ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
Former Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, King Edmound Daukoru, has challenged the leadership of host communities (HOSTCOM) in Nigeria producing oil and gas to devote more attention to the issues of oil industry-induced environmental pollution in the Niger Delta.
Daukoru, who is also the HOSTCOM Board of Trustees Chairman, gave the charge on Saturday during the inauguration of the national elected executives officers of the body in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Daukoru, the Amayanabo of Nembe Kingdom, Mingi XII, in Bayelsa State, decried the incessant cases of oil pollution in the region and its attendant negative impacts on the socio-economic lives of the host communities.
He pointed out that Ogoniland is not the only polluted area in the Niger Delta, saying that almost every part of the region is polluted.
He urged the newly inaugurated executives to consolidate the achievements so far recorded and continue to educate and enlighten members on their rights as most members were uneducated and unaware of their rights.
Daukoru said: “I have taken the trouble to read the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and there are host community issues as HOSTCOM is not mentioned by name at least in the Act itself. If oil well is found on the farm of a lonely farmer, how does that man defend his right? They said there is security only if he aligns with other people with similar problems; that is what HOSTCOM is about.
“HOSTCOM is not a debt collector per say. HOSTCOM’s duties involve enlightening people on their rights, maybe some things can only be settled by litigation in court, some may be settled by the authority or commission as the case maybe.
“But to go from the village level to even a courtroom or to get a lawyer or valuer or to go to the regulating authorities is already a big task for small communities who do not have the means and enlightenment to know what their rights are, that is the gap I will personally like to see HOSTCOM fills and it is a huge task.
“The second thing you must do aside from enlightenment is to ensure that remediation programmes are not taken for granted. It is not only Ogoni in Rivers State that has polluted soils; it is happening everywhere in the Niger Delta. Every year, the farm harvest and the fish catch are getting smaller. Where are we heading for in another 50 years?”
In his speech, the National President of HOSTCOM, High Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, said the group had become a strong and virile umbrella and the mouthpiece of the vulnerable people of the oil and gas producing communities.
He said the HOSTCOM’s main objective is to have the federal and state governments create political will to develop the long neglected, marginalized and deprived oil and gas producing communities.
He listed HOSTCOM major achievements to include the Petroleum Industry Act, direct funding to host communities and the recognition of HOSTCOM by the government.
Tamaranebi said: “Before the formation of HOSTCOM, groups like TROMPCON, CDC and others had also played their significant roles at ensuring that there was a collective platform to access the companies operating in the region and the federal government.
“The main focus is to ensure that we continually mount pressure on both the Federal Government of Nigeria and the nine oil bearing states to create an oil producing areas development commission to manage part of the 13 per cent derivation to end intensive agitations for development in the region.”