Efforts to implement the Petroleum Industry Act have gone a notch higher following the Senate’s official engagement with top executives of international and local Oil firms operating in Nigeria.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Bassey Albert Akpan, who represented the Senate at the meeting, told the IOCs in clear terms that the implementation of the PIA has started.
Among several salient issues deliberated upon, Senator Akpan demanded total compliance with the demand for IOCs to relocate their headquarters and operational bases to the Niger Delta region.
The IOCs were also urged to submit their proposal for the setting up of the Host Communities Trust Fund, as required by the provisions of the PIA.
The Senator, who represents Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District, reassured the IOCs of the Senate’s willingness to synergize with them in the quest of developing a mutually beneficial relationship between them (IOCs) and the oil producing areas.
Of all the debates thrown up by the PIA, relocation of the headquarters of IOCs to host communities remains one of the most topical. The call is hinged on the need to fast-track the economic and infrastructural development of the host communities.
Having suffered debilitating effects of oil exploration for decades, the host communities are now risk zones for humans, animals and plants. There is abject poverty and underdevelopment in the region despite being blessed with abundant natural wealth.
The relocation tends to have assumed a ‘tug of war’ between host communities and oil companies with the tilt seemingly in favour of the latter. Having been denied a safe ecosystem and stripped of economic power as a result of the unsupportive environment, the host communities lacked the wherewithal to match the shenanigans of the IOCs.
Presidential orders for the relocation were flouted by the companies as they exploited the absence of relevant Law guiding policies in the oil and gas sector.
Presently, most of the multinational firms have their head offices in Lagos and Abuja.
The PIA, apart from curbing environmental degradation, pushes for the boosting of benefits to host communities and will equally stop the IOCs from paying taxes and other benefits to other states and city authorities.
Provision has been made in the PIA for the clichéd excuse of insecurity of the Niger Delta often cited by the multinationals as reason for non-relocation. The host communities are tasked with being receptive and to protect oil investments in their domain. No multinational firm can be powerful than the Law of the nation it operates from.
Having delivered the message to the IOCs without mincing, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan in the past week was the lead sponsor of a motion tagged ‘Urgent need to encourage all multinational and Nigerian oil and gas companies to relocate to their operational bases.’
Senator OBA in the motion acknowledged that the IOCs were operating from their respective operational bases until militancy and insecurity in the host communities in the Niger Delta held sway. He however highlighted that sustainable peace and stability have since returned to the region.
As stated by Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, instability in the region was triggered by inability of Niger Deltans to access the management of the multinational companies to register their complaints bordering on their activities in the area.
Most court orders against the multinationals were not honoured. While not justifying the strife, it has to be said that some Niger Deltans were convinced it was the last valid option of ventilating their grievances.
After necessary deliberations, the Senate mandated its committees on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Downstream Petroleum Sector and Gas to partner with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), to facilitate the relocation process.
This and other exploits of Senator Bassey Albert provide the needed verve and impetus to achieve more sustainability and efficiency in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
Senator Albert’s bold legislative activism and the Senate’s apparently unbending resolve to reform the sector, present signs of Nigeria being rescued from the dark alleys of resource curse and ushered into a glorious era of sustainability and economic independence.