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PIGB: Niger Delta kicks against alleged injustice on host fund

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*As NNPC backs proposed splitting in PIGB ‎

Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on Wednesday, kicked against stoppage of payment of host community fund to any community where petroleum operations are obstructed by activities of vandals ‎in Petroleum Industrial Governance Bill (PIGB).‎

This is even as the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) supported proposed unbundling in the bill.

‎Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah who spoke on behalf of PANDEF at the public hearing on PIGB in Senate, demanded for the deletion of the provision, describing it as an expression of injustice against the host communities.

The former governor also picked holes in‎ the manner of provisions for host community fund in the bill.

He  submitted that the “bill does not state that funds will be allocated to communities based on oil production and/or value of petroleum facilities or assets (such pipelines, flow stations, gas plants, terminals, etc.) located in the communities.”

According to him, the provision stopping the payment of host community fund on account of vandalism was antithetical to the principles of natural justice which he said would amount “to punish a whole community for the selfish act or crime of one or few 

Attah also expressed grave concern on the structure of the bill, pointing out that it failed to specify the criteria for the allocation of funds and projects to be funded by the host community fund.

“Given that there are over 3,000 petroleum producing communities and hundreds of other communities hosting oil facilities, the allocation of funds among the communities will be fraught with difficulties and controversies, especially as some boundaries are disputed and not well-defined,” he added.

Attah also said a specific ceiling should not be put on the use of host community fund, 

as done in the bill, arguing that the “fund should also be used for both economic and physical infrastructure.”

In its submission, Petroleum and Natural Gas (PENGASSAN), said the nation had lost over $200 billion due to non-passage of PIB as he warned against proceeding with the privatisation of NNPC as provided in the bill without carrying it along as it demanded that companies in the oil sector must comply with international labour conventions in the process. 

‎Speaking on behalf of the group, Chika Onuegbu, said the privatisation process must 

“ensure that all workers in the NNPC and all other government agencies to be impacted by the PIB shall transit to the new companies/agencies on terms and conditions no less favourable than their present conditions. This is crucial to the successful take-off of these agencies, the NOC and the PIB itself.”

‎He also said proper arrangements must be made in a way that “the liabilities of the NNPC and other agencies to their staff such as pensions to retired and existing employees are adequately provided for prior to the effective commencement date of the PIB.”

‎Onuegbu also said “companies operating in the oil and gas industry do not use the PIB as a ploy to disengage Nigerians,” adding: “the PIB should give the regulatory agency the power to protect the jobs of Nigerians working in the oil and gas industry such that no Nigerian will be relieved of his/her job without the approval in writing of the regulator.”

He also insisted that “no worker in the oil and gas industry impacted by the PIB shall be asked to leave service until a minimum of five years after transition. In addition, after five years, the Union must be involved in re-organisation/ right sizing cum negotiation of any staff proposed for exit.”

Making a presentation at the public hearing, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru‎ said the new bill would serve “as necessary prelude to the enactment of subsequent legislations on upstream, midstream and downstream fiscal, commercial and operational framework for the oil and gas industry.”

‎The Corporation also acknowledged that the initiation of PIGB as a separate bill from the fiscal and commercial framework would hasten the overall consideration of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and also facilitate the “ease of execution when eventually passed into law.”‎

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