Recently, communities and civil society organizations across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers states, converged in Port Harcourt during the Town Hall meeting to xray issues of notable concern over communities and environmental matters as related to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.
- While the (former) PIB comprehensively addressed all aspects of petroleum sector governance, the PIGB focuses almost exclusively on the creation of new commercial entities to manage national petroleum assets.
- The PIGB does not provide for community participation in decision making and development, and on managing environmental degradation – such as providing for an end to gas flaring; nor does it provide for fiscal benefits to affected communities.
- There is a lack of independence for regulatory institutions –with their roles muddled up; as there is glaring neglect of host communities’ interest within the mandates of proposed new institutions; and communities’ feeling is still strong that nothing is coming in adequately or favorably to people of the Niger Delta under the prevailing petroleum regime in Nigeria.
- The understanding among Nigerians is that the new legislation to govern the oil and gas sector would address issues like environmental protection, transparency and fiscal accountability/responsibility, as well as resource ownership and control. This is so because the industry is currently plagued by massive corruption, and severe environmental management challenges that engender host community discontents.
- The provision of excluding Fiscal Responsibility Act on petroleum industry operation under the proposed bill negates the rationale behind the war against corruption – invariably providing easy leeway for private interests to buy off national assets that are even tied to natural resources of distinct communities and people of various ethnicities. It was therefore observed that:
- The process of the bill provides a need to review and update the legal regime guiding the petroleum industry since 1968, which then only favored multinational oil/gas corporations, and thrived on the ignorance of both state actors and affected communities; and resulted into oppressive/exploitative practices over the years.
- Investors globally are equally waiting for a fair and equitable governing law that can protect private interest favorably –which invariably will attract new petroleum development investments.
- The former Yar’Adua administration expressed serious concern about issues related to petroleum governance in Nigeria, and tried to address the matters of communities/environmental sustainability with holistic approach under the comprehensive PIB that due to vested interests failed to be passed into law.
- The present bill (PIGB), provides virtually nothing to give encouragement to attempt at trying to address felt massive corruption within the petroleum industry.
- Pressures and sectional interests at the National Assembly, prevented the holistic inclusion of community development concerns, and presently tended to focus only on future private commercial interests –opting to protect profit of oil/gas investment as apparently manifest under the PIGB.
- The present passed bill (PIGB) also did not provide for the general interest of Nigerians, but caters for the private and selfish interest of few persons within the political-cum-investment space.
- Perpetuation (and legitimization) of exploitation of communities and despoliation of the environment are glossed over by this new bill –that is by providing for no clear basis for resource governance good practice.
- Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated (MPI), as provided for in the proposed bill is inconsistent with the Ministry of Petroleum resources; and especially, the PIGB provides no clear understanding of what it (MPI) entails.
- Provision for Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company in the bill does not make clear who its shareholders would be –and what is the stake of oil/gas communities; just as some other institutions created under the PI(G)B have no clearly defined roles to enable them achieve the objectives for which the bill was purportedly considered.
- Transparency/accountability cannot be achieved under the PIGB due to the fact that capacity and financial enablement are not there to strengthen regulatory agencies; just in the same vein as the proposed Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (being empowered to do virtually everything) only tended to kill the democratic principle of transparency and accountability. In the light of the foregoing therefore, the meeting thus resolved and recommended the following;
- Separation of institutional roles within the regulatory regime must be considered to reduce overloading of the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission with muddled-up duties; that is, to remove role conflict in the discharge of valuable functions –and especially for achieving checks and balances.
- Industry standard regulatory roles must also be subjected to well-defined oversight control –for achieving energy security.
- The Bill must be made to operate like the Solid Minerals Mining Act 2007 that provides for communities consultation as owners of the land –as fairness/equity must prevail across Nigeria as one indivisible, fair and just country.
- The PI(G)B must be made to support or create opportunities for legal processes to redress grievances against operating companies/ government agencies that are accountable to environmental and social breaches.
- There is need for more intellectual engagement over the process of passing the PI(G)B into law –to expand intervention role for justice to be seen to be done, and for social change to be achieved.
- Alternative bill (or some leeway) can be explored or adopted in checkmating the PI(G)B against its inconsistent provisions that are largely at variance with social justice.
- Professional associations (e.g., NBA and NUJ) must be independently taking up issues to defend the national interest for the common good to be protected under a reign of justice, fairness and equity – especially as concerns the process of passing the PI(G)B into law.
- The salient matters canvassed under the previous bill petroleum industry bill (especially community/environmental interests) must be simultaneously taken into consideration to ensure that grievance issues related to the PI(G)B are concurrently addressed.
- End to oil production should be considered to bring to a stop the injustices suffered by communities (and the degradation done to the environment) of the Niger Delta over petroleum investments.
- Adequate effort should be made to reach our legislative representatives to present our concerns over the PI(G)B.
- Wider reach to communities and other stakeholders must also be taken –with extensive awareness/sensitization created –over vexed issues; and for mass mobilization to ensure expanded action over petroleum investment governance justice, and
Opportunities for communities’ contributions to environmental issues must be harnessed to adequately provide for environmental justice under the regime of the PI(G)B and also given the needed urgent attention.
- Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 908 6937 780 or send i-witness report directly to me on email@example.com.
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