The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on civil society groups and community groups to continue advocating for fair treatment of impacted communities under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) regime.
CAPPA representatives made the recommendation at a One-day Civil Society/Communities/Media Discussion on Soot Pollution which held in Port Harcourt.
A participant at the engagement and Executive Director of “We the People”, Ken Henshaw, insisted that the PIA failed to protect the interest of impacted communities in the Niger Delta.
Henshaw said “The PIA was an opportunity for us to address this problem, but the PIA failed woefully in addressing the problems. So, rather than seeks strategies to better protect the complex matrix of pipelines across the swamp creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta region, what the PIA itself does is to conclude that communities are the ones stealing crude oil.
“If it is agreed that oil theft is a complex business with international finance and so on so forth, right, so why do you now put the responsibility of protecting all installation from armed criminals. You put the responsibility on local people who are unarmed.
“This is a continuation of the fights of the Nigerian state in collaboration with oil companies against the local people of the region.
“The PIA has emerged now as an instrument of oppression of our people. That’s what the PIA has made itself, an instrument of our oppression, an extra instrument for the oppression of the people of the region. And what we are going to see is a consistently month in month out, year in year out, certain communities in the Niger Delta will get no benefit from the PIA.
“The PIA said that any act that sabotages production, including disobedience, genuinely protest by communities that blocks the entrance of an oil company can be interpreted by that oil company as disruption of production process and that can lead to loss of benefit aquarium from the PIA”.
Speaking on the oil companies divesting to offshore, Henshaw said they are divesting because they are running away from the environmental catastrophe and ecological damage they have caused in the Niger Delta region.
He therefore, urged government to put frameworks in place to ensure that if all companies are diversified and leaving, they must clean up their mess, restore the livelihoods of the people before they leave otherwise, hold them accountable.
Earlier in his remarks, Mr Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, CAPPA, noted the need for government to tackle the soot menace for safety of residents of Rivers State as it also affects other parts of the Niger Delta region.
He explained “seven years ago when residents of Port Harcourt and environs started noticing thick smog in the
atmosphere. Residents felt alarmed because what they observed was not associated with harmattan or the morning dew after heavy rains. There was something unusually different with this type of smog as it left black stains on the surface of items.
“The stains later found to be soot coated everything in the open space from roots tops, top of cars, cloths hung outside, and even penetrating the surface of appliances and floors of homes.
“But its impacts were not only the smog, poor visibility, or coating of the environment; over time, residents inhaling the toxic dust started experiencing health challenges”, Jakpor explained.
Source: The Authority