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JK4, otherwise known as Edagberi/Betterlan community is administratively situated in Ahoada West Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State. Biseni and Ikarama are two communities in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State that shares boundary with JK4. Shell’s Adibawa Flow station and about forty oil wells are within this community environment, aside several pipelines running through the land and across swamps, lakes and other natural water courses. The community has experienced several oil spills, most caused by equipment failure. The outcry of the community people and ERA/FoEN visits prompted Shell to replace some old, rusty pipes on a large section the company’s pipeline in 2011.
ERA/FoEN field monitors visited the community on 2nd May 2013 after receiving a call in relation to a fresh oil spill incident which the team confirmed during this visit. This brief report is a summary of the findings.
Let Petroluem Industry Bill, Build Institutions, not individuals, says ERA/FoEN
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has frowned at provisions of the draft Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which unduly bestows discretionary powers on the President and the Minister of Petroleum, saying a PIB with the mandate of the people must be built around institutions and not individuals for it to be impactful.
ERA/FoEN suggested that such provisions be totally expunged from the draft PIB while issues such as award of oil blocks be made open to transparent and competitive bidding processes.
The call is coming on the heels of the Public Hearing on the Draft PIB organised by the House of Representatives in Lagos and Port Harcourt earlier this week which was conducted in such manner that community and civil society groups were not adequately sensitized to be part of. In a release issued today (April 25, 2013) ERA/FoEN wondered why information about the public hearing and date of the sittings were carefully shielded from community people, civil society groups, and other critical stakeholders while oil multinationals, petroleum marketers and their consultants had adequate information and were prominently represented at the sittings.
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Frequently Asked Questions on the PIB document should be required basic reading for those seeking clarity on the issues.
We need to remind ourselves at the outset that crude oil and gas are neither produced by oil companies or by communities that are sometimes erroneously labelled as oil producing communities. These fossil fuels have been produced by nature over thousands, if not millions of years. A correct way to understand natural resources is to humbly see them as Nature's resources. Drilling kilometres into the bowels of the earth actually is a violation of nature. It isn't wisdom or smartness.
Oil companies merely extract oil/gas. They never produce any. The Nigerian government collects oil/gas rents. The poor communities are best described as oil companies impacted communities.
The PIB ought to be predicated on the premise that the Petroleum Resources sector is a highly polluting sector. It should also have the clear understanding that the resources are non-renewable and are thus finite. It is not a resource that will be available or useful in perpetuity. They will either be exhausted or may simply fall out of use. This demands utmost care to ensure socially and environmentally acceptable practices. Acts that are socially and environmentally irredeemably contaminating ought to be shut down for the sake of present and future generations, irrespective of how lucrative they may be. Laws on environmental, social and related impact assessments suggest this.