Frequently Asked Questions on the PIB document should be required basic reading for those seeking clarity on the issues.

Nature’s Resources

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.

Oil spills and gas flares should be dealt with as environmental security matters for the entire planet, not just Nigeria, and clear powers to regulate and control activities, punish violators and restore the environment should be identified – and such should be with the Ministry of Environment and not those related to Petroleum Resources.

Gas Flaring

The provisions on the contentious issues of gas flaring leave a lot to be desired. Gas flaring is already illegal in Nigeria (since 1984 and confirmed by a High Court decision in 2005). The PIB seeks to legalise illegality when it overlooks these facts. Gas flaring is wasteful treatment of nature's resource and harms both the people and the local as well as global environment. This obnoxious act is a prime example of climate denial.

Section 201(1) provides that the Minister may permit and penalise gas flaring as deemed fit (by the Minister). Section 277(2) states that the fine for gas flaring shall not be less than the commercial value of the gas. The PIB should clearly state this in Section 201(1) to avoid the Minister lowering the fine to below commercial value. Indeed, the punishment for gas flaring should not be limited to fines but should have weightier consequences considering its criminal nature.

While the draft PIB states that gas flaring should end on 31 December 2012 Section 275 states “Natural gas shall not be flared or vented after a date (‘the flare-out date’) to be prescribed by the Minister…). This contradiction should be eliminated. An illegal act is already illegal and does not need a terminal date. That date ceased from the moment the act became an illegal. In any case, 31 December 2012 has come and gone - just like other 31 Decembers.
Discretionary powers, Seeking and accepting Gifts and stuffs like that
The section (33) prescribing the powers to receive gifts should be eliminated. Seeking gifts smacks of a lack of sense of ownership of the resources in the first instance. It is also an open door for corrupt activities.

Discretionary powers of the President to award petroleum leases should not be condoned by the PIB. Such powers provide avenues for questionable practices that abort efforts at transparency and due process. Accordingly, Section 191 should be expunged outright.

Publish What You Pump

Provisions for independently verifiable metering of extracted oil and gas should be stipulated in the PIB. A situation where the State does not know actual daily volumes of extracted crude oil and gas makes nonsense of any talks of transparency and feeds corrupt practices of players in the sector and their cohorts. This is the bedrock of the oil thefts that has become a national refrain. It is also the reason we cannot know our oil reserves figures or even how much oil is dumped into our environment.

Ownership, Control and criminalisation of Communities

Investing in the technological development of the sector is mandatory if true ownership and control of the resources is to be secured. There is no real ownership without operational control. A read the history of the often-cited Norwegian model shows a clear understanding and practice of this. They outlawed gas flaring right from the onset, invested in technological and manpower development and equally determined to proceed on a controlled pace.

True ownership must include that of the communities living within the areas impacted by these activities. Community ownership should be positioned in a way that promotes adequate contribution to the national economy/purse as well as securing protection of the environment and investments. Sections 116-118 providing for Petroleum Host Communities Fund scratches the issue and requires deepening. For example it is not acceptable that communities should bear cost of environmental restoration following incidents (including civil unrest!) in the oil field simply because a member of the community contributed to the incident. This sort of punishment criminalises communities and cannot be accepted.

Section 294(4) equally criminalises Local and State governments for acts perceived to have been caused by sabotage. With these levels of government not controlling security outfits it is objectionable that they should be punished for security lapses that may result in sabotage.

Moreover, the deductions made before payment into the fund ensures that only tokens get paid as the oil operators are clearly in charge of determination of their production costs.

Locus Standi

The enforcement of the rights of Nigerians to a safe environment has been difficult. Our adversarial legal system sometimes blocks the route to justice by claiming that citizens lack locus standi. The PIB is an opportunity to state unambiguously that every citizen has a right to seek redress for any act of environmental harm irrespective of whether the impact is direct or indirect. Our environment is interlinked. We are all connected. We all suffer impacts.

Regular Environmental Audits

The PIB should require periodic environmental audits and also prescribe mandatory remediation of impacted or damaged environment. There is an emergency in the land. When the UNEP report stated (in their report of August 2011) that it will require about 30 years to clean-up the pollution of the waters of Ogoniland and 5 years to clean the land it was a diplomatic way of saying that if the Nigerian state did not act with utmost seriousness right away, we may as well start to sing a dirge for the land and its people. And for us all. Ogoni polluted, is everywhere polluted.

No Go Zones

Sections 198 and 199 require that oil operators must not damage commercial trees or sacred sites/objects. Where there is damage the operator would be required to pay "fair and adequate compensation." Going by current compensation regimes this is an opening for continued impunity, destruction and desecration. The PIB would serve a better purpose by simply saying there must be no petroleum prospecting or mining in such areas. Considering the extensive damage already inflicted on the Niger Delta environment it is not too much to declare some places as no-go areas for oil/gas prospecting activities

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ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

This group issues out communications using ERA's headquarter address and mail box. We have never had any ties with this group and any views, comments or opinions expressed by them is not endorsed or authorized by any member of management or staff of ERA.

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Green Hotlines
Is there a spill, pipeline rupture, fire, gas flare, water, land or air pollution in your community or one you know about? Do you need assistance to respond, and prevent future occurrences or have you noticed any activity that threatens the environment?

In the event of any ecological disaster or threat to the environment, call our toll-free GREEN LINES:  08031230088 & 08031230089