The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has renewed the call for economic, environmental and social justice for oil, gas and mining host communities in Nigeria.
Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, executive secretary, NEITI, made the call in Owerri, Imo State at the opening of the National Extractives Dialogue, organised by a civil society organisation – Spaces for Change in collaboration with NEITI and the Ford Foundation.
The dialogue focused on Host Community Development Trusts (HCDT) to serve as the catalyst for equitable benefit-sharing and sustainable prosperity for all in host communities.
Mr Orji, in a statement on Friday by Obiageli Onuorah, deputy director/head communications and stakeholders’ management, said a special multi-stakeholder approach was required for the development of host communities.
The NEITI executive secretary said such approach would draw national and international attention to the specific responsibilities of extractive companies, government, civil society organisations (CSOs), development partners and the host communities.
This, he said, would address development issues of access to education, health care, job opportunities, environmental challenges and social infrastructure deficit in oil, gas and mining host communities.
He advised leaders of host communities drawn from the South-South and South-East geo-political zones to change their advocacy approach and work with NEITI to push their complaints through peaceful consultations driven by knowledge, information, data sharing, constructive engagements and dialogue.
He explained that the 2023 annual dialogue series was to serve as a new platform for discussions and constructive debates on how citizens-centred-policy engagements would drive the implementation of HCDT established by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA 2021).
“There is the need to examine how the HCDT as enshrined in the PIA 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.
Mr Orji explained that NEITI’s legitimate interest in working with Spaces for Change, a civil society organisation was in furtherance of the agency’s partnership with CSOs to deepen the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative at the sub-national levels.
He appealed to host communities in Nigeria to build trust and confidence in managing the relationship between host communities, government and the companies operating in the sector.
The deputy chairman, committee on host communities in the House of Representatives, Abdulkarim Ahmed, called for inclusion of public education, conflict prevention, management and resolution mechanism in the implementation of HCDT Fund and pledged the support of the National Assembly.
Imo State Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodimma, represented by the commissioner for petroleum resources, Eugene Opara, expressed satisfaction with the tone and direction of the dialogue and pledged the support of the state government.
Mr Uzodimma welcomed the clarification given on the three per cent operating cost of the oil and gas companies.
He called on relevant government agencies in the sector saddled with implementation to invest in public education and enlightenment of host communities.
The host and executvie director of Spaces for Change, Vicotria Ohaeri, called on the host communities to organise themselves and take full ownership of the process.
Mrs Ohaeri added that the provisions of the new legislation had moved host communities away from the era of charitable developmental assistance 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 entitlement to partake in the design, structure of their own development and participate in the governance and administration of the extractive resources,” she 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.
The dialogue examined the structure of the fund, the need for inclusiveness in designing the governance structure, definition of roles of state governments, companies, traditional rulers, host communities and civil society.