Uche Usim, Abuja
Oil and gas stakeholders and community development experts have listed several reasons why Nigeria currently performs abysmally in natural resource charter that has led to gross under-development of many rural areas where crude oil is mined and refined.
The experts identified widespread corruption, blind politics, poor industry legislative framework and other gaps that have led to endless hostilities due to the disconnect between host communities and oil companies.
The industry watchers articulated their views in a Webinar organized by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) on Monday.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Studies and Development (CSSD), Mr Ken Henshaw advocated for the adoption of Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) standards as against the current impotent of government where funds meant for oil producing communities get diverted into private pockets.
He called for the strengthening of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Acts by the National Assembly to deepen community involvement in running affairs of the oil-rich region.
He said: “We can’t treat communities as strangers in their own land. The must become meaningful participants. The EIA as it is today does not recognize human right issues. When we amend the NOSDRA Act, we give the agency more capacity to do its job without recourse to help from oil companies.
“There must be quick passage of a decent PIGB that addresses all concerns. It’s one of the most controversial piece of legislation that has been in the works for over 20 years.
“We need to end environmentally harmful practices like gas flaring because people are losing their lives due to pollution and those living are at great risk of health challenges. We should implement the National Petroleum Policy”, Henshaw explained.
He advised the government not to hand over pipeline protection contract to host communities as they they do not have the fire power to ward off heavily armed oil thieves.
He also spoke about the need to reform the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) so it focuses solely on developing the region and as a reward for political support.
He also spoke on the urgent need to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation for greater efficiency.
On environmental degradation, Henshaw said: “The environmental impact is huge. Worse, there seems to be no strategic plan for deeper women inclusion, despite the fact that women are more impacted in the environmental pollution. They can no longer farm, pick periwinkles in the swamps, fishing and all that because of pollution.
“The 2009 Amnesty programme crafted to reform and reintegrate youths in the Niger-Delta region did not have up to women inclusion. And their suffering is unimaginable. This is part of the reasons Nigeria scores woefully in natural resource charter. 2017-2019 report was woeful for Nigeria.
“Today, there is increase in poverty, pollution, other ecological issues. The UNDP report notes that soil and water pollution in Ogoni land will take 25-30 years to clean up. It’ll be the highest environmental renovation in the world.
“As a way out, the GMoU is widely perceived as the most effective strategy for benefit transfer.
“This Global Memorandum of Understanding is a participatory development planning process initiated by oil companies and this exists for a lot of communities in the Niger Delta” ,
He, however, expressed concern that the expectations which communities have of oil companies were far higher than what “the real mandates” of oil companies are.
“When you go into a community, they expect the oil companies to build primary schools, build secondary schools, even build Churches. In Eket, Ibeno specifically, it is expected that Mobil should renovate the Qua Iboe Church. The community has queued behind that expectation and it’s currently causing friction. There’re unrealistic expectations being placed on oil companies.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Dauda Garuba said the time for the greater transparency and hard work to develop oil communities was now, adding that playing politics with funds meant for the region will leave it destroyed.