BY OKEY NDIRIBE
THE debate over petroleum resource control re-echoed, yesterday, during the second day of the House of Representatives Public Hearing on PIB for the South-West Zone held in Lagos.
The resource control debate which has raged across the country for over two decades was re-introduced by Godwin Ojo, the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA) during the group’s presentation at the occasion.
He said: “There is the need to address the lingering issues of resource ownership and control to accommodate local demands of several decades. Entrusting full ownership, control and management of hydro-carbon totally in the hands of the Federal Government negates principles of true federalism. If the community and individuals can own land, then the resources on such land should belong to the rightful owner. Hence, there is the need to amend the Land Use Decree of 1978 to reflect this.”
The group’s leader further pointed out that “there is serious contention that oil resources belong to the regions/communities rather than Nigeria as it was during the groundnut pyramid, cocoa and oil palm boom which saw the old Northern, Western and Eastern regions respectively control at least 50 percent of resources while they pay royalties and taxes to the national government.”
The group maintained that it was serious oversight not to acknowledge community claims to local resources insisting that this issue has been at the heart of violent resource conflicts. Ojo further advocated that the PIB should address the decades of ecological devastation of the Niger Delta by putting in place remediation measures which will ensure clean-up and restoration of the environment.
Said he: “The Bill should also address the level and rates of compensation which have been arbitrary, leading to unfair competition. It should attempt to describe what is meant by fair competition to avoid ambiguities. The compensation regimes currently in place are truly laughable and further impoverish the local people.”
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