A non-governmental group, Spaces for Change (S4C), has advised communities to embrace opportunities offered by Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act ( PIA) to achieve sustainable development.
Its Executive Director, Mrs Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, gave the advice in a statement on Sunday in Lagos.
Ibezim-Ohaeri said the legislation had created the opportunity for communities to be rewarded for the various minerals that abound in their areas, unlike when they were denied their entitlements.
The executive director expressed her concerns at the two-day National Extractive Dialogue 2023, hosted by S4C in collaboration with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Ford Foundation in Imo State.
Ibezim-Ohaeri said: “Not too long ago, transformation knocked gently on the door in response to the yearnings of local people.
“The Nigerian government signed into law the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in August 2021.
“Chapter 3 of that Act offered a beacon of hope by demanding the creation of the Host Community Development Trusts (HCDTs).
“Under Section 240 of the Act, the benefits of natural resources must now flow back to the communities where they came from.
“Extractive corporations, whether indigenous or international, are now required to contribute three per cent of their actual operating expenditure to the host community development trusts,” she added.
The benefits, according to her, “are no longer acts of corporate benevolence, but an entitlement to partake in the design, content and structure of their own development.
“Most importantly, participate in the governance and administration of petroleum resources through their membership of either the Board of Trustees, the management committees or any of the advisory bodies created under the Act.
“To give life to these promises, SPACES FOR CHANGE has consistently monitored policy implementation at the grassroots, generated knowledge products, shared information.
“Also, engaged most of the host communities gathered here today to empower, sensitise and channel their concerns to the appropriate target agencies and corporations.
Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, Executive Secretary, NEITI, said that the involvement of the company was targeted at deepening the implementation of EITI at sub-national levels.
Orji said this during a presentation which has its theme as “Host Communities Development Trusts: Catalysts for Equitable Benefit Sharing and Sustainable Prosperity for all”.
Also, the Commissioner, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Imo State, Prof. Eugene Opara, said, “Until S4C intervention, Assa North Ohaji (ANOH) host communities signed GMoUs without having external contacts with other organisations and situations.
Opara said that could give them sound legal advice and alternative information that could enrich the quality of negotiations with extractives companies.
“A negotiation with unequally endowed or unbalanced teams can be exploitative.
In his remarks, Mr Gbenga Komolafe, the Commission Chief Executive, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), noted that past initiatives, including the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, (OMPADEC) did not make much impact on communities.
Komolafe was represented by Andrew Uviovo, Regional Coordinator, NUPRC, said: “The choice of projects to embark on will be determined by the community.
“And this means the company will have unlimited access to the facilities.
“That also means that any expenditure made by the company, due to any denial of access, disruption of activities, vandalisation and sabotage will be deducted from the three per cent of Trust fund of that financial year.
“The communities are, therefore, advised to take ownership of the facilities located in their domain to enable them to obtain the maximum benefit of the provision of the Petroleum Industry Act(PIA), 2021.
“I urge you to diligently work together to ensure that our communities continue to thrive positively to enable our country to progress and develop economically,” he advised. (NAN)