For those that don’t have an idea of what the Niger Delta people are suffering and for those that stay in Abuja rolling their chairs and taking the decision about the region without coming close, the bitter truth is that these people are really suffering. All the environments in this part of the country are devastated ranging from the oil-producing communities to the impacted communities. In fact everywhere is affected even in the cities of the Niger Delta states. The reason, however, is not far-fetched. It is because of oil exploration.
Immediately oil was found in the region more than sixty years ago, their lives turned around for the worst until recently that some sort of leverage started coming but not without all forms of agitation. For these oil communities who are helpless, they are not even asking for much. Their needs are not different from the needs of other parts of the country.
They needed functional hospitals, good roads, electricity, good schools for their children, pipe-borne water as the main rivers at the creeks have already been contaminated with spills from crude oil. Of course, they have got less of all these as the oil companies operating in their domain, the federal government and sometimes the state government have not helped matters.
For oil companies, it is divide and rule with a few people benefiting while the federal government has the upper hand as most of the leaders at the centre have not even stepped their feet in the region to have a feel of what is going on. Some of them that debated on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) didn’t actually know the bearings of the bill because it is very voluminous with two hundred and fifty pages.
It is said, however, that if you want to hide something from an African man put it in a book with another clause that it will need the function of oil industry lawyers to really explain what the bill is all about. Governors of the states of this region have not even helped matters as they always sit on the 13% oil derivation that supposed to go to the host communities while a state like Bayelsa vehemently refused to establish BASOPADEC a commission that supposed to handle the 13% derivation even when most of the states in the region have established theirs.
These host communities have been looking for a way to get succour until the PIB that seems to have taken care of their challenges came on board and they thought that most of their agitations will be addressed but alas, their demand for 10% equity share from the oil companies was cut short a few days ago as the whole thing was cut to 3%.
The Petroleum Industry Bill is a law which supposed to introduce farreaching reforms in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. It was first presented to the National Assembly in 2008. The journey started as far back as thirteen years ago. Previous attempts at passing the PIB all these years failed because of different interests.
HOSTCOM leader’s reaction
The National Chairman of the Host Communities of Nigeria producing oil and gas (HOSTCOM), Benjamin Style in his reaction to the passage of the bill alleged that the National Assembly and the stakeholders agreed for five per cent but the minister of petroleum for state, Chief Timpre Sylva and NNPC GMD went and sliced it to three per cent. “The law has been passed we will continue to agitate that we are not going to accept it. That is the cry of the deprived people. We won’t accept it. Our aspect is very clear that we are not accepting three per cent. It was not from the house. It was so clear that it was not from the house.
“The national assembly concord and agreed on five per cent. It was a lopsided arrangement between the senate president, Timipre Sylva and NNPC. Three of them came up with this to further impoverish and suffer the neglected deprived people of the Niger Delta. And the host communities vehemently reject that three per cent. “Even the five per cent we are not comfortable tackles of three per cent.
All that we are saying for sixty-three years of marginalization of the Niger Delta people desecrated environment, no water to drink. No hospital and the only ten per cent that we are asking three of them conspired against 108 persons concurrently 108 senators voted for five per cent from the committee arrangement and the senate president and Kyari because both of them are from Borno then Sylva followed them and agreed on three per cent to further undo the oil bearing communities. “Are they really going to sustain the oil industry by not considering the adverse effect of communities that have suffered all these while for sixty-three years? The ball is in their court.
They should answer it. Whatever that happens, let Timipre Sylva and Kyari be held responsible for it. “Whatever peace that has been denied to these oil companies everybody is happy that the almighty PIB will be passed. If we ask for ten per cent, we are not greedy enough Zamfara is controlling 100 per cent of their gold and nobody anything in this country. And we asked for just ten per cent and these three persons conspired against 108 persons. House of reps gave five per cent and the same five per cent was agreed in the senate.
So all we are saying is that we still need our ten per cent equity share to allow peace to reign in the region.” Also, the Bayelsa State chairman of HOSTCOM HRH Boma Albert said, “We have been agitating for that ten per cent from 2008 which everybody agreed.
