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South South Reps move to consider better deal for host communities in PIB

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(FILES) This file photo taken on May 18, 2005 (FILES) shows Shell Oil’s oil and gas terminal on Bonny Island in southern Nigeria’s Niger Delta. – Nigeria’s parliament on July 1, 2021 voted to approve a long-delayed oil and gas law that aims to attract new foreign investment to the OPEC country’s petroleum industry.<br />The Petroleum Industry Bill or PIB had been under review in the National Assembly for nearly two decades, beset by disagreements, including over how much revenue should go to local communities in oil-producing regions. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP)

The controversy surrounding the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is not over yet, as House of Representatives members from the South-South are pushing for a better deal for oil host communities of the Niger Delta region.

Deputy Leader of the House, Peter Akpatason, who dropped the hint in an interview with The Guardian in Abuja, yesterday, disclosed that the lawmakers would meet to explore avenues of affecting a change of the three per cent equity shareholding approved for host communities.

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Akpatason, who represents Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency of Edo State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), urged aggrieved host communities to exercise restraint on the issue, as the matter could still be revisited before the Ninth Assembly lapses.

Recalling how Niger Delta lawmakers failed to ensure retention of the 10 per cent equity shareholding for host communities due to their numerical strength, he faulted the claims that they abdicated their responsibility to protect the interests of the region.

“At least we have got a PIB, which is an Act of Parliament and not a constitution. Every Act of Parliament can be altered at any point in time. We shall be meeting soon to re-strategise and see how we can begin to reach out to our colleagues and stakeholders with a view to revisiting the issue because it is not a fair deal.

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“Personally, before coming to the parliament, I have been in the Niger Delta in my working life and I know exactly the situation our people contend with. I know how unfavourable the exploration of oil activities has been to the host communities and the amount of pollution, spillages that happen there.

“The host communities deserve much more than we were able to get for them. So, we have to do everything possible to ensure that something better is done soon. It is not going to be the sort of holistic work we did on the PIB this time around. We could just seek an amendment of a clause to achieve that. A lot can still happen in the next 12 months,” he said.

Akpatason stressed that the lawmakers never abdicated their responsibility, adding that they seemed to have failed because they did not achieve what they actually set out to achieve.

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“We started from 15 per cent, came down to 7.5 per cent and eventually five per cent, but at the end, we were not able to achieve it. So it’s a failure, but I don’t think it amounted to abdicating our responsibilities.

“If you don’t have the numbers you have to do extraordinary diplomacy, negotiations, and all of that to get anything through,” he added.

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