By G9ija

The Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) has faulted the proposal by the Federal Government to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for privatisation without the input of other tiers of government.

The host communities made their stance known in a written presentation made to the House of Representatives on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), insisting that the proposal to sell off a National Petroleum Company to be created from the NNPC requires a collective approval of all stakeholders, arguing that the NNPC and petroleum assets belong to the federation and not the Federal Government alone.

HOSTCOM also faulted the proposed plan to empower the petroleum minister to solely determine the fate of national assets in the oil and gas sector at the public hearing conducted by the House on Wednesday and Thursday.

The written presentation signed by its National President, Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, on behalf of host communities of Nigeria, reads in part: “It may be necessary to have a mechanism whereby the minister may have to obtain the approval of the federation in matters that affect the Federation Account especially the petroleum producing states and the host communities.

“This is especially important because all the assets the minister is to supervise belong to the federation and not the Federal Government.

“It would therefore be wrong to seek the approval of the Federal Government alone if the minister wishes to divest any asset that is under his purview.”

The host communities further warned against privatisation in the petroleum sector, noting that it posed a major economic threat to Nigeria.

“Our host communities would want a careful handling by the government of all petroleum privatisation issues and to use our petroleum resources for the development of the entire nation.

“Consequently, we demand that Nigeria continues to maintain a robust national petroleum company whose interests should not be privatised or divested as proposed in the bill, where it intends to divest not less than 10 per cent in five years and not less than 30 per cent thereafter. Each of those provisions mathematically/legally implies 100 per cent divestment.

“If we divest our oil and gas resources, we would have stripped our nation bare. No nation can survive and be economically healthy after stripping itself of its natural resources.

“The divestment programme will create wide margin between the rich and the poor. It will enslave Niger Delta, impoverish Nigeria and turn Nigeria into a worthless nation. We would have surrendered ourselves to servitude forever. The buyer of our oil and gas assets will be the only one to determine whether we breathe as a nation or not.

“We have, therefore, resolved and demand that no one should sell off our oil and gas reserves.

“Consequently, we invite Mr President not to sign the bill until everything about divestment or privatisation and selling off our petroleum reserves are expunged from the bill.

“It will be very absurd and economically very illogical to sell performing equity. No equity/asset is performing more than our oil and gas reserves. This quest to take over complete control of all our national assets by a very greedy few has been on for too long.

“If Nigeria must divest or privatise our oil and gas assets, then the host communities must have the first right of refusal before you open up the sale or bid to other Nigerians because the oil and gas in Nigeria, indeed, belongs to the host communities in the first place.

“It was the military decree of 27 November, 1969, that took it away from us and vested it on the nation. Rather than keep and use it as a nation, the nation now plans to give away our national resources to a few greedy foreigners and their local collaborators”, HOSTCOM said.