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PIB: 3% Host Communities Fund, invitation to restiveness  in Niger Delta- Sen. Dickson

PIB: 3% Host Communities Fund, invitation to restiveness  in Niger Delta- Sen. Dickson

*urges Buhari not to sign Bill

*Blames Sylva, Kyari of influencing Senate decision

By  Ignatius Okorocha

Barely a week after the two chambers of the National Assembly passed the conference report on Petroleum Industry Bill,former Bayelsa governor and Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Seriake Dickson, on Thursday warned that the paltry 3% Host Community Fund in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was an invitation to restiveness in the Niger Delta region of the country.

The lawmaker who  stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, also expressed dissatisfaction with the attempt to subjugate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly on the issue of electronic transmission of results as passed by the Senate last week in the Electoral Bill.

This is as he accused the Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr. Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation  (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari of influencing the Senate on the percentage allocation for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund.

Dickson therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari, not to sign the two controversial bills into law until further legislative works were done on them to address some of the contentious issues that had generated so much agitations in the polity.

Speaking on the PIB,  the former governor noted that when the proposal was first made under the late President Umar Yar’Adua, the Executive arm earmarked 10% for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund while 10% was also proposed for oil exploration.

He asserted that it was very insensitive for the National Assembly to now reduce the Host Communities Development Trust Fund to 3% while jerking the allocation for oil exploration to 30%.

The politician, observed that by so doing, the government was endangering the the peace in the oil producing Communities, who would also jeopardize the prospects of investment in the oil industry.

He argued that if the Host Communities were not happy, the investors would not come to the region to invest because the environment would not be conducive for them to operate, expressing concerns that government was not currently engaging the affected Communities.

Dickson also suggested that pipeline Communities should also be carried along, so that the people within those Communities would not vandalize the facilities.

He noted that he walked out of the Chamber in protest on the day the PIB was passed because the proposed 3% was insensitive to the plight of the oil producing Communities, who have been facing degradation as a result of oil exploration in the region.

The lawmaker further revealed that he equally walked out of the presidential dinner with some Senators who were angry, in spite of persuasion from the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.

The statement Part reads in part:”It was the late President Umar Yar’Adua that sent the first bill to the National Assembly. That PIB work started from Obasanjo’s time. Under Obasanjo’s time, the late Rilwan Lukman was the Petroleum Minister when this bill came. The bill proposed 10% for Host communities Development and 10% for frontier development.

“As you know, I disagree completely and most of us disagreed completely and of course, you know the history that the Senate passes 3% and the House of Representatives passes 5% and then the Conference Committee came up with 3%.

“This country isn’t helping itself; this country is not even helping investors. This is not helping host communities that will enable investors to come in and the argument is that anything above 3% the investors will not come and so what?

“If the host communities are not happy, will the investors come? If the host communities do not have stakes in oil exploration and exploitation, will there be peace? Not only that investors will not come but those who are already here will leave.

“Senate did not take a wise decision because you are not dealing with one community; we are dealing with hundreds of communities. Don’t forget that now that even transit communities have a stake. I know why some people are arguing that some pipeline transit communities should be part of it. The reason is because if you exclude pipeline communities, they can sabotage the entire operations.

“The host communities know and the world knows that 10% equity development fund was proposed for them and no one is engaging them and no one is explaining anything to them.

The Host Communities are the most important partners. Those who say they have majority vote have imposed 3% but it is not beneficial to the Host Communities and the country. Also, 30% for frontier basins is too much. It’s not a very helpful situation for the oil industry.

“We reached out to our Northern colleagues and they agreed to support 5% but it was when the Minister of State Petroleum and the Group Managing Director of NNPC came to brief the Senate that they said that anything above 2.5% would attract investment.”

He argued that in a society with a lot of diversities, relying on might and numerical strength would not build a nation, saying that “it’s justice, equity and fairness that would build a nation.”

On the Electoral Bill, Dickson said that it was unconstitutional to subjugate the INEC to the Nigeria Communication Commission and the National Assembly on the issue of electronic transmission of results as passed by the Senate last week.

“The draft bill mandated INEC to transmit electronically. It is unconstitutional to subjugate INEC to any other body, and we know that laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution can be challenged,” he said.

Consequently,lawmaker, cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the Bill as it was, urging him to return it to the National Assembly for more consultations and legislative work, that would address the contentious clauses.

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