This year alone, we have gone to Abuja three times for this very bill. We were agitating for ten per cent but after our public hearing with the senate and house of reps, reps agreed for five per cent and the senate said that it is three per cent. We are still agitating for ten per cent. Meanwhile, the houses have formed a committee to look into the five ad three per cent but we still stand on the ten per cent equity.” King Bubaraye Dakolo. Agada IV, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama kingdom in Yenaogoa local government said “The tree per cent is not enough. But there are other civilized ways of protesting against it.
But it is better than nothing as a first step at least something has been done. But I believe that effort has to be made to show our displeasure. “But three per cent is a disappointment. I’m hearing that the three per cent is not equity. It is not satisfactory but I believe there will a better- organized way of showing our displeasure.” Also, Ibiba DonPedro a daughter of the Niger Delta said “I don’t think there is a reason for anybody to rejoice. First of all, I’m aware that there has been a decade long campaign by people of the host communities to ensure that they are granted their rights.
“The PIB if you ask me is just one of those management vehicles to manage our resources. The ultimate thing for the people of the Niger Delta who is an oil-bearing community is to have control over their resources and then pay tax to a truly federal government, not PIB or no PIB. But we are where we are and if we have to manage it should be something we can manage as fair but there is no fairness.
“I remember a few months ago we were all wondering why there was still a delay to pass the bill. There have been all these delays over the years. Local communities have been asking for ten per cent equity and all of a sudden the minister for petroleum, Timipre Sylva came out with a new formula and new ridiculous figure of about 2.5% operating cost. “What does that mean? That means whatever the oil companies decide that it is their operating cost, the host communities are supposed to get 2.5%. This is vague. He couldn’t convince anybody. And for those of us who followed the oil industry to be left with something like 3%, is a crying injustice.
I don’t think that there is anything to celebrate and Timipre Sylva himself who is the son of Niger Delta is perhaps pushing all of these things to save himself and look good before those people who appointed him but he still has to come back home and it is crying shame that the Niger Delta members of the national assembly couldn’t cry out loud about what is going on.
“They basically go there and keep quiet and think that things will begin to happen. We do know that there are a few credible people but they are too few to speak up for the region. It is a shame and everybody should know that this thing is not going to go away. When you hold the truth, you are going nowhere and the person is going nowhere.
That is the reality about the issue of PIB and the Niger Delta region.” On his part, chairman Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development from Bayelsa State, Furoebi Akene said it is clear that the public hearing was just a jamboree and a process to fulfill all righteousness.
He said bill as it is passed now have very small insignificant differences from the draft bill despite the submissions and presentations made in diverse areas by states, government agencies, CSO’s, groups, individuals, professionals and technocrats. “Participants raised the issue of lack of provisions for the payment of royalties and others to the host communities in sections 86 and 87 for leases and renewals but not reflected in the passed bill. “Section 101 failed to protect objections participants raised to Subsection 1(a) of section 101 and moved that it should be expunged because it is an ambush to the natives.
Subjecting sacred areas that are ancestral lands that are preserved as sacred from generation to generation and is conspicuously known by everyone in the community and their neighbours to be ascertained by a court process is oppressive but it is not considered in the bill passed.
“Participants raised the issue of no provisions for payment of compensations to the risk bearers (the host communities) for the loss of their economic livelihood and health hazards they are subjected to as a result of the petroleum activities but the bill passed ignored this very important concern of the people of the host communities thereby making the law appearing draconian.
The negative impacts of crude spills on the physical and social environment is so enormously devastating including the health and economy of the people that ignoring it is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the people of the host communities.
“In passing the bill into law the National assembly completely jettisoned the cries of the participants on the negative impacts of gas flaring. The negative effects of gas flaring in the ambient environment vis-à-vis the host communities and the inhabitants are enormous in diverse ways including health and food security therefore, it is ridiculous to pay fines to the Federal government without considering the risk bearers. “Sources of funding for petroleum host community’s development trust. Though the percentage has been increased from the initial 2.5 per cent to three per cent, the most appropriate probable value as submitted by the host communities and other experts were 10 per cent.”