to the National Assembly by President Buhari relating to the development of oil producing communities of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria are at best an attempt at internal colonialism of the host communities. The bill not only failed in addressing the aged-longed demands of the people of the oil producing communities but attempts to imposed foreign leadership on the people of the oil producing communities who over the years have ruled over their internal affairs even before oil were discovered in those communities.
A careful reading of the provisions of sections 234 to 257 of the bill dealing with host communities’ development under chapter three of the bill leaves much to be desired. Among other obnoxious provisions, the bill seeks to empower oil producing companies to solely appoint and remove board of trustees for the management of funds contributed for the development of the host communities. In addition, the oil companies are also empowered to appoint people from outside the oil producing communities into the board of trustees and management committee to manage funds meant for the development of host communities. In effect, an oil company can appoint someone from Maiduguri or Kano to be on the board of trustees or management committee to manage funds to develop Ogulagha, Gbaramtu, Egbema, Ogbe-Ijoh, Ugborodo, Uzere, Okpai, Tai, Eket, Gbarain, Nembe, Oben, Gbokoda communities of the Niger Delta region. This is not only senseless, illogical, but also provocative. It is an attempt at creating another NDDC for the different Niger Delta communities that would be consumed by politics and not achieve anything.
In the first place, there is no basis to empower oil companies to appoint trustees and management committee members for the management of community development funds. The oil producing communities have established governance structures to manage their affairs. Also, the oil companies have been at the forefront of the oppression of the host communities over the years. So how can such entities be empowered by legislation to determine people who governs over the affairs of the host communities? Also, what justifies the provision in the bill for persons from outside the oil producing communities to be appointed as trustees and management committee members? Are there no competent people with integrity in the host communities to manage the affairs of host communities?
Overall, the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Bill in relation to the development of the Host Communities does not address the concerns of the oil producing communities. The 2.5% of oil companies operational cost provided as yearly contribution by oil companies in the bill is grossly insufficient. It would be recalled that the PIB submitted under the administration of the late President Yar’Adua provided for 10% of oil companies profit for the development of host communities. The percentage contribution under the PIB submitted to the National Assembly under President Yar’Adua was a more progressive attempt towards addressing some of the concerns of host communities, while the 2.5% under the present President Buhari’s PIB is a retrogressive and provocative attempt.
I therefore call on the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta region to totally reject the vexatious and retrogressive provisions of the Petroleum Industry Bill in relation to the development of host communities. I also call on the National Assembly to reject the oppressive and provocative bill. The bill instead of bringing succor to the host communities would lead to instability and fresh agitations in the oil producing communities. Men of conscience must stand up and reject this evil attempt to further subjugate the oil producing communities!
Eric Omare, is a Lawyer, Rights Activist and immediate past President of the IYC.