Nigeria’s foremost environmental group, the Environmental Rights Action Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN), has rejected the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as passed by the National Assembly and called on both chambers to immediately harmonize and produce environmentally friendly and peoples bill.
According to a press statement released in Benin City, Edo State, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, said the National Assembly failed to do justice to the bill which has been pending since 2008.
Dr. Uyi Ojo, “wondered why members of the national assembly would approve a paltry three percent for the host communities in the Host Communities Trust Fund, saying it’s way below bar, and constitutes an affront to the suffering rural communities.”
Besides, ERA/FoEN wants the government to immediately divest the 30 percent allocation to frontier oil exploration and invest it in renewable energy development such as solar to provide improved energy access to the citizens given the deplorable state of the national grid.
While noting that the three percent allocation for host communities is insufficient due to the ecological dislocation of the region which has culminated in appalling level of pollution of their agricultural land, fisheries and drinking water, thus exposing thousands of people to serious health risks.
The UNEP report estimated that it would take up to 30 years and an initial US$1 billion to clean up Ogoniland. We therefore insist that 10 percent should be considered by the National Assembly as the minimum for the host communities owing to the level of degradation they already suffered following the years of neglect by the oil companies and government.
Dr. Uyi Ojo, cautioned the federal government for still depending on crude oil as other nations are already considering a shift from dirty energy to cleaner sources of energy like renewable energy sources.
“The clause in relation to the communities paying for acts of vandalism and civil unrest should be removed from the host community development fund because this criminalizes the people from the outset.”
While expressing displeasure over the three percent, Dr. Uyi Ojo, urged the law makers to reconsider the 10 percent. He also stated that the oil companies should not be allowed to take undue advantage of Nigeria and Nigerians but rather follow international best practices in dealing with the host communities where their facilities are located.
Recall that the Petroleum Industry Bill is a law that seeks to introduce far-reaching reforms in the Nigerian oil and gas industry which the previous administrations failed to pass into law due to lack of political will, variegated interests from different stakeholders as well as sectional interests.
Ojo emphasized the need for the Federal Government to consider the PIB as one of its efforts to address the many problems of unsustainable environmental practices which have taken its toll through environmental degradation and destruction of livelihoods of the Niger Delta region for several decades.
He further disclosed that the host communities in the region have faced serious neglect, marginalization and deprivation for too long even though the region produces the oil which generates revenue for the nation.