Stakeholders canvass increased participation of host communities in new petroleum bill – ORDER PAPER

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OrderPaperToday – Stakeholders in the oil and gas sector have posited that the lingering concerns of host communities in the Niger Delta Region can be addressed if the people are properly carried along by the government in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) expected to be submitted to the National Assembly soon.

This, amongst others, formed part of the resolutions from the third in the Series of Post Covid-19 Petroleum Agenda for Nigeria (PoCoPAN) webinars organised by OrderPaper Nigeria in collaboration with the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta and the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) which held on September 10, 2020.

The resolution is contained in a Communiqué issued at the end of the Virtual Conference tagged ‘Resolving the Host Communities Question’ and endorsed by
Hon. Henry Nwawuba on behalf of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Oke Epia from OrderPaper Nigeria and Tengi George-Ikoli from Nigeria Natural Resource Charter.

Click here to download the full communique.

Speakers, panelists and participants made several observations including that “benefits extracted from ground are a loan from future generations and the government must recognize this and act in an accountable manner,” and acknowledged that “there is a growing trust deficit among stakeholders in the NDR.”

The conference further noted that “Development is moving away from Niger Delta to other parts of the country, including the South West, the North and that could lead to lasting and devastating effects of oil exploitation not being addressed

“The NDR must reflect on and be guided by lessons from Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia which produced coal as a main concern for Nigeria but were left with the negative consequences of those exploitations when a more profitable option was presented by oil and gas resources.

“The existing benefits transfer mechanisms: 13% derivation; the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta (MNDA); the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), have resulted in duplication of development efforts and underdevelopment in the Niger Delta.

“The Nigeria Content Management Development Board (NCMDB) appears to have gone beyond its mandate and must be made to come back to benefit the local communities

“Oil companies operating in the NDR do not have sufficient presence and as such are immune from the negative consequences of their extractive efforts.

“The government endorses natural resource ownership by host communities in the solid minerals sector by conducting transactions with them directly while exercising the ‘states vested right’ to manage the oil and gas resources on behalf of the host communities in the NDR.

“Nigeria has persistently underperformed against the NNRC’s metrics for assessing global best practice as seen in its 2019 Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER) in managing local impacts by not pursuing opportunities for local benefits and effectively accounting for, mitigating and offsetting the environmental and social costs of resource extraction projects.”

Consequently, the participants resolved that the government should “bridge the trust deficit by ensuring meaningful participation of the Niger Delta people in extractive resource projects; the Petroleum Industry Bill and other laws should ensure that local communities are represented at the highest decision-making levels within institutions or structures established.”

They canvassed the need for a stakeholder “matrix that clearly identifies all stakeholders and their needs,” and called for inclusion of “hitherto ignored stakeholders including women, youths, disabled persons and even the ‘unborn’ in consultations and conversations on the Niger Delta.

“The government and stakeholders must not only focus on policy at the federal level but also to implementation at the grassroots level.

“In addressing the concerns of the NDR, stakeholders must be conscious of conflict sensitivity and be sure to observe the ‘do no harm’ principle.

“The Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) which will allow for coordination of all the infrastructure projects in the NDR should be speedily operationalized and opened up for monitoring by stakeholders.

“Host communities of solid minerals and oil and gas resources should not be treated differently as it appears to be the case now as that gives the impression that some resource-bearing areas are inferior to others.

“The complementary and supporting laws to ensure effective implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill should be strengthened i.e. the NOSDRA Amendment Act should be amended to empower the agency to more effectively respond to oil spills with greater punitive powers; and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act should be expanded to include provisions for social, human rights, conflict and vulnerable persons.

“A Monitoring and Evaluation mechanism is required to ensure that the PIB is operationalized at the grassroots when passed.

“A Peace and Reconciliation exercise is necessary to address the long suffering grievances felt by the host communities, if the region and the rest of Nigeria are to move forward in peace.”

The virtual event held as a precursor to a planned Global Legislative Conference on the Niger Delta and was streamed live on the verified Facebook Page of OrderPaper Nigeria.

At the event, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, made a goodwill remark and declared the conference open after a welcome remark by Hon. Essien Ayi, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta. Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta to the President; Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, former Permanent Secretary; and Mr. Ken Henshaw, Executive Director of We The People, made presentations.

The panel of discussants were Chief Ken Robinson, National Publicity of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Dr. Ukiwo Ukoha, member of the Expert Advisory Panel of the NNRC; and Dr. Ferdinand Ikwang, DDR Specialist.”

Finally, contributions at the conference was moderated by Hon. Henry Nwawuba, Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta and Chairman, Steering Committee of the National Legislative Dialogue on Niger Delta; Tengi George-Ikoli, Programme Coordinator of the NNRC; and Oke Epia, Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria.

Read the original article HERE

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