Oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta region are seeking joint action against the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) saying it does not address issues of environmental degradation and indiscriminate gas flaring. This is the position canvassed by various speakers at the Nigeria Resource Justice Conference with the theme: “The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2022: Matters Arising For Communities in Extraction Sites,” organised by Social Action in Yenagoa. Speaking at the event the chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Ibedaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom who is the keynote speaker said the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act, has not addressed the decades of destruction of the environment and the source of livelihood of host communities. “If we are not careful, we will go into extinction or may go into slavery because this law is so bad as far as the welfare of the people in the oil and gas producing areas is concerned,” he noted adding that the only way out is for the people to unite and see the best they could make out of it. According to him, “the PIA says the host communities can only access their 3 per cent benefits or be given their 3 per cent benefits if there is no sabotage and other activities that will affect production that will lead to maintenance, otherwise they will not be able to access that benefits.’
He added, “even the oil companies can sabotage their own equipment. Also people can come from other areas to sabotage the system and you will put the blame on Niger Deltans. It is completely stupid for the PIA Act to have said that they can only get their benefits when their is no disturbance. More so, they are saying so when the Military Joint Task Force( JTF) who are trained military security expert that have been operating in the Niger Delta for the past 24 years cannot stop it. And they want the people of the region to do it. How callous can it be? How caustic can the law ever be? The National Assembly members from the region are not doing anything, their voice is not loud enough, other organs and agencies have all gone to sleep and the law was passed and accented to by the president. What you have is PIA that is nonsensical as far as community interest is concerned.It is dangerous as far as the environment is concerned. But it is not too late to agitate for a better deal”. Earlier, the chairman of the occasion, Justice Simon Amaduobogha, said the essence of the conference was to discuss the legal implications of the bill as it affects the people and the environment. He said as a scholar and jurist, the law as currently passed has not helped the environment and also did not highlight its devastation over the years.
In his welcome address, the Director of Social Action, Dr. Isaac Osuoka said the indiscriminate flaring of associated gas and egregious crude oil pollution have wrecked havoc on the natural environment and the health of the people and livelihood of members of the communities in the sites of extraction and transportation. Represented by Prince Ekpere, Osuoka said Nigeria Resource Justice Conference provides an avenue for community members and leaders, citizen groups, scholars, government agencies to examine the contentious issues of funding the development of host communities, the damage the oil industry has caused to health and livelihood, the dangers of turning oil and gas bearing communities into enclaves of corporate dominance and ways to mitigate such dangers. According to him, the PIA 2022 is an attempt to surbodinate all environmental and social considerations under the profit and revenue goals of the oil industry.