As part of efforts to promote understanding of the newly enacted Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) for effective implementation, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has commenced a series of stakeholder interactions on the PIA in the host communities.
At a one-day stakeholders’ interactive session on the Act held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, with the theme “What’s in it for the Community and the Economy?, the NOA Director General, Dr. Garba Abari highlighted the benefits of the PIA to host communities, adding that the Act, like any other law, is subject to future amendments in the interest of greater economic development for host communities and the nation. He said the PIA provides a framework for accelerated action for the development of host communities and seeks to eliminate uncertainties in the legal and regulatory processes in the Petroleum Industry.
Representing the Director General, the Rivers State Director, Barr. Young Ayotamuno observed that “As it is today, oil communities have the vehicles of the federal budget, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Amnesty programme, the state government budget and the newly introduced Host Communities Development Trust Fund (HCDTF) to seek for the development of their areas”. He said some of these funds will come directly to oil bearing communities through the NDDC and the HCDTF which has become operational under the new PIA. He therefore urged host communities to pay attention to expert interpretations of the provisions of the new law with a view to taking full advantage of it benefits.
The Paramount Ruler of Eastern Obolo, HRM Obong Elder Harry John, in his remarks, praised the passage of the PIA after many years of legislation, noting that President Buhari has no ill intentions for oil bearing communities in signing the Act as some imagine. He therefore called on Niger Deltans to avoid making the PIA a basis for conflict in the region and made a case for an upward review from the 3% to 5% of Operating Expenses of oil firms for the HCDTF.
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre(CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), on his part, observed that Nigeria, in the last ten years, has lost an estimated $50 billion worth of investments as a result of non-passage of the PIA, leading to lack of progress and stagnation in the petroleum industry. He noted, however, that in spite of the laudable provisions of the PIA now in place, the delivery of its inherent benefits remain subject to the effective implementation of the Act and the crucial role of host communities towards the actualization of this goal. This, he said, underscores the importance of the formidable collaboration between NOA and CISLAC to promote conversations around the PIA with a view to addressing genuine concerns.
In his goodwill message, the Country Director, Oxfam in Nigeria Mr. Vincent Ahonsi, represented by Mr. Henry Ushie, urged Niger Deltans to become more active in monitoring the utilization of the Host Communities Development Fund and hold its managers accountable. He said the partnership with NOA and CISLAC is aimed at empowering host communities with relevant knowledge of the PIA from the premise that when people are empowered, they can better demand for and achieve inclusion in development.
Resource persons at the interactive session, Dr. Aniefiok Esetang and Barr. Inih Archibong in their separate presentations discussed over 15 benefits of the PIA to host communities and the economy as well the crucial roles of citizens in putting the Act to work for maximum benefit to all stakeholders.
Participants at the stakeholders’ interactive session were drawn from among traditional and community leaders, opinion leaders, Civil Society Organizations, the media and trade unions, including Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Nigeria Labour Congress.
Assistant Director, Press