Niger Delta

PIA: Why Niger Delta States Must Gazette All Oil & Gas Communities — Policy Alert

Uyo, NIGERIA/Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization promoting economic and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has called on state governments in the region to urgently commence the process of gazetting all currently ungazzetted villages and communities in oil producing areas, as a prerequisite for the effective implementation of host community provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.

The statement came on the wings of a two-day Enlightenment Workshop on the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 for Host Communities organised in Uyo last week by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Power and Petroleum Development. Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, the organisation’s Senior Programme Officer, Mfon Gabriel, stated that failure of state governments to properly map and gazette oil and gas host and impacted communities would have explosive consequences for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 as the Act already contained several provisions that could compromise the peace and stability of the region.

He staed, “With the expected establishment of the Host Communities Development Trust under the provisions of the Act beginning August 2022, it has become a matter of urgency for State Governments in all the oil and gas producing states to gazette all oil and gas communities.

“Proper identification, mapping, and gazetting of host and impacted communities is a prerequisite for beneficiation, yet many of these communities have remained ungazzetted over the years, irrespective of the massive resource extraction and negative impacts borne by them. This makes it challenging to implement any sensible scheme aimed at transferring social and economic benefits to the communities, and leaves the communities vulnerable to conflict. After the PIA had made the mistake of making the settlers responsible for determining which communities qualify as host communities, any further ambiguity in the identification of who is hosting or affected by what assets would be a recipe for disaster.”

Gabriel further noted that by updating and publishing such records as quickly as possible, operators and host communities would be guided, and there would be minimal denials and recriminations as experienced in the past where some companies jettisoned their responsibilities to communities and the communities had nothing to hold on to.

The organisation commended the Ministry for the initiative and resources put together to enlighten host communities and oil and gas operators in Akwa Ibom state on the host community provisions of the PIA 2021 and called on governments of other oil producing states to initiate similar programmes.

The group, however cautioned state governments to avoid the temptation to meddle in the actual set-up of the Host Communities Development Trust, as that would further dilute community ownership of the process and could be perceived by communities as an attempt by state governments to hijack their three percent the same way they did the thirteen percent derivation.