The group, Forum of Concerned Indigenes of Oil Producing Communities, has condemned what it theme ‘royal incitement’ and the blatant disregard for the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) reportedly by the Olu of Warri palace.
The group, in a statement signed by its chairman, Oritsejolomi Edema and Secretary, Amorighoye Ezekiel, expressed concerns that the actions of the Olu of Warri are just aimed at consolidating power and control over the resources of the Warri Kingdom, rather than ensuring equitable development and benefit for the host communities.
They said that the PIA was enacted to address the long-standing issues of neglect, marginalization, and environmental degradation faced by oil-producing communities as well as promoting transparency, accountability, and the participation of host communities in the oil and gas industry.
They contended that the Iwere Host Community Development Trust allegedly unilaterally created and its members handpicked by the Olu of Warri, falls short of the objectives of the PIA, saying that the imposed Iwere Host Community Development Trust has violated the principles of inclusivity and fairness that the PIA seeks to uphold.
According to the group, the purported trust lacks legitimacy and does not represent the genuine interests and aspirations of the oil-producing communities in the Warri Kingdom.
They called on the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission to reject the Iwere Host Community Development Trust, insisting on the proper implementation of the PIA by ensuring that host communities have a say in the establishment and management of the trusts, and that their interests are protected.
“After this unwholesome autocracy, the Palace has tried to ram the illegality down the throat of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).This should be validated by the authorities concerned.
“The unacceptable charade of the Palace is being resisted by the host communities to the Otumara Oil Fields and Flow Station. They are demanding that the illegality being perpetrated by the Olu should not be given official recognition by NUPRC”, the statement reads.
Continuing, the statement said; “That instead the host communities, namely Ugborodo, Deghele and Ugboegungun, legitimately demand for the establishment of Otumara Host Community Development Trust and Ikpere Host Community Development Trust, respectively, for a joint implementation of the PIA, with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and NUPRC as incorporated in the PIA”.
“The host communities in this regard want NUPRC to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law. And that NUPRC should act only based on extant laws, which is the PIA and its accompanying regulations. That anything outside the PIA breaches the ACT.
“They must therefore be guided in their attempt to forage in illegalities. They know what is meant by host community, it is not synonymous with the Itsekiri Ethnic nation’, they stated.
Perhaps the Palace needs to be educated that the two groups recognised and referred to as settlors, in the Act are the IOC and the host communities, which are expected to meet and bring people together to constitute the Trust’.
“What the Olu and his Palace have done is the establishment of a Trust that agglomerates the entire Itsekiri nation as one host community, which is fraudulent and of course, usurped the rights of oil bearing communities.
“This was not envisaged nor did it form part of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021. It means any Itsekiri Community, that is not a host to oil facilities, can lay claim and be illegally recognised by NUPRC.
“A blanket umbrella for the entire Itsekiri ethnic nation. There is more to this than meets the eyes. The PIA only recognises host communities and not ethnic group, as done in the case of the general board of trustees constituted by the Olu of Warri, code-named Iwere Host Community Development Trust.
“This action is absolutely wrong and represents reckless digression from the law. As an imposition, it denies host communities of their legitimate rights”.
“The issue in contention is the demand that only host communities should determine their trustees and not the Palace of Olu. The PIA law has nothing to do with any kingdom. The word Iwere infact encompasses every Itsekiri Community of Warri. The PIA does not authorize an ominibus inclusion of communities that are not host to oil facilities of the Federal Government”.
“Besides, the aforesaid, The Palace is engaged in double standards. It did not interfere in the arrangement between Abigborodo and NPDC. That arrangement was allowed to fly in accordance with the PIA, apparently because some prominent supporters and backers of the Palace are from that area. A clear case of different rules for different folks. Nonetheless, what is a sauce for the goose should have been a sauce for the gander.
“In the case of Abigborodo, NPDC did not go to the Palace. Both parties had their agreement signed and sealed independently. Is Abigborodo not part of the Itsekiri kingdom? Why was the proper procedure adopted in the case of that community?, they said.
“With the preferential treatment given to Abigborodo, it has become very clear that the action of the Palace is purely targeted at some individuals in other host communities, especially in the case of Ugborodo, Deghele and Ugboegungun”, the statement maintained.