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Bill on host communities on oil exploration passes second reading

A bill seeking framework relating to Petroleum Producing Host Community’s participation, cost and benefit sharing among Government, Petroleum Exploration Companies and Petroleum Host Communities, 2017 has passed second reading in Senate.

The bill, which passed second reading following a unanimous adoption by the lawmakers through a voice vote at plenary on Thursday was sponsored by Sen. Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara-APC) and members of the Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources.

The bill, which is one of the tranches of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), scaled first reading on December 8, 2016.

Leading debate on the bill, Marafa said the bill was structured to bring direct funding for the development of host communities.

He said the bill recognised the pitfalls of past efforts and is structured to bring direct funding for the development of the petroleum host communities under the direction and control of the communities themselves.

According to him, when enacted into law the bill will create the much desired harmony and partnership among  various stakeholders in the petroleum operation process.

He added that  it would engender huge cost savings, extensive  investment and overall transformations of the Nigeria oil and gas industry.

The lawmaker further said that the passage of the bill would help in curbing  restiveness, by assuaging the fears of petroleum host communities and providing a veritable regime of compensation  directly to the communities.

He noted that it would enable the host communities develop their local infrastructure, educate their people, access health care and earn a livelihood.

He added that  the development would enable them  cope with the devastated environment foisted on them by the poorly managed petroleum producing activities of the oil companies.

Marafa  pointed out that the bill sought to establish a pool of funding for development of petroleum host communities and specifies the sources of this funding.

He maintained that the pool would be funded through a  direct contribution from petroleum producing companies.

He also said that the bill defined petroleum host communities that would be beneficiaries of the fund.

According to him,  the bill also provides  reciprocal responsibilities on the part of communities by creating grounds for deductions for repair of any damaged oil facilities resulting from sabotage.

“The bill also sets out the requirements for account and audit of fund paid to petroleum host communities,

“Agitation for participation for host community in petroleum business and the conferment of financial and other benefits of the industry on such communities is as old as the petroleum industry in Nigeria.

“In fact this has been a critical issue of deliberation at several national forums and even here in the National Assembly.

“Over the years government has attempted to address this issue by  providing forms of palliatives to the host  communities but this has always fallen short of the expectations of the people in the manner in which it was conceived.

“This bill  is presented in line with  the perspective of  this 8th Senate to split the PIB into smaller partitions to allow for easier consideration and where necessary further amendments,’’ he said.

He said the financial  implications of the bill would result from the registration of Petroleum Host Communities Associations and National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities.

He said  cost of registration of  Petroleum Host Communities Associations would  be borne by  relevant communities.

He added that the  running cost of National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities would  be deducted from  funds payable to  petroleum host communities by petroleum producing companies.

“No funds are needed to be appropriated by the National Assembly for funding Host Communities Associations and National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities.’’

The lawmaker noted that the bill would provide the requisite succour to  host communities that had borne the brunt of oil production activities,  ensure peaceful co-existence and substantial investment to the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

Contributing, Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta), said the 8th Senate had made history for the level of achievement with regard to the ensuring the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill that had lingered for long.

He commended the sponsor of the bill for an extensive job that would be of benefit to all stakeholders in the industry, particularly the host communities.

According to him, “when passed into law, petroleum host communities will heave a sigh of relief.’’

The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Upstream, Downstream and Gas for further legislative action after putting it to a voice.

The joint committee was mandated to report back in four weeks.

Meanwhile, the Senate has proceeded on its annual vacation and adjourned till September 19.

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