Civil Society Organizations in the Niger Delta have called for the amendment of the Petroleum Industry Act over claims that the Act was not drafted for the interest of the Niger Delta people.
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The CSOs questioned the provisions of the PIA and its advantage for the people of oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta, lamenting that its provisions criminalized host communities.
The Executive Director of “We the People,” Ken Henshaw, who spoke extensively on the provisions of the PIA, in a Town Hall Meeting held in PortHarcourt on Monday, alleged that the PIA is totally not in favour of host communities.
The Town Hall meeting, which was themed: “The PIA 2021: Challenges of Environmental Pollution in Nigeria’s Delta Communities”, had in attendance host communities in Rivers State, Bayelsa State and civil society groups.
Henshaw, in his remark, said the Niger Delta communities have never been given money for the impact of oil spillage in their communities, except recently through the PIA, even as he lamented that the money is rather paid to oil companies for the sake of the communities.
He also asserted that the PIA does not define host communities, but gives oil companies the right to use the already existing framework, to decide which communities are host communities, a situation Henshaw said will make several communities to be eliminated as oil bearing communities.
“The PIA gives power to the oil companies to establish a trust by whatever name they want to register the trust. And when you are registering a trust, you must have a board. It empowers them to nominate members of the board.
“The PIA also gives the responsibility of determining host communities to the oil companies. The PIA does not define host communities. It is silent over it. And it says the oil companies can use the frameworks they already have in place, to decide which one is a host community.
“Basically, it is saying that it is the responsibility of the oil companies to decide who a host community is. And if they decide who a host community is, they can also decide who a host community is not.”
The activist added that the PIA criminalises host communities, as the Act stipulates that oil producing communities will be held accountable for any vandalization of oil spillage, a responsibility he said the JTF, Nigeria Civil Defence Corp and other security agencies failed to achieve.
The Executive Director further called on the people of the Niger Delta to ask for an amendment of the PIA, to be drafted in favour oil host communities in the Niger Delta, adding that “if the people accept the PIA, then they have accepted that the people of the Niger Delta are responsible for oil spillage in their area.
“The reality is that the Petroleum Industry Act continues the same old tradition of neglecting and insulting Niger Delta communities.
“The PIA continues the same old tradition of looking at the Niger Delta people as expendable, people who cannot think for themselves, they have to be taught, not to develop themselves, but to be developed by others. That is the reality.”
Meanwhile, some members of oil host communities, who were present at the Town Hall meeting, said the insincerity of oil companies operating in the area and their delay in responding to oil spillage, remains a setback in dealing with oil spillage in host communities in the Niger Delta.
The Petroleum Industry Act, 2021, was signed into law in August 2021.
It introduces changes to the legal and governance framework, administrative processes, regulatory and fiscal terms, and host community engagements in the oil and gas industry.
Akinshola Akintelure is a Content Writer, a tech savvy and Social Media Manager.