Owerri—The Executive Director, Spaces for Change, S4C, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, has advised communities to embrace opportunities offered by Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, in order to achieve sustainable development, the Vanguard reports.
Ibezim-Ohaeri said unlike in the past when communities were denied their entitlements, the legislation has created the opportunity for communities to be rewarded for the various minerals that abound in their areas.
Speaking at the opening of the two-day National Extractive Dialogue 2023, hosted by S4C in collaboration with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI and with the support of Ford Foundation in Owerri, Imo State, she 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 3% of their actual operating expenditure to the Host Community Development Trusts.”
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, and 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, and engaged most of the host communities gathered here today to empower, sensitize and channel their concerns to the appropriate target agencies and corporations.”
Similarly, speaking at the event, which had “Host Communities Development Trusts: Catalysts for Equitable Benefit Sharing and Sustainable Prosperity for all” as its theme, the Executive Secretary, NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said the involvement of NEITI is targeted at deepening the implementation of EITI at sub-national levels.”
On his own part, the Commissioner, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Imo State, Professor Eugene Ukachukwu Opara, said, “Until S4C intervention, Assa North Ohaji (ANOH) host communities signed GMoUs without having external contacts with other organizations and situations 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.”
Also, speaking at the event, the Commission Chief Executive (CCE), Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC, Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, noted that past initiatives, including the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, did not make much impact on communities.
However, the CCE that was represented by the Regional Coordinator, NUPRC, Owerri, A. M. Uviovo, 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, vandalization and sabotage will be deducted from the 3% Trust fund of that financial year.
“The communities are therefore advised to take ownership of the facilities located in your domain to enable you 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.”