On the 26th of March 2021, We the People and partner, Policy Alert held a Niger Delta Regional Conference on the Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 to presents findings from its review of the Bill and engagements with communities in the Niger Delta. In his Keynote remarks, the Public Relations Officer of the Pan Niger Delta Forum Mr. Ken Ken Robinson declared that PANDEF will not accept anything short of 10% equity participation in the oil sector and demanded that this be included in the PIB as a measure to engender trust and participation of oil producing communities in Nigeria. He further stated that the way the PIB has been drafted reduces communities to tools in the hands of operators, and called on the 9th Assembly not to ignore inputs from people of the region.

Other participants at the event expressed concerns that the host communities component of the Petroleum Industry Bill seems to deliberately set out to disempower local communities. They cited the governance structure of the proposed host communities trust which the Bill allows to be established and governed by nominees of the companies without any community oversight.

In his lead presentation, Executive Director of We the People questioned the logic of the PIB passing the responsibility for protecting oil installations to host communities. According to him, this indicates that the drafters of the Bill believe communities are responsible for sabotage on oil facilities, an assertion that is not based on facts. “It is simply irresponsible for the PIB to pass the responsibility for the protection of oil facilities to unarmed communities. This is a job for the Police and the armed forces, they have all failed despite their training and arms, but the PIB expects communities to succeed otherwise they lose benefits”.

In his Presentation, Executive Director of Policy Alert Mr. Tijah Bolton Akpan raised concerns about the fact that the PIB does not even pretend to reflect on what happens when the era of oil comes to an end. According to him, the Bill should create frameworks for a post fossil Nigeria, including on supporting communities to restore their livelihoods and environment post oil.

We the People also used the opportunity to publicly present its latest report, Beyond Profits: Review of Host Community Provisions in Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Bill 2020.