Civil Society Groups have rejected the Petroleum Industry bill passed by the National Assembly, which is currently going through the process of harmonization of the versions from both legislative chambers.
The CSO groups revealed that the current version of the Petroleum Industry Bill failed to address community, economic and environmental concerns, stressing that the entire PIB expresses no intention for moving Nigerian away from dependence on fossils.
The groups: We the People, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF; and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN expressed their worries over the PIB during a press briefing held in Lagos.
Ken Henshaw, Executive Director, We the People, while sharing the grievances of the groups about the PIB noted that, “it is noteworthy that the entire PIB expresses no intention for moving Nigerian away from dependence on fossils.
“At a time when the world is moving away from crude oil, the PIB is planning to make more investments in that regard. This indicates that the government is not keeping in tandem with global trends. The provisions and proposals in the PIB are also indicative of the fact the Nigerian government is unperturbed by concerns of global warming and climate change.”
He stressed that, “the PIB presents a rare opportunity to reform the management of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. But it also presents an opportunity to transform the footprints of oil extraction in host communities, to invest in clean energy, wean the country from fossil dependence and combat years of pollution and neglect.
“The PIB also ignores the extreme harm inflicted on the Niger Delta and says nothing about a region-wide environmental remediation effort which ought to start now. The Bill passed by both chambers of the National Assembly have done none of the above.”
Henshaw also noted that, “besides the paltry 3 of 5 percent earmarked for host communities, we consider this provision in the Bill a clear indication that the PIB intends to continue the historical treatment of host communities as oil colonies and sacrifice zones under the control of profiteering companies. It also indicates that the government still holds the erroneous and unfortunate view that communities where crude oil is extracted from do not have the capacity to direct their affairs.”
The groups thereafter recommended that the harmonization of the PIB must provide that, “Host Communities Trust be incorporated and governed by members of each host community,” adding that, “contrary to what is in the PIB currently, the oil companies should not be the ones to determine who is a host community.”
The groups also recommend “the introduction of a clause which affirms the outlawing of gas flaring and requires that offenders pay the full economic cost of the flared gas as well as the related health and environmental costs.
“It should ensure that gas flare fines are invested in the host communities’ funds and an Environmental Remediation Fund. It is recommended that the discretionary powers given to the Commission to determine how much is paid as penalty for gas flaring be removed. The regulations should clearly peg the fines for violation as stated above.
“It is also recommended that the PIB places a definite date to end gas flaring, and provide a framework to review each company milestone towards achieving the flare out target; as well as establish definite ‘non fines’ sanctions for violations of milestones.
“It is equally recommended that grounds for exemption on gas flaring should be made more explicit, including for such reasons as ‘strategic operational reasons. Timeframes for such exemptions should also be expressly stated.”
On his part, Barr Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director, ERA/FoEN, advised that the National Assembly adopts the recommendations of the CSO group because, “a bad PIB is worse than a no PIB.”
Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, CAPPA, expressed concerns over the bulkiness of the bill, which she said is an attempt to deter people having a full understanding of the content of the bill.