The Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Seriake Dickson, yesterday, cautioned that the paltry 3% Host Community Fund in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was an invitation to unrest in the Niger Delta region of the country.
Dickson, who stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, also expressed dissatisfaction with the attempt to subjugate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly on the issue of electronic transmission of results as passed by the Senate last week in the Electoral Bill.
He accused the Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr. Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari of influencing the Senate on the percentage allocation for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund. The lawmaker therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari, not to sign the two controversial bills into law until further legislative works were done on them to address some of the contentious issues that had generated so much agitation in the polity.
Speaking on the PIB, Dickson noted that when the proposal was first made under the late President Umar Yar’Adua, the Executive arm earmarked 10% for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund while 10% was also proposed for oil exploration. He asserted that it was very insensitive for the National Assembly to now reduce the Host Communities Development Trust Fund to 3% while jerking the allocation for oil exploration to 30%. The politician observed that by doing so, the government was endangering the peace in the oil producing communities, who would also jeopardize the prospects of investment in the oil industry.
He argued that if the Host Communities were not happy, the investors would not come to the region to invest because the environment would not be conducive for them to operate, expressing concerns that the government was not currently engaging the affected communities. Dickson also suggested that pipeline communities should also be carried along, so that the people within those communities would not vandalize the facilities.
He noted that he walked out of the Chamber in protest on the day the PIB was passed because the proposed 3% was insensitive to the plight of the oil-producing communities, who have been facing degradation as a result of oil exploration in the region. The lawmaker further revealed that he equally walked out of the presidential dinner with some Senators who were angry, in spite of persuasion from the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan. The politician, therefore, cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the Bill as it was, urging him to return it to the National Assembly for more consultations and legislative work that would address the contentious clauses.