Actually I have been privileged to participate in two events organised by ERA/FoEN on the current PIB. As a mother and as a leader, I am not happy. To my on understanding, they have removed the 10% host communities were hoping to get as stakeholders. It seems they are tying us; trying to bind the people on whose land they are taking the crude oil/gas without minding that our mean sources of livelihood [fishing and farming] are highly compromised by the oil industry operations in our environment. We have been suffering all kinds of illnesses, including skin problems as a result of spills and as the facilities are sited close to residents. We have no benefits, just suffering in silence in the face of all these oil industry induced livelihood and health problems. They ought to consider training our children; rather they are talking about removing the host communities 10% from the PIB. As a mother, grandmother and community leader; I am not in support of that. I am speaking on behalf of the women of this community, that we are not pleased with the attempt to remove the Host community 10%. In my own view, it should rather be increased to 20%. And, this money should not pass through any arm of government or board; it should come directly to the communities; so that we don’t experience the kind of things we are hearing about some Nigerians running away with monies meant to pay pensioners.
What kind of PIB do you suggest?
Let the PIB increase the community funds to 20% and it should be sent directly to communities concerned so that the communities can utilise it in ways that will address their needs. I would also want to see a PIB at the end of the day which does not infringe on the freedom of movement of members of host communities simply because oil facilities are within their environment. This is where I am concerned about the aspect talking about six months imprisonment or N5million fine for anyone found guilty on issues relating to oil facilities and oil production. We should have the right to approach whoever is in our land and know what their mission is and if things are not in our favour; we should not be denied our freedom to resist. That section is a threat to our freedom of movement and it should be removed; because community people could be accused wrongly by strangers coming to operate in our land. It seems the Crude oil is a curse now to us and if others can exchange it with us and give us peace; I will prefer that. It is giving us problem; it was a blessing from God to us, but giving us problem now. They have turned it into a curse.
Issues relating to the education of our children from primary school to tertiary levels should be considered in the PIB; at least ten children annually. In the same way, women should be carried along in the scheme of things; women are being neglected in our communities. So, the rights of women, as critical stakeholders, should be captured in the PIB. Like I said earlier, I will want them to remove the section that talked about arresting, fines or imprisonment of persons found culpable on oil production obstruction related offence because; the pipelines criss-cross our environment and we often pass through such areas to and fro our farms, lakes, ponds and other locations. We do not want to be unnecessarily accused and sent to jail. For instance, due to my being vocal in advocating for the rights of my people; I could be accused of going to tamper with oil facilities in our environment; even though as a woman I cannot do that. But because my accusers might have strong connections and in order to silence me; they might succeed in sending me to prison. Where will I get N5million to free myself? They should remove that from the PIB. It is a law that is trying to restrict our movement within our own environment.