By Bassey Udo
Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) management says it is currently evaluating the resolution by the Senate ordering the company to pay a N18.4 billion compensation to its host communities within the next two weeks.
The Senate on Tuesday directed the company to pay the compensation to 73 communities of Obiafu, Soku and Bonny in Rivers state for acquiring their land and loss of use of the affected land to pipeline Rights of Way through the communities.
Also, the lawmakers directed that the payment should be made within 60 days.
The resolutions were adopted after the Senate considered the report of its Committee on Ethics, Privileges And Public Petitions that investigated a petition by the affected communities.
While presenting the report, the Committee chairman, Patrick Akinyelure said following the incorporation of the NLNG, landed properties were acquired in Rivers state spanning over 210 square kilometres for use as its pipeline Right of Way, which ended at the export terminal of the NLNG in Finima, Bonny Local Government of the state.
“There were over 73 communities and over 200 families whose hitherto agrarian source of livelihood were negatively impacted upon by the said acquisition.
“That after the recent intervention of the Senate and after being given one month instead of seven days allowed by the Senate to provide evidence of payment to the Committee, the NLNG could only show evidence of payment to some individuals, families and communities,” Akinyelure said.
“The total amount it paid for part of the 210 kilometres of land acquired for pipelines Rights of Way was N74,642,773.00, which is not significant when compared to the sum of N18.4 billion approximately demanded by the 73 communities and over 200 families, which the NLNG has never objected to up till now.
“That the payment made covered only 39 communities and 73 individuals and families; and that there was no Memorandum Of Understanding signed between the communities and NLNG on future obligations in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility with the impacted communities.
“There was evidence that other oil companies, such as Shell Petroleum Development Company, Totalfina Elf Petroleum, and Agip Oil Company paid compensation for the loss of land use to their host communities.
“NLNG confessed that the payments were made long ago and could not reasonably trace most of the payments documents, but promised to look for further evidence to show that it paid stakeholders concerned if given another month to enable it.
“The committee considered their request unnecessary and unreasonably, having granted NLNG one month earlier instead of seven days allowed by the Senate at plenary to conclude its report.”
But in a reaction to the directive, the NLNG, through its General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, Andy Odeh, said the Company, as a responsible corporate citizen was evaluating the resolution by the lawmakers and the circumstances surrounding payment of compansation to the communities.
In statement on Wednesday in Abuja, titled: “RE: Senate directs NLNG to pay host communities N18.4b compensation within 2 months” Odeh said: “The attention of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) has been drawn to a resolution said to have been passed by the Senate, following the consideration of a report by its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, sequel to a petition relating to compensation for the acquisition of a Right of Way across some communities.
“NLNG is evaluating the resolution and circumstances surrounding it.
“NLNG wishes to state that it has always conducted its business responsibly and in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including in this specific matter.”