SOME natives of oil-bearing communities in Niger Delta and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have dragged the National Assembly to Court over Section 257 of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
Also joined in the suit is the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Juatice.
The Executive Director of WeThePeople, Mr Ken Henshaw, disclosed this at a news briefing in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Henshaw said that the group had approached the court for it to determine the provision of a section of the Act.
According to him, the entire section contravened the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.
The group in a suit marked FHC/PH/CS/181 filed at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, had Henry Eferebo, Princewill Chukwure, Avadi Chimankpam and Health of Mother Earth Foundation as co-plaintiffs.
The suit sought the relief to determine whether the shifting of personal liability for damage, property injury, vandalism or sabotage to host community by the provision of section 257(2,3) of the PIA 2021, not consistent with section 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution, which protects citizens’ rights to own immovable and movable properties, including funds.
Henshaw said that the court should determine and subsequently repeal the section of PIA that contains key provisions aimed at addressing long-standing development challenges in oil-producing communities in Nigeria.
He said that several provisions in the section of the Act, on another hand, had the potential to cause disaffection and conflict between oil firms and host communities.
Henshaw said that some provisions of section 257 of the PIA, rather than promote development, may result in increased deprivation for communities and create new conflict scenarios.
“The fact that the Act blames host communities for oil theft and oil infrastructure sabotage and mandates them to become unpaid, unskilled, and unarmed guardians of oil equipment and pipelines, was perhaps the most contentious and unjust aspect of the Act,” he said.
He condemned the destruction of oil infrastructure, describing such rascality as a crime with well-established punishment after due determination of guilt by a court.
“No existing law provides for the punishment of an entire community, in this case, the denial of due benefits for a crime committed by a person or persons at large,” Henshaw said.
He further said that no Nigerian law permits the award of punishment of any supposed crime without the determination of a court of law.
“It is implausible that an entire community, including all men, women and children, collectively sabotage oil infrastructure.
“Why then should the entire community bear the consequences?,” he rhetorically asked. (NAN)
November 3, 2023 @ 6:04 GMT|