The Executive Director, Environmental Right Action, (ERA), Dr. Godwin Ojo, says the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would not address the lingering crisis in the oil-rich Niger Delta, noting that halt of oil spills and gas flaring, the root causes of the agitation in the zone, were not captured in the piece of legislation.
He argued that there was hardly a place in the bill that defined environmental infraction such air, water and soil qualities, noting that the proposal did not also specify what constitutes same and other issues causing problem in the region.
The activist, who spoke at the weekend at a dialogue between civil societies and oil-producing host communities in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, added: “I want us to remember that this is a conflict resolution bill to address the years of monumental devastation of the environment of the Niger Delta. The bill will address the issue of environmental pollution, compensation, clean up, revenue allocation and how they are used in the development process and sadly, this bill as presented, has not met these criteria.
“This bill is pro-industry and seems to reinstate the status quo. For example, the money to be received is to go directly to the local council authorities and we know that the state and the local governments have no level of independence.
“So, that is a lacuna. The fact that the bill does not recognise local communities as the fundamental unity of planning is a flawed process. So, we need to recognise that and ensure that the local government that needs this should be dealt with directly.”Ojo, however, assured Nigerians that his organisation would approach the National Assembly to address the perceived lapses.
He continued: “The petroleum host communities’ fund appears to override corporate social responsibility. The secretary of the board is being proposed to be an oil worker nominated by the companies themselves.“So, they have one way abrogated the power of control over the fund. They put the money out there with the aim to maintain their interest and also control the process.”