In the wake of the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the House of Senate, fiscal transparency CSOs, Connected Development (CODE) and OXFAM Nigeria, have raised concerns over key issues in the reviewed bill, especially the marginalization of host communities where oil is explored.
According to CODE, the reviewed PIB did not sufficiently address the grey areas affecting host communities and has stripped the oil regions of the management, governance and administration of issues that affect them directly.
The bill suggests that the constitution of the host communities development trust shall contain provisions mandating the management committee to set up an advisory committee (“host community advisory committee”), which shall contain at least one member of each host community.
CODE noted that this is grossly inadequate and advised that the membership of the host community advisory committee should have at least 50% representation from the host communities.
CODE also stated that the lack of adequate representation of the host communities in the advisory committee is an unfair approach that limits the ability of the Trust to fully develop needs assessment and development plans that can only be designed by the people in the community themselves.
Expressing displeasure, CODE’s Lead on natural resource governance and the extractives, Dr Onyekachi Onuoha, noted that restricting host communities’ sense of ownership as pointed out in the gaps in the bill, would fuel agitation in the region as it shows a blatant disregard for the needs and priorities of the people that are the worst hit by the impact of oil exploration.
“The Senate is dashing the hopes of people directly affected by oil pollution, terminated livelihoods and underdevelopment caused by environmental degradation and other disasters occasioned by oil spills in the Niger-delta region,” Onyekachi added.
To worsen matters, the draft PIB proposed 2.5% of the annual operating expenditure of the Settlor (operator of an oil licence) to fund development in the area. Although the House of Representatives recommended 5% for settlors operating in the upstream and 2% for the settlors in the midstream and downstream sectors, lawmaker Sani Kaita from Katsina moved an amendment for it to be reduced to 3%, which the senate has adopted.
In addition to the call by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo- Agege, for the funds from gas flaring penalties to be channelled towards developing affected communities, CODE & OXFAM urge the Senate to rethink the grey areas highlighted and promote a greater sense of ownership that is acceptable and fair to the host communities.
Connected Development [CODE] in partnership with OXFAM since 2018, have driven a campaign in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria that raises awareness on improving accountability and transparency in the dealings between host communities, oil and gas companies, and the government, particularly to address challenges relating to the negative impact of the business operations of the extractive sector in these host communities, which usually has a causal relationship with conflict and fragility.