Disagreeing so strongly with the northern position on the PHC Fund, Dr. Bala Zakka, an energy expert who has worked for oil majors like Shell for decades asked rhetorically,” If they oppose PHC Fund today, what would they do if oil is discovered in Borno and Sokoto tomorrow? Would they ask for the amendment of the PIB? Or start a new agitation against regional marginalization?” The PIB is not about giving money to the Niger Delta, but about opening up the economy to opportunities that will benefit all the regions and all Nigerians.
Detailing the woes of oil-bearing communities, Celestine Akpobari, Head, Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), Port Harcourt Rivers State revealed that people drink water coated with as much as 8cm of oil in the Niger Delta. Most water wells are polluted. In Ogoni land for instance, there are weekly funerals of local residents dying of unknown causes. The only electricity in most of the Niger Delta communities at night are gas flares from oil installation sites nearby.
Sir Aiyegbeni’s definition was more technologically compliant. He defined a host community as a community and a contingent community where extraction of hydrocarbon takes place. With that definition, the discussions forayed into the technological advancements in drilling operations which enable oil companies to drill oil from a location that is far off from where the resource is anchored. “Horizontal drilling offers more targeted access to oil wells and reserves under places oil operators might not want to disturb, such as a town, forest or venerated local shrines”, Dr. Zakka explained.
In unison, participants rejected the discretionary powers of the president to grant oil licenses, recommending that that provision should be expunged from the bill. Likewise, the discretionary-permit granting for gas flares by the petroleum minister was roundly rejected, and should be expunged from the reform bill. There was not a single person in the room that didn’t agree that the powers of the minister under the PIB need to be revisited. A strategic and sustained awareness creation on the PIB, including the sensitization of oil producing communities about specific provisions of the Bill that would potentially impact on their welfare was another resolution that received overwhelming support by participants.