Ojobo Development Forum (ODF), an association championing the cause of Ojobo, an Izon town located in the Buloutoru Riverine axis of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, which is the host community to the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) Limited, has warned the presidency and the National Assembly (NASS) of great consequences if the Petroleum Host and Impacted Community Development Bill 2018 is passed.
The ODF made this known in an open letter addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and signed by its president, Chief Ondokare Fufeyin and its Secretary, Ernest Brisibe.
ODF stressed that the letter represents the wish of the people of Ojobo Community (the owners of the Land where Benisede Flow Station is located).
“We must state that we are not oblivious of your efforts geared towards revamping the economy through the passage of masses-oriented bills.
“Bill of this nature (The Petroleum Host and impacted Community Development Bill, 2018) is without doubt, if packaged with the spirit of fairness, equity and good conscience will be one of the most people oriented bill with the positive effect of poverty eradication and speedy development to oil producing communities in Nigeria, particularly, the Riverine communities like ours.
“Unfortunately, this bill as presently packaged by its sponsors carries the effect of enslaving and marginalizing the indigenes of host communities whom God has endowed with natural resources as divine consolation to their poor existence faced with constant threat of environmental hazards.
“This Bill, if not reviewed and amended, is capable of invoking the spirit of ‘no to marginalization and slavery’ which will no doubt bring about distortion of the relative peace and tranquility the settlors are enjoying in the Niger Delta region.
“The settlors may not find the environment friendly if such is allowed to erupt. Therefore, we ·urge you most humbly to forestall any of such impending dangers by adhering to the corrective measures in form of amendments to the said bill, hereunder suggested.
“Before we make our inputs, we respectfully urge you to note the following demerits of the said Bill.
“The bill as presently packaged will breach the fundamental rights of the members of the host communities to own, use and enjoy their property contrary to Section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
“It seeks to take away the rights of the oil producing communities to determine what will be mapped out for the development of their area from where the settlers make huge sums of money hourly. It gives the settlors the right to determine the fund for the host communities’ development and the custodian of the fund, living the host communities with no input. The most worrisome is that the trustees that may be appointed by the settlor may even be a foreign company.
“The settlors, at the detriment of the host communities are given the full powers to determine which community is a host or impacted community. It has the implication of giving the benefits of host community or impacted community to a non-host or non- impacted community.
“It gives the Petroleum Regulation Commission the power to sit over dispute between settlors and host communities, thus taking away the rights of the host communities to approach the State High Court for redress. Such will be detrimental to the welfare of the host communities as the Petroleum Regulation Commission and the Federal High Court to which an appeal lies to, in line with the bill will not in any way favour the host communities.
“The bill gives the settlors the position of the uncommanded commander with ‘rights of enjoyment as owners’ of the lands where oil production and exploration takes place. While the host communities are left to wallow in poverty and slavery as if they are poor tenants.”