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New PIB: Oil firms get enormous powers over host communities’ management

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PIB: Reps' 32-Man Committee holds public hearing on bill next week…To set up devt fund

…Hire, fire members of trustees

..Can appoint board members from outside oil communities

…finance devt body with 2.5% of annual expenditure

By Michael Eboh

The new Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is seeking to give enormous powers to oil and gas firms operating in the country in the setting up  of the proposed host communities development trust, appoint key members of the trust, determine its membership and criteria for their appointment.

In the bill currently before the National Assembly, the oil and gas firms are also to be empowered to suspend or remove members of the Board of Trustees to be set up for the host communities development trust, determine procedures for their meetings and provide regulations guiding their finances, among others.

According to the bill, the objectives of the host communities development trust included to finance and execute projects for the benefit and sustainable development of the host communities; undertake infrastructural development of the host communities within the scope of funds available to the Board of Trustees for such purposes; and facilitate economic empowerment opportunities in the host communities among others.

The PIB also requires that a fund, called the ‘host community development trust fund’, be set up, where the settlor, also called the oil and gas firm, would contribute annually, an amount equal to 2.5 per cent of its actual operating expenditure in the immediately preceding calendar year in respect of all petroleum operations affecting the host communities for which the applicable host community development trust was established.

The new PIB is seeking to empower oil and gas firms, also called ‘settlors’ in the bill, to incorporate the trust for the benefit of the host communities for which the settlor is responsible and also appoint and authorise a body trustees, to be called the ‘Board of Trustees’.

The Board of Trustees, according to the PIB, shall apply to be registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission as a corporate body under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, while its constitution shall contain provisions requiring the settlor to determine the Board’s membership and the criteria for their appointment.

However, it added that the membership of the Board of Trustees of the host communities development trust shall be subject to the approval of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission or the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, as the case may be.

“The settlor shall, in the determination of membership of the Board of Trustees, include persons of high integrity and professional standing, who may not necessarily come from any of the host communities,” the bill said.

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The bill further stipulates that the settlor shall determine the selection process, procedure for meeting, financial regulations and administrative procedures of the Board of Trustees; the remuneration, discipline, qualification, disqualification, suspension and removal of members of the Board of Trustees; and other matters other than those relating to the operation and activities of the Board of Trustees.

However, it noted that the Commission or the Authority, as the case may be, shall make regulations on the administration, guide and safeguard the utilisation of the trust fund; and have the oversight responsibility for ensuring that the projects proposed by the board of trustees are implemented.

It said: “Each member of the Board of Trustees shall serve a term of four years in the first instance and may be reappointed for another term of four years and no more. The Board of Trustees shall have a secretary, who shall be appointed by the settlor to keep the books of the Board.”

Highlighting the duties and functions of the Board of Trustees, the PIB is also proposing that the Board of Trustees shall be responsible for the general management of the host communities development trust.

It stated that the Board of Trustees shall be responsible for:  “determining the criteria, process and proportion of the host communities development trust fund to be allotted to specific development programs; approving the projects for which the host communities development trust fund shall be utilised;

“Providing general oversight of the projects for which the host communities development trust fund shall be utilised; approving the appointment of fund managers for purposes of managing the reserve fund; set up the management committee of the host communities development trust and appoint its members; and determining the allocation of funds to host communities based on the matrix provided by the settlor.”

Vanguard

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