The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has attributed the failure of the last National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill to the lawmakers politicizing the bill.
The group said this on Thursday at a press conference on the PIB in Lagos.
The ERA/FoEN’s Executive Director, Godwin Ojo, said that some of the lawmakers not only compromised but openly challenged pro-people provision in the bill.
“Some of them became the mouthpiece of Shell and other oil companies that threatened to pull out of Nigeria’s oil and gas operations if the PIB was passed,” Mr. Ojo said.
“They not only betrayed the wishes of the people but succumbed to cheap blackmail of the oil companies that the PIB would render the oil and gas industry unviable.”
The PIB was first introduced into the National Assembly in 2008 as an executive bill by then president, Umar Yar’Adua.
The Sixth National Assembly (2007 – 2011) failed to pass the bill.
The bill was re-introduced into the National Assembly in 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Last June, 47 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives in the Seventh Assembly (2011 – 2015) were present when the bill was passed a few hours to the end of their tenure. But the bill failed to get a concurrent passage from the Senate.
Mr. Ojo described the passage of the bill by the House of Representatives as a “sheer mockery of legislative process.”
”The actions were not only hypocritical and cosmetic but also face-saving, hence it was roundly condemned by Nigerians,” he said.
“The bottlenecks strewn on the way of the PIB and the failure through self-censorship of the last Assembly to make the bill become law clearly showed that there were behind-the-scene powers at play to keep our people down.
“The basis of kick-starting yet another process in the eighth National Assembly to ensure that the PIB is passed into law is hinged on the promises of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to tackle the myriad problems besetting the Nigerian environment especially the Niger Delta.”
Reviewing the PIB
President Muhammadu Buhari in August approved a US$10 million take-off grant for the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme Assessment on Ogoniland.
ERA/FoEN said that it hopes the PIB will also get equal attention as an Executive Bill.
The group also demanded for a review of some sections of the PIB to make it “more people-oriented and environmentally sound.”
Mr. Ojo said that the draft PIB grants excessive powers to the minister of petroleum as well as the oil companies.
“We do not want a bill that will be referred to as the ‘Minister’s PIB’ as this will defeat the key objectives of the bill in providing a level playing ground for all actors while creating efficient and effective regulatory agencies,” he said.
“It will surprise the present government that the actual volume of oil produced in Nigeria is either unknown or undisclosed. ERA/FoEN advocates that the point of oil extraction, transport lines, flow stations and export terminals must be installed with real time digital metering system as is currently the practice globally.”
The group also recommended an amendment of the section on Health, Safety and Environment to reflect that the Federal Ministry of Environment coordinate, develop and implement a holistic environmental policy.
The group welcomed the Petroleum Host Communities Fund with ten percent equity from oil and gas receipts in the draft bill.
“However, rather than the fund to be administered by the minister there should be provision for local communities empowerment in the setting up of Community Trust Funds to administer this for rural development,” said Mr. Ojo.
“The PIB must clearly define the term host communities and state the criteria for inclusion. The definition of host community should accommodate host to oil facilities, oil field/well head hosts and potential impact victims. In this regard, everybody that is or will be affected will find some level of protection under this law.”