Oil and Gas host communities in Rivers State, have called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to merge the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), with the solid mineral Act into a single document to be called, Extractive Mineral Resources Development Bill (EMRDB).
The communities, who spoke under the aegis of the “Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities” (CROGHCOM), said the group rejected the Legislation for the failure to address the long-standing issues of oil-producing communities.
The group in a statement in Port Harcourt on Tuesday by its chairman, Barituka Loanyie, said the outcome of the long-expected PIB last week was mischievous, and has rather compounded the problems of the communities and created another avenue to make the rich even richer while the suffering communities continue to languish in difficulty, poverty and hunger.
They said, “Having critically studied the Petroleum Industry Bill 2021 recently passed into law by the National Assembly, we, the Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities (CROGHCOM) reject it for the reason that it fails to address the lingering issues of the oil and gas host communities.
“The bill rather than solve germane issues in the oil and gas sector ends up compounding them.
“We want to state without equivocation that the law is a mischievous piece of legislation and a far cry from the yearnings of oil and gas host communities which only ends up providing a legal framework for corruption and portends a sinister ploy to continue with the unhealthy practice of denying host communities the right to their God-given resources.”
Stakeholders, indigenes and civil society groups from oil-producing states and communities of the Niger Delta region have being expressing their opinions about the all-important document, with some describing it as racial discrimination, an arm twist, a far cry, among others, and some others expressed outright rejection of the bill, which currently awaits the President’s ascent to make it a working document.
The two national Lawmaking Chambers while passing the all-important document appropriated different percentage of funds for the establishment of host communities’ Trust funds to drive the development of the areas.
While the members of the House of Senate approved 5 per cent, those if the Lower chambers said 3 per cent with several clauses which the stakeholders perceive as adding salt to the injury.
Nonetheless, the Lawmakers approved 30 per cent of funds to invest into the finding of more oil in parts of the country, especially the Northern, southeast and middle belt areas of the country.
CROGHCOM insists that the PIB is hostile to them and clearly denies them the right to property and the freedom to participate in making a decision on how people should gain access to their land for petroleum products and also determine compensation amounts for damages to communal and personal property and livelihoods.
Comparing the provisions of PIB and that of a solid mineral act, the group observed that the Solid mineral act is very liberal to the communities and recognises the rights of the landlords, but noted that it is not so with the passed bill.
They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct that the solid mineral Act be merged with the PIB, in the interest of equity and fairness.
“Unlike the PIB where decisions are solely made by the Minister, the Commission or the Authority, the Solid Minerals Act envisages an arrangement that involves the Federal, state and Local Government as well as the communities as it provides for consultation with landlords even before the grant of mining title to a mining company.
“Also, where private land is to be affected, the government must obtain the private owner’s consent before the mining title would be granted. Where such consent is absent, the private land will be excluded.
“The Solid Minerals Act which governs the solid Minerals sector has better protections for the communities in extraction sites predominantly in the North. The Solid Minerals Act gives an explicit right to the landlords over their property and we wonder why it is not the same with the PIB.
“In further recognition of the right of the owner of a property to determine its rent, the Solid Minerals Act clearly gives the landowner the exercise of that right. It must be stressed here that the Solid Minerals Act makes no pretensions at creating any bureaucracy to manage this agreement.
“We are calling on the Federal Government that there should be a merger of both the PIB with the Solid Minerals Act into a single Extractive Resources Development Bill which would align and holistically address the environmental, developmental and ownership concerns of Host Communities in a non-discriminatory manner.”