Issues bordering on the transformation of host communities of oil and gas infrastructure in the country took the front burner on Thursday at the gathering of industry stakeholders in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
Regulators and experts who spoke at the two-day National Extractive Dialogue 2023 organised by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in conjunction with a non-profit policy advocacy and research group, the Spaces for Change, made submissions on why both stakeholders and host communities must commit to the provision of the Petroleum Industry Act to achieve the needed transformation.
The 2023 Dialogue has ‘Host Community Development Trusts: Catalyst for Equitable Benefit-sharing and Sustainable Prosperity for All’ as its theme.
The NEITI Executive Secretary, Ogbonnaya Orji, said it was important for stakeholders to exploit the PIA provisions in ensuring a credible platform for socio-economic benefit-sharing development opportunities for host communities.
He added that the stakeholders must commit religiously to the transformation agenda to bring about citizen-centred policy that will drive the proposed Host Community Development Trusts established by the PIA.
“The issues to be deliberated at this dialogue should be sensitive to how poverty reduction, social deprivation, acrimony, hunger, and disease in host communities can be addressed through the new initiative provided by the PIA.
“The NED 2023 therefore has a responsibility to commence this national debate and dialogue required to guide and shape the direction of implementation,” Orji said.
On her part, the Executive Director of Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, said it was important to reverse the trends where host “communities watched as towering rigs” while oil companies kept expanding their facilities.
“For several years, these communities have watched as towering rigs and other mechanical installations rose like giants on their horizon; as pipelines transporting mineral resources crisscrossed their fields, and as trucks laden with crude extracted from their backyard rumbled through their streets.
“Native lands, forests, mangroves, trees, rivers and traditional livelihoods shivered under the heavy might of mineral resource extraction while communities raged and begged for a share of the cake baked from the natural resource endowments from mother earth,” Ibezim-Ohaeri said.
She said with the PIA providing for the creation of the Host Community Development Trusts, the benefits of natural resources must now flow back to the communities where they came from.
“At the core of our gathering today lies a profound concept—that Host Community Development are not just legal constructs; they are instruments of change, vehicles for hope, and beacons of progress. They represent a fundamental shift in how we view, engage, and manage natural resources in Nigeria.
“They are the keys that unlock the door to equitable benefit-sharing ensuring that prosperity becomes the birthright of every member of our community, and not the privilege of a select few. They serve as a bridge connecting the aspirations of host communities with the operations of extractive industries,” Ibezim-Ohaeri said.