• Sat. Sep 30th, 2023

Oil Producing host communities deserve economic, social, environmental justice, says NEITI 

ByBassey Udo

Sep 16, 2023

Oil, gas and mining host communities in Nigeria’s extractive industry deserve to be accorded the highest level of social, Economic and environmental justice, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said. 

The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, who reiterated the call in Owerri, Imo State at the opening ceremony of the National Extractives Dialogue said a special multi-stakeholder approach was required to draw national and international attention to the concerns of the Host Communities in the extractive industry. 

The Dialogue was organised by Spaces for Change, a civil society organisation dedicated to the promotion of the interest of the Host Communities in the extractive industry, in collaboration with NEITI and the Ford Foundation.

Orji said the outcome of meeting would also help draw attention  to the specific responsibilities of extractive companies, the government, the civil society organisations, development partners and the host communities to address development issues of access to education, health care, job opportunities, environmental challenges and social infrastructure deficit in oil, gas and mining host communities.

Advising leaders of host communities drawn from the South-South and South East geo-political zones to change their advocacy approach and work with NEITI, Orji urged them to push their complaints through peaceful consultations driven by knowledge, information and data sharing, constructive engagements and dialogue.

The NEITI Executive Secretary explained that the rationale behind the focus of this year’s annual dialogue series focusing on Host Community Development Trusts was to serve as the Catalyst for Equitable Benefit-Sharing and Sustainable Prosperity for all in host communities as a new platform for discussions and constructive debates on how citizen-centred policy engagements would drive the implementation of Host Community Development Trusts established by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

“There is the need to examine how the Host Community Development Trust as enshrined in the Petroleum Industry Act is being implemented. What is the governance structure? How inclusive, participatory and transparent is the process of nominating members of the Board of Trustees, Management Committees and Advisory Committees,” he said. 

Orji explained that NEITI’s legitimate interest in working with Spaces for Change was to further the agency’s partnership and collaboration with civil society organisations to deepen the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) principles at the sub national levels.

He emphasised the need for the host communities in Nigeria to build trust and confidence in managing the relationship between them with the government and the companies operating in the sector.

The Deputy Chairman, Committee on Host Communities in the House of Representatives, Abdulkarim Hussaini Ahmed called for inclusion of public education, conflict prevention, management and resolution mechanism in the implementation of Host Communities Development Trust Fund and pledged the support of the National Assembly to the process.

The Governor of Imo state represented by the Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Eugene Opara, expressed satisfaction at the tone and direction of the dialogue and also pledged the support of the state government.

The Commissioner welcomed the clarification on what constitutes the 3% operating cost of the oil and gas companies has laid to rest some of the doubts and unanswered questions in the minds of the people in the Host communities. 

He called on relevant government agencies in the sector involved in the implementation to invest on public education and enlightenment of the host communities on the issues affecting their interest.

The host and Executive Director, Spaces for Change, Victoria Ohaeri, called on the host communities to organise themselves and take full ownership of the process, adding that the provisions of the new legislation have moved host communities away from the era of charitable developmental assistance by the operators in the extractive industry to a new era of entitlements and human rights”.

“Host communities under the PIA provisions now have the right to benefit from natural resources and these benefits 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 the extractive resources,” Ohaeri said. 

The Dialogue was attended by government agencies in the oil and gas industry, civil society organisations, representatives of state governments, the media and development partners.  

Participants examined the structure of the Host Communities Development Trust Fund, the need for inclusiveness in designing the governance structure, definition of roles of State governments, companies, traditional rulers, host communities and the civil society.

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