Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has advocated not less than 10 percent fund allocation to host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly for consideration and passage.
Aside from the 10 percent allocation, the governor said that it was also necessary that the bill state in clear terms what specific development projects the allocated fund should be spent on to guarantee accelerated growth and development of host communities.
Wike added that the demands had become imperative to serve as a form of compensation for the oil-bearing communities that have suffered from alleged insensitivity of the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
Speaking on Thursday when the members of the National Assembly Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill visited him at Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor listed the IOC insensitivity effect to include loss of livelihood, good drinking water, and disruption to sociocultural life.
“Its unfortunate that people produce oil but they live in poverty. I believe that this Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) committee will make recommendations of how certain percent must be given to the host oil communities. There are issues of education and health. Don’t just say 10 percent to the oil host communities. It must be tied to specific projects so that whoever is in charge will know it.
“So that he or she does not have the prerogative to initiate, like during Christmas, to buy and give 20 thousand bags of rice and tag it as a project. Let it also not be that host community people will have this money, and you begin to see assassinations among themselves. I have found out that part of the problem we have in communities is that they allow these oil companies to divide them. They cause crisis among them; divide and rule. That is the pattern of IOCs, particularly Shell,” he said.
According to the governor, the mistakes found with the act establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should be avoided because it did not specify what projects the Commission should embark on in the Niger Delta.
“This same thing that has happened to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should not happen to the issues of host communities in PIB. If in the NDDC act, they were able to tie the money that will be coming to specific projects, it would have developed the people of Niger Delta. And you won’t be having people fainting at the National Assembly. NDDC will leave their job and begin to buy vehicles for police, army, and asphalting barracks. Is it what NDDC is meant to do? That is where we have lost it,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Committee’s Deputy Chairman, Victor Onyemaechi, said that the committee was in Rivers State to have a town hall meeting with stakeholders to resolve issues of what should be allocated to host communities in the PIB.
“A lot of people have been misinformed about the issue of host communities. Some have said that host communities are related to the hostility of the producing communities. But what they have seen today and in the last four days, has shown to be negative. It has proved negative in the sense that we walked around over 800 meters about three days ago and they saw that even in dry season, we have to use wood as a bridge to get to where Shell is exploring and making all their money.
“They also saw the impact of Shell petroleum operation to people’s means of livelihood where their farmland was burnt and palm trees were burnt to ashes. They can feel it and they can see it. What we saw today is that a community that is known for fishing, as their means of livelihood, has been brought to a standstill. The boats were there, over 50 boats lying idle because their water has been fully polluted.