Less than 24 hours after the South South Governors’ Forum rose from its Port Harcourt meeting yesterday with a communique which, among other things, urged the President and the National Assembly to amend some aspects of the Petroleum Industry Act, the Host Community of Nigeria, Oil and Gas, HOSCON, has rejected the governors’ suggestion that the Act should be amended to allow state governments appoint trustees to the 3% Host Communities Commission.
The South South Governors’ Forum had, in their meeting in Port Harcourt on Monday, recommended to the President and the National Assembly to amend some sections of the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, which the body considered unfair and inequitable.
In a six-point communique read by the Chairman, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Forum “urged the President and the National Assembly to take necessary measures to review some unfair aspects of the recently signed Petroleum Industry Bill to ensure fairness and equity.
“It urged that the amendment should include a clear definition of host communities and that the trustees should be appointed by state governments.”
Reacting to the recommendation that the state governments be allowed to appoint the trustees to the Host Communities Trust Commission, the National Chairman of the Host Communities of Nigeria, Oil and Gas, Dr. Mike Emuh, said that the state governors are not in position to appoint the trustees for the Host Commission that is saddled with the responsibility to manage the 3% Trust Fund as provided by the Act.
Emuh lamented that the 13% Derivation Fund which was provided for in Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended solely for the development of the Host Communities, has been hijacked by the State governors, warning that the governors should steer clear of the 3% approved for the oil bearing communities in the Act.
He said: “The PIA is made up ot three broad spectrum, namely the law that guides the government, the law that guides the oil companies and the law that guides the host communities.
“The governors cannot decide for the host communities. 13% Derivation Fund was provided for in the 1999 Constitution as amended. Section 162(2) made it compulsory that 13% Derivation Fund is for the Host Communities as a result of their loss of fishing rights and farming rights. But the governors are the ones enjoying it till today. They hijacked it from the Host Communities.
“These people (governors) have misappropriated over N44 trillion so far. They still want to hijack the 3% of the Host Communities Trust Fund in the PIA again. On what ground? So, they want to decide for the Host Communities? We will not take it. So, whatever the governors are saying is a brohaha. It will not hold water except they want the Niger Delta to boil.
“3% Trust Fund is an issue that has to do with TROMCOM, has to do with HOSCON, PANDEF and the entire oil producing communities of the Niger Delta. It does not have anything to do with PDP, it does not have anything to do with the governors and it does not have anything to do with politicians. It has to do with the people that God has given this oil to.
“So, I want to say that whatever meeting the governors held, our destiny is not in their hands. We have been suffering in their hands. They are the problems we have been having in the Niger Delta. Since the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo gave the 13% to the governors of the PDP, that was when the crisis in the Niger Delta began.
“Thank God for President Muhammadu Buhari who has brought to an end the crisis that was in the Niger Delta in terms of pipeline vandalism, in terms of illegal refineries and stealing of crude oil. Today, these things have been minimized. So, the governors should not come to look for the trouble of the Host Communities.
“I want to say that they have the right to express their will but we will allow the provision of the law for the implementation. And the law made it very compulsory that the Host Communities will carry out the nomination of the people to control the 3% in the Host Communities Trust Fund Commission. It is called Host Communities Trust Fund Commission in the PIA, not Governors Trust Fund Commission.
“So, our stand is that we object to what the governors are saying. We stand by the 9th National Assembly decision, we stand by the assent of the PIA by Mr. President in favour of the Host Communities. It started with 3% and we shall ask for upward review as time goes on.
On who would now presides over the nomination and appointment of the Trustees of the Host Communities Trust Fund, the chairman said that the Act provides that it is the duty of the Communities to nominate and appoint the Trustees to the Host Communities Fund, adding that both the 9th Assembly and the Presidency stated that in the PIA. According to him, the governors have not right to change what is already contained in the Act.
“The PIA specified that it is the duty of the Communities to appoint their sons and daughters who can introduced innovations that will lead to the transformation of the Niger Delta region. And that is what the Presidency has done and what the 9th National Assembly has done. So, the governors have no right. We are meeting with the Presidency this week and I’m sure the Presidency will want the law to be implemented as stated in the Act”, he said.
Emuh also informed that a meeting of stakeholders including traditional rulers and host communities shall soon be convened in the Niger Delta for the purpose of the 3% Trust Fund.