Major oil producing companies, now known as settlors, were absent at a sensitization and engagement forum on Host Communities Development Trusts for Rivers West Senatorial District which held in Port Harcourt on Monday, September 19, 2023.
The forum was an avenue for Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), the regulatory agency, oil producing companies and host communities to engage and dialogue over their roles and duties in the Host Communities Trust Fund as provided for under the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021. The forum was facilitated by Deinomas Float Nigeria Limited.
Rivers West Senatorial District comprises eight local government areas: Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Abua/Odual, Akuku Toru, Asari Toru, Bonny and Degema.
No reason was given for the absence of the oil companies. But reports from previous forums held for host communities in other states, indicated that the settlors’ representatives had a rough time engaging with representatives of host communities.
In a message to the forum, the executive commissioner of NUPRC, Capt. John Tonlagha, said the role of host communities in the oil and gas industry was crucial and that was why, their interest and welfare were captured by the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
He said the entire section 34 of the PIA was devoted to the welfare and development of the host communities. It prescribes how host communities can be developed and assigns roles and duties to the settlors, the regulatory commission and host communities.
Mr. Alaowei Cleric, a consultant to Deinomas Float Nigeria Limited, who spoke on ‘Host Communities Trust Financing and Utilisation of Host Communities Trust Fund’, said it was important for host communities to know their responsibilities in the PIA so that they could work progressively to ensure that monies voted for projects in the communities are well utilized.
Mr. Theophilus Ovieyi, who spoke on ‘Safeguards Against Vandalism and Other Forms of Oil Operations’, said Nigeria loses about $4million every day to vandalism and sabotage of oil operations.
He said the PIA gives host communities the right to carry out surveillance and report cases of sabotage of oil installations to the authorities. He disclosed that when disruption of oil operations are traced to sabotage, vandalism and civil unrest, funds for the repair of the damaged equipment or losses from operations would be taken from the community trust fund.
Mr. Francis Osogolo, who spoke on ‘Dispute Resolution Under the PIA’, said host communities and other parties in a dispute could first approach conflict resolution mechanisms embedded in Section 39 of the PIA.
He disclosed that an Excellence Centre has been established in Yenagoa to serve as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre for parties in dispute and urged host communities and other parties captured by the PIA to make use of the centre to resolve their conflicts.
He said the formation of community trust funds in many communities, have been delayed because members of such communities had gone to court and nothing could be done there until the court matters are resolved.
During the question and answer session, Mrs. Rose Orupabo, the Women Leader of the Host Communities in Rivers State, expressed concern about the marginalization of women in appointments into the boards of the community trust funds.
Dr. Diepriye Batubo, the former state facilitator of HOSTCOM, asked to know what would happen to monies that were already in the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) that some communities already had with settlors.
The NUPRC Team Lead, Environment and Community, Port Harcourt, Mr. Mayowa Ogungbemi, said all the concerns raised by the host communities at the forum would be looked into by the commission. He said Regulation 4 provides for inclusiveness in appointments to the boards and management committees of the community trust funds and that existing funds in GMOUs would be transferred to the community trust funds.
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