Written by Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action
In view of the decision made by the Nigerian House of Representatives to commence consideration of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) next week, the Social Development Integrated Centre, also known as Social Action, has deemed it necessary to raise public awareness and bring to the attention of the lawmakers, some salient issues arising from key provisions contained in the PIB.
While the current version of the PIB has a significant number of provisions potentially aimed at ensuring that the oil and gas resources of the country are utilised for its overall development, there are however some aspects of the bill which are at variance with its objectives. One of these shortcomings of the PIB, is the express provision of Section 328(2) which absolves oil companies of blame or responsibility for oil spillage, on claims of sabotage. The section states that:
“Where the act referred to in sub-section (3) of this section is found to have occurred as a result of sabotage, costs of remediation and restoration shall be borne by the local governments and the state governments within which the act occurred”.
The deliberate attempt to place responsibility for oil spillage upon claims of sabotage, on local and state governments of the affected community, thus exonerating the oil companies from liability, does no credit to the PIB and to the integrity of the Petroleum sector.
Social Action believes it is the responsibility of multi-national oil companies operating in Nigeria, to protect their infrastructure, which includes pipeline infrastructure and installations.
Also, Sections 315 and 316 of the PIB, provide for a mild punishment of a payment of fine for the wrongful act of gas flaring perpetrated by several oil-producing companies in Nigeria. Such a payment of fine, as stated in the PIB, will only be made subject to the discretion of the Petroleum Inspectorate.
We believe that the negative and far-reaching impacts of gas flaring on the health of the environment and the people of Nigeria, necessitates the imposition of a more severe penalty of a jail term exceeding two years, for the heads of the subsidiary companies of multinational oil corporations, found guilty of flaring associated gas in Nigeria.
Other issues worthy of note, are the unjustifiable and unprecedented tax waivers provided for in some sections of the PIB, which could shortchange the nation economically, as well as the lack of adequate emphasis on the crucial need for tax and royalty payments made by oil companies to the government, to be published for the benefit of the general public.
We therefore make an urgent call on the honourable members of the House of Representatives, as they prepare to consider the passage into law of the PIB next week, to look into these grey areas of the bill, as well as other isolated concerns of oil-bearing communities, with the aim of protecting the human and environmental rights of the community members.
For further enquiries, please contact Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action