Tension and Uncertainty as Reps Assent to Oil Communities Clause in PIB

Tension and Uncertainty as Reps Assent to Oil Communities Clause in PIB

There were tense moments at the House of Representatives on Thursday as members approved a clause in the Petroleum Industry Bill to include the entire country as ‘host community ‘ of petroleum resources.

By approving the clause, the House said all “upstream and downstream” communities in the country would now benefit from the “Petroleum Host Community Fund” proposed in the PIB.

In the original version of the bill from the Executive, the PHCF was proposed to assist in cushioning the effects of oil exploration activities on oil producing communities.

Oil companies, according to the bill, are to contribute 10 per cent of their net profit to the Fund.

However, the House Ad Hoc Committee on the PIB amended the beneficiaries of the PHCF to include all parts of the country, rather than restricting it to oil communities alone.

Chairman of the committee, Mr. Ishaka Bawa, while throwing some light on the recommendation, told members that communities with refineries or which have oil pipelines traversing them were automatically “host communities.”

He added, “It means that even states where there are refineries or there are pipelines are host communities. It is beyond oil producing communities.”

Bawa stated further that the only exceptions were states like Sokoto and Kebbi.

Although, the House passed the recommendation, it was not without some protests.

Some Niger Delta lawmakers, led by Mr. Leo Ogor, sought to retain the original proposal.

Ogor argued that the recommendation of the committee might face challenges of implementation because of what he called “many technicalities that will hinder progress.”

Ogor insisted that the House should restore the original provision, but his position was defeated by the majority of members who backed the community’s recommendation.

The House also reduced the 10 per cent contribution to the PHCF to 75 per cent.

However, oil companies are still required to carry out corporate social responsibilities in host communities to make up for the reduced financial contribution.

Lawmakers began considering the report on the controversial bill on Wednesday.

The 368-page report has 312 sections and 348 clauses.

By Thursday, members had passed 116 clauses at the Committee of the Whole, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha.

The House later adjourned further consideration of the bill till Tuesday next week.

Meanwhile, some members still raised concerns over the “powers” of the Petroleum Minister under the envisaged oil industry regime.

Only on Wednesday, the House had said the “enormous powers” of the minister had been reduced by “80 per cent.”

But on Thursday, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Solomon Olamilekan, observed that the minister was “still very powerful.”

He added, “I have pointed this issue out, but we are not looking at it seriously.

“In many areas of the bill, it is ‘minister approve’, ‘minister approve’.

“How can we get the type of industry we aspire to get, when the minister will remain the one approving everything?” Olamilekan added.

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