Oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta through some civil society organizations on Thursday, distanced themselves from the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), leading to violence at the N’Assembly.
They protested against the shabby treatment meted to them by the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on PIB at a two-day public hearing which it organised.
During the presentation, Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee on PIB, Rep. Mohammed Monguno directed that the host communities, having submitted their memoranda should adopt them without further deliberation.
But, the host communities interpreted this to mean denying them the opportunity to make their opposition to the bill known to the public, while the oil companies and government officials that drafted the bill were allowed to make their presentations.
A representative of one of the host communities/CSOs, known as We the People, Ken Henshaw stated that what took place was a sham and not a public hearing, saying the committee deliberately shut –out the host communities/CSOs.
“We don’t consider this a public hearing. Public hearing is a forum where every stakeholder expresses what they feel about the bill being discussed.
In this case, host communities and civil society organizations from the Niger Delta were not allowed to speak and we consider this an abnormality and we simply state that this not a public hearing because there are serious issues in the PIB that we think need to be discussed.
“One, the governance structure of the PIB gives too much emphasis to the oil companies and very little role is given to the oil producing communities themselves.
Even in the definition of host communities, the PIB is silent and it seems to simply said that oil companies have got the right to decide who are a host community is. This is a recipe for crisis.
“There is no structure for peaceful resolution and we came here state clearly that there is need for us to have a forum created by law that allows people who feel aggrieved to air those grievances that was not mentioned,” he said.
Another representative of the CSOs, Inibehe Effiong, of the Niger Delta Dialogue, said what the committee did was a tragic injustice and a slap on the people of the region.
“So, we feel that this a further demonstration of the contemptible manner that the Nigerian State has regarded the people of the region. This is unaccounted and we will continue to demand that if this so called host fund that they want to provide for is going to translate into anything, there has to be a significant conversation with the people of the region.
“As I speak today, we left this public hearing without an understanding of what host communities are. As far as I am concerned this public hearing may be defeated as far as the host communities are concerned.
“We took time to x-ray the provisions of the Bill and as far as I’m concerned, when the group managing director of nnpc spoke, he made a comment that he was the chairman of the technical committee that came out with this bill.
So this is a bill that was drafted by the executive arm of government, handed over to the lawmakers to pass without taking into consideration the inputs of the people,” he noted
Earlier, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba cautioned that the country is moving in the right direction with the PIB but it is important that as much as Nigeria wants to protect today’s revenue it should also look at sustainability.
“We should look at how revenue streams will continue to flow over the years and these are areas that from the Ministry of Finance that are looking at because we don’t want to get all the money today and lose tomorrow’s money”, he said.
Also, the Chairman of the Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Elias Mbam stated that the Bill did not make reasonable provision on inflow of revenue to the federation.
“If we have NNPC Limited that is talking about dividends which may come once a year, how we guarantee a continuous inflow of revenue monthly into the Federation Account.
“Secondly, we are aware that all revenue from Hydrocarbons is a revenue item of the Federation Account but where taxes are deducted from Hydrocarbon revenue, it is the same thing as encroaching on the Federation Account. So we expect that the Bill should not be to the disadvantage of monthly revenue to the Federation Account,” the FIRS boss added.
Meanwhile, tension broke out at the public hearing when a disagreement among members of the host communities who were claiming the right to make presentations led to a physical combat.
The fight started when the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) was called to the podium to make a presentation. There was disagreement amongst the members, leading to exchange of blows until security operatives intervened.
While those involved in the fight hid their identities and angrily left the hall, one Gouha Ukhorumah representing the Off shore Gbaramatu and Coastal Host Communities in Warri South Local Government of Delta State said the quarrel was basically between two factions of the group who call themselves Host Communities without a specific kingdom or Local government as area of coverage.