Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has said the 2.5 per cent revenue proposed for host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was grossly inadequate and unacceptable to the people of the Niger Delta.
Senator Diri stated this on Tuesday during a town hall meeting on the bill with members of the National Assembly and stakeholders in Yenagoa.
The governor, who proposed that 10 per cent be provided for host communities, contended that if National Assembly members see first hand the level of environmental degradation and its attendant effects on the people, they would not hesitate to increase it from 10 per cent.
Governor Diri, in a press release by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, stressed that the PIB was critical in addressing issues such as unemployment, lack of transparency in the oil and gas sector, militarisation of oil production, skills acquisition and marginalisation of oil producing states.
His words: “I restate our earlier submission that the 2.5 per cent proposed for the oil producing communities is grossly inadequate and unacceptable to us as a people. In our proposal to you, we asked for 10 per cent for the host communities.
“When you visit some of the sites where oil is being explored; that bring multi-million dollars to this country, you will even agree with me that we should increase it further from 10 per cent.
“This PIB would cure the unemployment that the oil producing communities cry about. This bill would create jobs, accelerate skills acquisition and remove the opacity that we are seeing today in the oil and gas industry. The whole industry is shrouded somehow in secrecy.”
Diri, who decried the undue delay in the passage and implementation of the bill for about 14 years, urged members of the National Assembly to ensure its passage to engender peace and development in the region and the country as a whole.
“If this bill had been passed, billions of naira used in safeguarding oil facilities would have been deployed for development purposes.”
He expressed regrets that oil communities that bear the brunt of oil production were given no consideration while multinational oil companies and the federal government were given more attention in the bill, stressing that such a situation was not in the interest of the people.
In his speech, Deputy Chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill, Hon. Victor Nwokolo, said the PIB was from the executive arm, aimed at reforming the oil and gas industry.
He promised that they work hard to ensure passage of the bill before the end of May this year.
Giving a summary of the legal framework in the PIB, Hon. Nwokolo noted that it would foster sustainable prosperity in host communities as well as ensure that oil companies operating in the region conduct needs assessment of the communities in order to determine their development needs.
In his presentation, chairman of the state Traditional Rulers Council, represented by the Ibedaowei of Ekpetiama Clan, King Bubaraye Dakolo, recommended that the bill takes into consideration environmental pollution, particularly gas flaring, and ensure inclusion of rights of host communities.
He also expressed displeasure with the provision of the bill making the people responsible for protecting oil facilities, saying that the provision had already criminalised them.
Spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, said life expectancy of the Niger Delta people had significantly reduced as a result of the effects of gas flaring and yet the region contributes a great deal to the economic survival of the country.
Director General, Centre for Youth Development, Okubokakpo Ombu, Chief Ambrose Akierite representing Odioama community, and Mrs Juliet Zifawei, Deputy Director General, Centre for Women Development, solicited the inclusion of the empowerment of women and youths in the bill.
Shortly after the meeting, members of the committee visited an oil spill site at Ikarama community in Yenagoa local government area of the state.