PIB Faces Another Hurdle As Senate Recieves Fresh Petition
Nigerians in diaspora, under the aegis of Isoko Association of North America, have petitioned the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, over the Petroleum Industry Bill, alleging that the document would worsen the already-cold relationship between oil companies and their host communities.
The group, in a petition exclusively obtained by The Guardian, is seeking the redrafting of the host community development section of the controversial bill, saying the “it marginalises rather than adopts an inclusive approach towards the host communities”.
The petition, which was tendered on April 9, 2021, said the section in its original design confers “significant decision-making powers on the oil communities” to control the proposed trust fund. It was signed by its President-General, Obaro Odu, Prof. Obenekhome Onokpise among others.
“We fear that the institutional arrangements are a recipe for tension and conflict rather than harmony at a time every effort should be exerted to reduce the potential of friction between the host communities and oil companies,” the document noted.
To reduce transaction costs on the parts of the oil companies and host communities, the group is proposing a joint trust fund arrangement that would enable oil firms operating in a community to establish and manage a common trust fund to which 2.5 per cent of their actual operating cost would be channeled.
According to the body, a joint board of trustees, consisting of representatives of the firms and host communities, would be an appropriate structure for optimal management of the common trust fund as against fragmented trustees as provided in the bill currently before the National Assembly.
It faulted the provision, powers of “settlors” (oil companies), who are saddled with the responsibilities of selecting members of the board of trustees, funding approval, project selection among others.
It warned that the suggestion that the board of trustee members does not necessarily be members of the host communities is an unimaginable “colonial arrangement” that must be expunged from the document.
Rather, it recommended, members of the board must be selected by the host communities and oil companies, saying the responsibilities of the settlors relating to approval of the project, administration of the board of trustees, meeting procedure determination, fund disbursement among others should be left for jointly-selected trustees to determine.
Where there are sabotages, the group said, there should be a joint community-corporate mechanism body to investigate the events rather than take action solely on the basis of the assessment of the affected oil companies.
The bill says that “wherein any year, an act of vandalism, sabotage or other civil unrest occurs that causes damage to petroleum and designated facilities or disrupts production activities within the host community, the community shall forfeit its entitlement to the extent of the cost of repairs of the damage that resulted from the activity with respect to the provision of this Act within the financial year”.