Dump Frontier Basins For Clean Energy, CSOs Tell FG, Fault PIB

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…Bill Negates Nigeria’s Commitment To Paris Agreement

  • Fault PIB For Giving Oil Companies Overriding Power To Nominate All Members of BoT of Host Communities
  • Call For Deletion Of Clause Seeking To Make Communities Forfeit Benefits Over Act Of Vandalism

The Nigerian government has been urged to abandon its aggressive search for oil in the propped-up frontier basins in the country and tag along with the rest of the world in embracing clean energy.

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) made the call on Wednesday at a press conference in Lagos while presenting its joint position on the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the National Assembly.

The coalition who faulted several provisions as contained in the PIB said the ongoing exploration of fossils fuel in the controversial frontier basins flies against Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on climate change.

The New Diplomat reports that the NDC which is central to the Paris Agreement ratified by Nigeria in 2017, embodies efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

But the CSOs said the PIB is “a major source of concern” as it further plunges the country into fossil extraction and its accompanying despoilation as manifested in the Nigeria’s Niger Delta in the last six decades.

The New Diplomat had reported that the PIB proposes to utilize 30% of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) profits for oil exploration in the said frontier basins mostly located outside of the Niger Delta, with many found in the theatre of war in the Nigeria’s Northeast still ravaged by terrorism.

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“While the PIB expects the NNPC to become a profit-making enterprise, it already dedicates a hefty chunk of its expected profit into the search for additional crude oil. It is interesting to note that Nigeria has for decades invested heavily and futilely in the search for crude oil in the same basins,” the coalition which comprises Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), We the People and Environmental Rights Action- Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) said in a statement.

Executive Director, We the People, Mr Ken Henshaw, while presenting the groups’ standpoint on the oil bill, said the provisions and proposals in the PIB are indicative of the fact “the Nigerian government is unperturbed by concerns of global warming and climate change. Ironically, Nigeria is emerging as one of the most impacted countries globally by the effects of climate change. The shrunken Lake Chad, increased desertification and the regular floods around the Atlantic coast are ready evidences.”

Henshaw, who lamented that as much as $3bilion may have been spent on the search for oil in “unlikely places”, said the spending of public resources “in this effort is indicative of the fact that oil companies around the world do not consider this a worthwhile investment.”

Mr Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Activist and Executive Director, HOMEF cautioned the federal government against spending so much of the expected profits of NNPC on a wild goose chase in the frontier basins, urging the government to “consider investing the same percentage of NNPC profits in generating clean and affordable energy for Nigerians, as well as supporting an environmental remediation fund aimed at remediating years of pollution, livelihood loses and health impacts of oil extraction.”

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The coalition also rejected some provisions of the PIB on Host Communities Fund; Community Responsibility for Protection of Oil Facilities and Gas flaring.

The CSOs decried “the paltry 3 of 5 percent earmarked for host communities” as trust fund in the PIB by the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, saying the government has continued to treat host communities as “oil colonies and sacrifice zones under the control of profiteering companies.”

The statement by the coalition further faulted the PIB for giving oil companies overriding power to nominate all members of the Board of Trustees of the Host Communities with only an obligation to ‘consult’ communities, adding that “Without doubt, the provisions for the establishment and governance of the Host Communities Trust downgrades the participation of communities, while overtly promoting the role of oil companies.”

A key source of contention raised by CSOs and host communities in the Bill passed last week is the placing of responsibility for the protection of pipeline and other oil infrastructures on host communities, with the insertion of clauses targeted at making communities to forfeit benefits for every act of vandalism on oil infrastructures in their domain.

According to the Bill, “where in any year, an act of vandalism, sabotage or other civil unrest occurs that causes damage to petroleum and designated facilities or disrupts production activities within the host community, the community shall forfeit its entitlement to the extent of the costs of repairs of the damage that resulted from the activity with respect to the provisions of this Act within that financial year. Provided the interruption is not caused by technical or natural cause”.

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The CSOs argue that illicit activities of sabotage are carried out mainly by armed cartels, who are not necessarily members of the community oftentimes.

According to the group “attempting to criminalize oil producing communities in this regard is an unfortunate and cunning ploy. If this provision is upheld it could result in consistent denial of benefits which could in turn engender regular conflicts. We therefore recommend a total deleting of this clause.”

On the provisions of the PIB on gas flaring, the CSOs hinted that the Bill proposes the utilization of gas flare fines in more income yielding investments without any special consideration for the communities who suffer the impact of gas flaring. “Evidently, the PIB considers gas flaring a waste of economic resources which should be paid for, and not as an abuse which is impacting the climate, the health and livelihoods of communities.”

The PIB was also criticized by the coalition for not placing any definite flare-out date, presenting the impression that gas flaring will continue indefinitely to the detriment of host communities who continue to bear the dangerous consequences, something which is antithetical to Nigeria’s NDCs on climate change.

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