My name is Moses Seleowei, from Ikarama community and by the grace of God; our community is host to the Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] and the Nigeria Agip Oil Company [NAOC]. One of the main reasons we are not pleased with the current form of the PIB is the idea of removing the 10% share of the Oil industry profit meant for host communities. That community share was viewed by we the community people are compensation for the suffering we are passing through daily and I see no reason why the Federal Government is making conscious efforts to remove it from the bill. When I was growing up as a child I discovered that our fathers used to fish in the lakes within our environment and with that, they trained us in school. But now that has been destroyed, those lakes are condemned by siltation occasioned by construction of oil pipelines and oil spills pollution. In that regard I am not pleased with the way the PIB is being considered for passage now. Removal of the 10% Host communities share would be a challenge to the communities and, I don’t think there would be a conducive environment for the oil companies to operate in the communities if the bill is passed the way it is. Another thing in the PIB which I think is wholly intended to benefit the Federal Government and oil companies is the six months imprisonment or fine of N5million for anyone found culpable in obstructing oil production. While one is not encouraging wilful destruction of oil facility or sabotage; the condition is too harsh, as no community person can afford to pay such fines. This is critical because the oil companies are fond of not applying due process when they come to our community environment and by the time some community persons will go and challenge them; this oppressive law would now be applied on community people who are trying to fight for their rights. To the best of my knowledge communities in the Niger Delta have been peaceful and; when you look well at this law you will find that it benefits the Federal Government and oil companies alone and the question is: where are the PEOPLE, where is our right and the voice of the people? They should look at that issue because I don’t think it is favourable to us; the host communities and the people of the Niger Delta.
Using NDDC,Niger Delta Ministry and the likes to deny host communities of the 10% is baseless because, if you look at the owners of Oil Blocks; how many people from Niger Delta own oil blocks? 99% of oil blocks are owned by Nigerians who are not from the Niger Delta; mostly from the North. Niger Deltans are excluded from the oil business. For me, I don’t agree with that argument; using NDDC, etc as reason to remove the 10%; it is not cogent at all.
What kind of PIB would you prefer?… For me, apart from the a PIB which has the Host communities as stakeholders and with the 10% meant for them; I would like to see a PIB which will take the issue of engagement of our community people in terms of employment by oil companies. It would surprise you to know that of all the years SPDC and NAOC have operated in our land; no individual from Ikarama is employed in these oil companies. Not that we don’t have qualified graduates to work in those companies, we have graduates in different disciplines. The PIB should address that level of marginalisation too. The PIB should also capture the need to ensure that some skills acquisition training for locals to enable them key into the oil industry or enable beneficiaries survive in the increasingly oil industry induced polluted environment. These are the kinds of things that will create an enabling environment for the Federal Government and oil companies to operate smoothly in the communities. Finally, the people of the Niger Delta should be given equal opportunity to own oil blocks; it shouldn’t be the prerogative of Mr. President to give to whomever he desires. The PIB should state how Niger Deltans will also benefit from owning oil blocks. Ordinarily, as a nation practicing Federalism; we ought to exploit resources in our environment and pay tax to the Federal Government. But now, it is the Federal Government that is taking everything and giving little to the states; this is not fair.