The signing of the contentious Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law sends a wrong signal to the oil extraction impacted peoples, communities and other Nigerians who expected a listening ear at Aso Rock.
Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, on Monday, August 16, 2021, informed that President Muhammad Buhari had assented to the bill in his determination to fulfil his constitutional duty.
The movement towards the PIB has been a rough ride for people of the Niger Delta and other stakeholders since the days of the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. On July 1, 2021, the Senate and the House of Representatives had recommended a 3% and 5% respectively to host communities.
Reacting to the coming into law of the PIB, Nnimmo Bassey, director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), stated: “I had believed and expected that he would listen to the voices of Nigerians who have suffered over six decades of unmitigated ecological assault and socio-economic marginalisation.”
He further noted that there are some key defects in the bill that needed to be addressed before being signed into law.
“One is that it makes nonsense of Nigeria’s climate change Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It also locks in gas flaring which is a major emitter of greenhouse gases by extending a regime of insignificant fines. In addition, at a time when the world is shifting from fossil fuels, 30% of the profit of the NNPC would already be sunk into searching for oil field dusters or bottomless speculative search for crude oil in so-called frontier basins.”
HOMEF believes that the PIB will not halt the move by oil companies to shift offshore and leave their mess in already traumatised communities as oil companies are making these moves in order to escape accountability and because they will pay minuscule amounts as royalties in deep waters.
HOMEF also believes that the Host Community funds as set up will have an overbearing influence of oil companies. The bill is very colonial system in its construction, giving oil companies virtually absolute powers to ride roughshod over the interest of Niger Delta communities in terms of who sets up the boards and who decides what projects get to be executed. Tied to this is the criminalisation of communities over oil facilities incidents as communities cannot be held accountable for incidents done by individuals.
Bassey considers holding communities accountable for inability of corporations to secure their pipelines and wellhead as being comparable to ascribing banditry to a whole community simply because a bandit carried out nefarious actions in their territory. The clause criminalising communities appear to be inserted so as to ensure that the host communities’ funds eventually are used to pay for the irresponsible action of oil companies who neither carry out needed integrity checks on their facilities nor replace obsolete ones.
Also commenting on the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-South has said that the new law recently has not addressed the injustice done oil-bearing Niger Delta communities.
This is contained in a statement by Chief Dan Orbih, National Vice Chairman, South-South of Nigeria’s main opposition party on Tuesday.
Orbi described the law as not only insensitive but a brazen act of injustice.
He said that the President had ignored the huge outcry of the people of the South-South over the meager allocation of three per cent to the oil bearing communities in the new law.
According to him, the gaps in the law will only bring back the agitation for resource control by the people of the region.
He expressed dismay that the President hurried to assent to the disputed bill, adding that it did not mean well for the South South.
The statement reads in part: “Stakeholders in the South-South region have taken a critical look at the Petroleum Industry Bill recently enacted into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Stakeholders note very painfully that it is insensitive to the plight and demands of the people of the Niger Delta who have, over the years, witnessed the destruction of their lands through oil exploration and production.
“We consider the concession of three per cent to oil producing communities as mere tokenism, and a brazen act of injustice which must be reviewed without delay.”
He added that the President’s hasty endorsement of the bill, while ignoring its implications for restiveness in the zone, showed disdain for rigorous debate and tacky attitude towards issues of sustainable development.
“We condemn the rush to sign into law an unwholesome bill still in disputation, and must say that we are not at all surprised.’’
He warned that the region could become a ground for renewed agitations and heightened tension as restive youths could mobilise for total resource control in the face of perceived injustice and inequity.
According to him, for as long as injustice persists, the government should take heed that the clamour for total resource control will continue.
“We cannot give up on what is rightfully ours,” he added.
Orbih, however, urged youths of the region to remain calm and make their agitations peaceful.
“The South-South will continue to demand justice, equity and fairness, and would legally resist any attempt to subjugate the region economically, politically and socially,” he said.
The petroleum law was in the works for several years and analysts had proposed urgent amendment to some provisions which failed to address the needs of the people of Niger Delta.