The Akwa Ibom State Government, oil communities in the State as well as a Civil Society Organisation – Policy Alert, has pointed out some anomalies that marred the petroleum Industry Bill and called for an amendment before it’s passed into law by the National Assembly.
They made the observations on Tuesday during a public hearing with the National Assembly Joint Committee on Petroleum at the Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.
The Executive Director of Policy Alert, Tijah Akpan Bolton in his submission pointed out that the PIB had failed to clearly define what a host or impacted community is, and how each would be affected by the provisions, stressing that, the ambiguity should be addressed to avoid future conflicts between host and impacted communities in the state.
He said the bill made room for regulatory overlaps in environmental management as in the roles of the NOSDRA, NESREA, Federal Ministry of Environment and State Ministries of Environment saying that if the issue is not addressed now, it is the host communities that would bear the brunt of the feud that would come up in the future due to mandate overlaps.
“Also, as seen in Sections 6 and 32b, both the Commission and the Authority are given heavy environmental regulatory powers under the Bill in the upstream and downstream respectively. The Environmental Remediation Fund (ERF) is both the fund for manager and Facilitator.
“It is sad that the PIB 2020 still has provisions in sections 104 and 107, exemption of gas flaring where a company could be issued a license to flare gas for so-called “strategic operational reasons” which could be abused and turned into a license for unchecked damage to host community environments. We also propose that the provisions in section 104 for fines should be reworked to ensure a derivation approach wherein fines collected from gas flaring companies are redistributed to the communities who bear the brunt of the flares, that is, 50% percent of all gas flare fines be paid into the ERF while the other 50% paid into the Community Trust Fund of the communities.
“Exxon Mobil which operates in Akwa Ibom flared over 1 trillion metric cubic feet of gas between 2007 and 2018 alone. This destruction of our environment should stop and the PIB as it is does not have the provisions to help stop this menace,” he added.
On his own, the Paramount Ruler of Ibeno Local Government Area of the State and Chairman, Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals communities, His Royal Majesty ( HRM) Owong Effiong Bassey Achianga told NASS to insert a clause in the PIB to enable them manage 13 per cent oil derivation fund through State owned Oil Mineral Development Commission which the State government should establish.
He added that the 13 per cent oil revenue given to the States in the monthly allocation is managed by governors in the Niger Delta region without recognition to oil producing communities.
Other areas for amendment in the bill as recommended by other stakeholders including host communities of Ibeno , Eastern Obolo and Oron include technical return of offshore/onshore oil dichotomy, increase in the stake of host communities in NNPC subsidiaries and in the appointment of members into the Host Community Trust Fund Board of Trustees and Management Committees.
Others included payment by host communities for damages to oil facilities during crisis, relocation of oil companies head offices to their base of operations and non-recognition of Oron communities as oil bearing communities.
Chairman of the National Assembly Joint committee on Petroleum Industry Bill, Senator Sabo Naduku in his opening remark regretted that the Bill was yet to be implemented several years after it was passed but expressed the commitment of the the National Assembly towards it’s realization.
Naduku also reminded stakeholders on the need to diversify due to dwindling nature of petroleum as a source of energy even as Nigeria has continued to lose her monopoly for production of oil in the West African region.
State commissioner for power and petroleum development, Dr John Etim in his welcome address regretted that State Governments are excluded from the process of appointing members into the various committees and institutions the Bill intends to establish.
He said, “but the state is keen on making contributions to the success and passage of the bill. During the public hearing at the National Assembly recently the state presented a memorandum that concentrated on three basic areas of Environmental Management, Host Community Development and Ownership of the various Incorporated Institutions that the Bill proposes to establish.”
However, governor Udom Emmanuel has defended his position in the management of oil revenues accrued to the state by the federal government.
Speaking to newsmen after the PIB public hearing, Governor Emmanuel represented by his Chief of Staff, Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen said government uses the oil revenues to develop all parts of the state to avoid unnecessary acrimony and lopsidedness.
He, however, appealed to the host communities to take what is available for now to form a template for future negotiation .
“Government has to use oil revenue to develop all parts of the state as manifested in massive roads built in all parts of the state, free and compulsory education, industrialization and other facilities provided by government for all,” he said .