ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Ijaw Diaspora Congress (IDC) on Thursday demanded the review of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to raise the host communities’ fund to 10 per cent as well as put its management in the hands of the oil communities.
The Congress in a statement signed by the President, Prof. Mondy Gold, and the General Secretary, Dr. Edward Agbai, said its board arrived at the decision among others after a meeting recently to review the current developments at home.
The statement reads in part: “On the Petroleum Industry Act, the board frowned on the three percent of operational expenses allocated to the Host Community Trust Fund for the oil bearing communities and advocated that it be reviewed to 10 per cent.
“The Ijaw Diaspora Board also demands that the various organs envisaged under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) for administration of the Host Community Fund be inaugurated.
“However, the Act should be swiftly amended to put indigenes of host communities in charge of them, rather than the current provisions that vest the powers of appointment and control of the Host Community Fund structures in the operating companies, thereby leaving the destiny of host communities to the whims and caprices of oil companies who are mere tenants.
“The Ijaw Diaspora Congress seeks the speedy amendment and implementation of these provisions through the establishment of the Host Communities Development Trust to aid in developing the economic and social infrastructure of communities in petroleum producing areas such as the Niger Delta.”
The IDC also recommended the establishment of Decommissioning and Abandonment Fund (DAF) to maintain and manage the licensees and lessees to be held by reputable financial institutions in an Escrow Account.
According to the group, the funds should be accessible to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and/or the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority.
The Congress suggested that the fund should be used to pay decommissioning and abandonment costs based on the yearly decommissioning and abandonment plan.
IDC criticised the recent Marginal Fields bid round and award, without first addressing the continuing environmental devastations of the Niger Delta by the oil industry.
The Congress said: “It is made worse because the 49 awards for more than N200 billion or $477 million were made in clear disobedience to the pending court order against it by the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
“We ask the Federal Government to cancel the bid round and make the process comply with the court order and equitable to the Ijaw ethnic nationality and other people and environment of the Niger Delta region,” the group indicated.
The group also noted that the Water Resources Bill currentlyin the House of Representatives was against the interest of the Ijaw people and the entire Niger Delta especially Sections 22 – 31 which give absolute powers to the commission not to be questioned and power over the surface and underground waters and adjoining lands.
It frowned on one of the provisions in the bill which compels Nigerians to obtain permits and pay taxes to the Federal Government like oil and gas operators before they drill boreholes in their backyards.
They noted that the bill also seeks to cede ownership of waterways, river banks and others to the federal government, which is against the Land Use Act that vests these powers with the state governor to administer land.
The group urged Ijaw political leaders to close ranks and go beyond party lines and stand in unison in the overall interest of Ijaws and jettison egocentric unsolved grievances and fragmentation in the Ijaw area.