The House of Representatives members from Niger Delta have said they will push for an increment of the equity shares of host communities from the current three per cent to five percent in the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
They said the proposed amendment of the Act by President Muhammadu Buhari was an opportunity to right the wrongs in the law.
It will be recalled that the National Assembly passed the bill into law in July this year and subsequently, the President on August 16, 2021, assented to the bill, making it a law.
But before its passage, the Senate had passed 3 per cent as equity for the host communities, while the House approved five per cent with a differential of two per cent.
However, a joint conference committee of both chambers eventually adopted Senate’s approved 3 per cent.
The adoption was greeted by mixed reaction and outright rejection by many quarters in the oil rich coastal region who were, however, handicapped.
Speaking exclusively with Vanguard yesterday, some members of the House from the Niger Delta said they will move for an increment in the provision, noting, however, that it required a strategic meeting of all the lawmakers from the zone.
The lawmakers, who spoke to Vanguard included the chairman, House Committee on Host Communities, Dumnamene Dekor; the leader of the PDP caucus in the House, Kingsley Chinda; Serguis Ogun from Edo State and Ben Igbakpa from Delta State.
President’s proposal does not foreclose other amendments — Dumnamene Dekor
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Host Communities and member representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency of Rivers State, said: “Any proposal of an amendment that is before the National Assembly today does not foreclose other amendment proposals.
‘’That’s my position. The five percent is not exclusive. It can also be proposed.”
PIA’ll cause crisis – Kingsley Chinda representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State
“We have consistently condemned the PIA, which is one of the worse laws in recent time. Our position is justified by the hurried need to amend same.
‘’Any law that will not make for peace in the country is a bad law and contrary to Section 4 (2) of the Constitution that empowers NASS to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country.
“The PIA will cause crises in the country and therefore is a bad law. Aside the devilish 3% for host communities, how do you leave the definition of host communities to the discretion of the operators? There must be some clear yardstick.
“How can you punish host communities for any sabotage on oil facilities? Who has the responsibility to protect the oil facilities?
Any member from the oil producing states will have to come with an amendment for the increase – Serguis Ogun
Ogun, representing Esan North East/Esan South East of Edo State said: “I don’t know if the President has the appetite for the increase of the host community fund from three percent to 5. Even though the amendment he sent to the NASS is strictly for the effective administration of the Act, if the host community was an item on his agenda he would have added it.
“Any member from the oil producing states will have to come with an amendment for the increase as I am not sure we can add the request for increase to this executive bill seeking a specific amendment.”
The issue of 3% is a bitter pill to swallow, Ben Igbakpa representing Ethiope East/Ethiope West of Delta State
Igbakpa said: “The President has brought an amendment that has to do with the governance structure of the Act to cater for all the geopolitical zones. We will meet, discuss and try to take a strategy to reach out to other areas because the issue of that 3 % is a very bitter pill to swallow.
“That is a bill that has suffered so many years of neglect. Now, we were all determined that this time, let’s pass it. No law is carved on stone, no matter how good you think it is. I wouldn’t subscribed to the notion that it was hurriedly passed.
‘’There was a committee and the committee went round the country, looking for input from the people. The question I know people would ask is was the input from the public, especially the people of the Niger Delta?
‘’Well, that’s another kettle of fish. But to say that the bill was hurriedly passed is not true. It was considered expedient then.
“Now, the President in his wisdom considers that if the Act is to stand the test of time, the governance structure will be amended to carry every part of the country along. It doesn’t mean it was passed in a hurry. It’s one bill that has been there over the years.”