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‘Disregard for host communities in PIB will fuel fresh agitations in Niger Delta’

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Connected Development (CODE) has cautioned the Federal Government and the National Assembly against restricting host communities’ sense of ownership in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), saying doing so will fuel fresh agitations in the region.

Its Natural Resource Governance and Extractives Lead, Dr. Onyekachi Onuoha, who stated this yesterday in Abuja, lamented that the action showed utter disregard for the needs and priorities of the people that are the worst hit by the impact of oil exploration.

“The Senate is dashing the hopes of people directly affected by oil pollution, terminated livelihoods and underdevelopment caused by environmental degradation and other disasters occasioned by oil spills in the Niger Delta region,” he said.

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Onuoha also stated that to worsen matters, the draft PIB proposed 2.5 per cent of annual operating expenditure of oil licences to fund development in the region.

Although the House of Representatives recommended five per cent for upstream operators and two per cent for midstream and downstream sectors, Sani Kaita from Katsina moved for an amendment for reduction to three per cent, which the senate adopted.

It argued that the reviewed PIB did not sufficiently address the grey areas affecting host communities and had stripped the region of the management, governance and administration of issues that directly affect them.

“The bill suggests that the constitution of the host communities’ development trust shall contain provisions mandating the management committee to set up an advisory committee (host community advisory committee), which shall contain at least one member of each host community.

“CODE believes that this is grossly inadequate and advises that the membership of the host community advisory committee should have at least 50 per cent representation from the host communities,” it said.

The group also noted that lack of adequate representation of the host communities in the advisory committee was an unfair approach that would limit the ability of the trust to fully address needs assessment and development plans that could only be designed by the communities themselves.

“In addition to Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege’s call for the funds from gas flaring penalties to be channelled towards developing affected communities, CODE and OXFAM urge the Senate to rethink the grey areas and promote greater sense of ownership that is acceptable and fair to the host communities,” it added.

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