ABUJA: Confusion As Host Communities Fight At House Of Reps PIB Public Hearing
There was confusion on Thursday at the venue of the public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as members of host communities broke into a fight.
The fight broke out when the host communities of Nigeria producing oil and gas were called to the podium to make a presentation at the public hearing which was held at the House of Representatives in the National Assembly Complex.
According to Tony Akowe and Nicholas Kalu, reporting from Abuja, for The Nation Online, Nigeria
Some delegates of oil-producing communities openly engaged in free-for-all during the public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on the proposed oil law.
It was believed that the bone of contention on Thursday was the percentage of income or equity that oil companies should devote as the contribution to a trust fund for the development of their host communities.
The bill proposes 2.5 percent oil firms income/equity but the host communities, under the aegis of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HostCom), are demanding 10 percent.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, last week insisted that 2.5 percent was fair for the oil-bearing communities.
Trouble started when the Ad- Committee Chairman, Mohammed Tahir Mongunu called one of the groups to first make its presentation.
Mongunu had earlier announced that others would make theirs after the first group but many of those present who, apparently misunderstood him, started shouting “No!, No!, No!.”
The shouting match led to a row that degenerated into fighting with some representatives telling the speaker of the first group that he was “not going anywhere.”
However, when frayed nerves were calmed, the representative of the first group began his presentation but HOSCOM President, Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, pounced a traditional ruler whose identity could not be ascertained as at the time of this report.
The monarch who is probably in his 60s was left with a bloodied nose
Policemen had to be drafted to the venue to keep the peace after the confusion that lasted about 10 minutes.
The hearing thereafter continued with the committee adopting the presentations of the host communities.
Tamaranebi later confirmed that the fight was because of disagreement over what the host communities should be entitled to in the stake of oil firms operating in their areas.
He said: “When Niger Deltans gather, everything is bound to happen. All we are agitating for is 10 percent equity. We all agreed on that. The fight is because of 10 percent equity. So, we are not fighting because of any other thing. The fight you saw there was in agreement with 10 percent equity.”
“We are here for the public hearing on behalf of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCOM). I am the president of HOSCOM. And all that we are asking for and all that we are here for is nothing more than 10 percent equity shareholding.
“We vehemently go against 2.5 percent operating cost. That is a trick. So, we want to be part and parcel of it. Let us be shareholders in the industry. That will guarantee security in our local communities that are producing oil and gas.
“If they give us 10 percent shareholding, that equity will guarantee that no one will spill any oil or vandalise any pipeline. But whatever thing that gets missing, the communities will be missing as well. I want to agree on the 10 percent equity shareholding for the host communities. That will guarantee security in the region as well as oil and gas industry in Nigeria.”
One of the traditional rulers,Chief Monday Whiskey, described the fracas as the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. He said it was obvious that those who started the fight were out to scuttle the ambition of Niger Delta people.
His words: “When we are to make presentations that will better a lot of our people, some undesirable elements will be sponsored to go against the will of the people.
“What you saw is the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. From the aggressiveness he displayed there, you will know that he intentionally did what he did. A man was seated and you went to fight him. As a traditional ruler, I will not want to make further comment on that.”
A spokesperson for the CSOs, Botti Isaac, also said the PIB will not protect the host communities as it leaves them at the mery of the oil companies.
Isaac also said that the bill, when passed and signed into law, will promote confusion in the Niger Delta and further expose the communities to environmental degradation and untold hardship.
He accused the National Assembly of not allowing a fair and adequate opportunity for vulnerable stakeholders in the region to have a say in the processes towards passing the PIB.
He said “we believe that a new set of laws are necessary to govern the petroleum industry in Nigeria. However, the PIB’s proposals, as it is, would promote environmental impunity in the oil industry and exacerbate social dislocation in the oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.
“on Tuesday, January 26 2021, representatives of oil-bearing communities and civil society organisations from the Niger Delta were denied the right to participate in so-called Public Hearings organised by the Senate.”
“As the Petroleum Industry Bill is critical to the functionality of the oil and gas sector and the Nigerian economy, it is of utmost importance that all stakeholders are treated equally and accorded the same opportunity to discuss its contents and proposal.”
An official of one of the CSOs known as “We the People”, Ken Henshaw, accused the Ad- committee of being responsible for the fracas.
Mongunu said the committee members planned to physically visit the host communities to see things for themselves, adding that “when we visit your communities, you will have the opportunity to make your detailed presentation”.
Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, said the Ministry will engage officials of the petroleum sector to harmonise government views on certain areas of the bill “where we see some rooms for improvement.”
He said: “So as one government when we are through, we will be giving you our memorandum. We are moving in the right direction with the PIB. But it is important that as much as we want to protect today’s revenue we should look at sustainability.
“We should look at how revenue streams will continue to flow over the years and these are areas that from the Ministry of Finance that are looking at because we don’t want to get all the money today and lose tomorrow’s money.”
Chairman Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Elias Mbam said the commission supports fully, the aims and objectives of this bill.
But he expressed concern that the proposed law did not make reasonable provision for the inflow of revenue to the federation on a monthly basis.
Mbam said “If we have NNPC Limited that is talking about dividends which may come once a year, how we guarantee a continuous inflow of revenue monthly into the Federation Account.
“Secondly, we are aware that all revenue from Hydrocarbons are a revenue item of the Federation Account but where taxes are deducted from Hydrocarbon revenue, it is the same thing as encroaching on the Federation Account. So we expect that the Bill should not be to the disadvantage of monthly revenue to the Federation Account.
“On the host community funds, the commission is totally in support of the establishment of community funds. Our concern is the source of the fund. There is subsisting law that has provided 13 percent derivation fund to address issues that are related to community funding. We feel that source of the fund should be from that 13 percent.”
He however said that 40 percent of the derivation fund should be reserved for the development of the host communities, while the balance of 60 percent should go to the oil producing states.
Mbam was shouted down by the host communities.