Dear Honourable Leaders of the Hollowed Chambers, it is with deep sense of respect that we write this letter to you as heads of the second arm of government in Nigeria whose legislative actions can bring happiness to the people if guided with the spirit of fairness, equity and good conscience. It is pertinent to state that this letter is not sponsored by any political group or individual to castigate any political gladiator in Nigeria.
The group is the ‘Ojobo Development Forum (ODF)’, registered under Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) with the sole mission of building a developed, peaceful and marginalization free Ojobo Community. Ojobo is an Izon town located at the Buloutoru Riverine axis of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State and the host community to ‘The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, limited now carrying out Oil and Gas exploration and production activities in ‘Benisede Oil Flow Station’ since 1972, producing more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day. This piece represents the wish of the people of Ojobo Community (the owners of the Land where Benisede Flow Station is located).
We must state that we are not oblivious of your efforts geared towards revamping the economy through the passage of masses-oriented bills. Bill of this nature (The Petroleum Host and impacted Community Development Bill, 2018) is without doubt, if packaged with the spirit of fairness, equity and good conscience will be one of the most people oriented bill with the positive effect of poverty eradication and speedy development to oil producing communities in Nigeria, particularly, the Riverine communities like ours.
Unfortunately, this bill as presently packaged by its sponsors carries the effect of enslaving and marginalizing the indigenes of Host communities whom God has endowed with natural resources as divine consolation to their poor existence faced with constant threat of environmental hazards. This Bill, if not reviewed and amended, is capable of invoking the spirit of ‘no to marginalization and slavery’ which will no doubt bring about distortion of the relative peace and tranquility the settlors are enjoying in the Niger Delta region. The settlors may not find the environment friendly if such is allowed to erupt. Therefore, we ·urge you most humbly to forestall any of such impending dangers by adhering to the corrective measures in form of amendments to the said bill, hereunder suggested.
Before we make our inputs, we respectfully urge you to note the following demerits of the said Bill.
1. The bill as presently packaged will breach the fundamental rights of the members of the host communities to own, use and enjoy their property contrary to Section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
2. The bill seeks to take away the rights of the oil producing communities to determine what will be mapped out for the development of their area from where the settlers make huge sums of money hourly. It gives the settlors the right to determine the fund for the host communities’ development and the custodian of the fund, living the host communities with no input. The most worrisome is that the trustees that may be appointed by the settlor may even be a foreign company.
3. The settlors, at the detriment of the host communities are given the full powers to determine which community is a host or impacted community. It has the implication of giving the benefits of host community or impacted community to a non-host or non- impacted community.
4. The bill gives the Petroleum Regulation Commission the power to sit over dispute between settlors and host communities, thus taking away the rights of the host communities to approach the State High Court for redress. Such will be detrimental to the welfare of the host communities as the Petroleum Regulation Commission and the Federal High Court to which an appeal lies to, in line with the bill will not in any way favour the host communities.
5. The bill gives the settlors the position of the uncommanded commander with ‘rights of enjoyment as owners’ of the lands where oil production and exploration takes place. While the host communities are left to wallow in poverty and slavery as if they are poor tenants.
Your Excellencies, the people of Niger Delta, Ojobo community in particular are peace loving people and will always subscribe to peace. We pray that you give us a sense of belonging as bonafide citizens of our great Country, Nigeria. We urge you to imbibe the spirit of fairness and oneness in making this bill people oriented by adhering to the following amendments.
1. The 2.5% Annual Operating Expenditure as appearing in Section 7 of the bill should be defined in section 26 (the interpretation section). It is vague and not defined in the Interpretation Section.
2. The 2.5% Annual Operating Expenditure as appearing in Section 7 of the bill is not determined by any parameter. The host community is not given the right to determine what it is like. The settlor says anything and gives anything. We pray that measures should be put in place for the Host Community to determine what becomes the 2.5% without any deceit by the settlor where such percentage is accepted.
3. The said 2.5% Annual Operating Expenditure mentioned in section 7 is not acceptable to us as a people. Any agreed development fund should be at least 10% of the Annual Total Production (output) of the settlor and measures must be put in place for the host communities to determine the said Annual Total Profit (ATP).
4. The Host Communities (land owners) should also be defined and be differentiated from the impacted communities. From our experience as members of host community, It is clear to us that ‘all host communities are equally impacted communities’ being the owners of the land of operation (operation site) and also affected by the oil and gas operations in the area. On the other hand, the communities, not being host communities but only affected by the operation of the settlors in one way or the other can be classified as impacted communities.
5. Benefits accruing to the host communities and that accruing to the impacted communities must be separately spelt out. The host community must benefit more.
6. Section 2(3) should be amended to read – “for the purposes of setting up the TRUST, the members of the Board of Trustees shall be nominated / recommended by the host communities and be confirmed by settlor. The power to nominate should be vested on the host communities. Thereafter, the “Board of Trustees” who shall apply to the Corporate Affairs Commission to be registered as a corporate body under Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act in the manner hereafter provided.”
7. Section 8(g) should be amended to read – “Any other matters which may be stated by the settlor as approved by the host community settlor’s host and impacted communities.”
8. Section 9(1) should be amended to read- “The members of the Board shall be nominated by the host communities but for the purpose of accountability and checks, the Settlor shall nominate a management staff of her company to be co-signatory to the Board’s Bank Account”.
9. Section 10 (f) should be amended to read- “Set up the Management Committee of the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Trust and appoint its membership provided that the composition of membership of the management committee shall include the members of the Host Community.”
10. Section 10 (g) should be amended to read- “determine the allocation of funds to Host and Impacted communities based on the matrix provided by the settlor in agreement with the Host community”.
11. Section 12 (1) should be amended to read-“the Settlor in collaboration with the leadership of the Host community shall provide the Board of Trustees matrix for distribution of the Endowment Fund to the host and impacted communities”.
12. Section 14 (b) should be amended to read- “executive members, selected by the Board of Trustees who shall be indigenes of the host and impacted communities should be of high integrity and professional standing, who shall be from any of the settlor’s host and impacted community and a management staff from the settlor’s company”.
13. Section 23 (3) should be amended to read -“The State or Federal High Court shall have the power to resolve disputes between persons who are subject to this Act and between any such persons and other persons regarding any matter under this Act”.
14. Section 24(1) should be amended to read- “a party that is dissatisfied with the determination of the State or Federal High Court shall have the right of appeal to the court of Appeal.”
15. Section 24(1) should be removed.
Finally, we pray that you take into consideration our inputs in the interest of justice and peace. We are solidly behind your government and will continue to be law abiding people. Accept the assurances of our regards while we remain,
Chief Ondokare Fufeyin President, ODF
Barr Ernest Brisibe, Secretary, ODF