CODE urges review of Petroleum Industry Act 2021 to benefit host communities

“What the PIA has done is to give so much power to the oil companies. This must be reviewed so that power goes back to the communities where we do our oil and gas exploration.

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CODE urges review of Petroleum Industry Act 2021, benefit host communities, PIAThe Connected Development (CODE), a Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO), has called for the review of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, to ensure that host communities benefit from oil exploration.

Mr Hamzat Lawal, its Executive Director, stated the group’s position at a news conference on Wednesday in Abuja.

The news conference focused on intimating the public on the NGO’s ongoing project tagged ‘Power of Voices initiative’.

BRANDPOWER reports that the PIA, which was recently signed into law, seeks to provide regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry.

Lawal explained that the group was calling for the review of the Act because it found that the host communities were not getting the full gains of the explorations.

He noted, however, that the PIA recommended the setting up of community trust funds with oil producing companies expected to remit a certain percentage into those accounts.

“What we aim to achieve is to identify how the oil companies are supporting community members to set up these accounts for utilisation and disbursement.

“How is the Niger Delta Development Commission using the public resources to ensure that people enjoy the dividends of the ongoing exploration of oil in the states?

“For us, we want to ensure that powers are taken back to the communities and their voices are heard and captured.

“My engagement shows that the oil companies are creating the bottleneck in the disbursement and utilisation of the funds and, in most of these communities we visited, they are aggrieved.

“What the PIA has done is to give so much power to the oil companies. This must be reviewed so that power goes back to the communities where we do our oil and gas exploration.

“The aim of the project is to give the locals and host communities a voice in the matters that affect their environment.

“What we have done is to map out various communities in the Niger Delta and build their capacity around the freedom of information act, giving them the tools.

“We have also met the leadership of state assemblies so that they can domesticate the freedom of information act.

“We have also written some state governors and also engaged with some anti-corruption agencies; we told them  we have found some loopholes around abandoned projects or mismanagement of resources so that they can investigate.

“Another thing that is really exciting is how we are engaging young people in secondary schools. To do this, we established civic clubs.

“We want to build the next generation of leaders who will understand that public office is meant to serve a collective interest of the people at the grassroot.’’

Speaking further, he said the organisation had a manual being used to teach children in schools about integrity, transparency and accountability, conflict management and peace building, among others.

He said that CODE’s programmes are centred in the FCT, Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Cross Rivers States.

“CODE emphasises the importance of community engagement and collaborative efforts to address challenges such as the abandonment of vital projects like the Primary Health Care Centre, Esuk Mba, and the St. Ebenezer’s African Church School project in Cross River.

“CODE urges relevant authorities to prioritise these projects and work towards their prompt completion.

“As an organisation committed to open data and citizen engagement, we call on the state legislators in Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Imo states to adopt and pass the FOI bill to law.

`We urge all concerned parties, including the government and oil companies, to fulfil their obligation of establishing and completing the Host Community Development Trust Fund,’’ he said.