By Smith Nwokocha
Objectives to mark the one-year since the passage of the PIA on August 16 2021 at the National Assembly as well as hold an interactive and fact finding session with Host Communities Stakeholders and the media to identify and address perceived gaps in the PIA with a view to stimulating more community engagement for the establishment of the Host Community Trust Fund, an inclusive Board Members and tracking of the 3% due Host Comms in terms of project delivery, social investments and monitoring of infractural development for the region’s prosperity driven by the implementation of the Growth Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) Nigeria Project.
Introduce stakeholders to tools for proper tracking and call on all stakeholders to advocate and succeed in pushing for the speedy amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 which is before the National Assembly.
The event commenced at 10:00am with Mr. Bassey Bassey, ED HipCity Innovation who declared it opened with the recitation of the national anthem as prayers and a quick introduction of the cluster members of the Growth Initiatives Transparency Project, members of government, PENGASSAN and other key stakeholders from the Host Communities. Giving a quick background, he said explained Nigeria’s main revenue is from the Oil and Gas sector, yet data and baseline research shows remittances and revenues due are received from the sector.
Thereafter he introduced the Project Manager for the GIFT PROJECT NIGERIA, Lady Ejiro Umukoro for her welcome remarks. In her welcome remarks, Umukoro emphasized that the significant role and position of Niger Delta in the economic development and advancement of Nigeria. She referenced the Ogoni 9 story as a journey that should serve as a constant reminder that is not yet uhuru in terms of social and economic justice and development of the Niger Delta in terms of remittances due the communities and economic prosperity for the region. Highlighting the one-year mark since the passage of the PIA, which took over 10 years to become an ACT – with a number of deficiencies and inadequacies yet to be fully addressed – she spoke eloquently on the role and objectives the GIFT Nigeria Project is playing ti ensure every stakeholder within the region that is defined as inclusive to the Host Communities iis here to see that every stakeholders empowered to play their role for the actualisation of the PIA and FRA Acts. She raised a number of salient questions regarding: how can we determine the fiscal responsibility and why is this important? In a country where the NNPC is not producing or refining crude oil, yet is expected to remit revenue to Federal Government, what are the gaps and how are these to be addressed? Now that the NNPC is now a limited liability company, how must communities begin to see and engage with the NNPC’s new status? She explained this informed the purpose of the Colloquium of the Host Communities and Hackathon for the Niger Delta Youths holding in Port Harcourt, adding that a system only works, when the people are involved. The GIFT Nigeria Project she emphasised aims to reduce corruption in the sector and ensure transparency of projects.
GOODWILL REMARKS FROM DIGNITARIES:
Rt. Hon. Dumnamene. Dekor, Chairman, Committee on Host Communities, House of Representatives who was represented by …. goodwill’s message focused on the hiccups surrounding the PIA. The essence of the PIB, he explained is to ensure that the host communities are represented and their voices are heard and to know how to hold leaders accountable. He emphasised the need critical political moment in Nigeria presents an opportunity that allows Host communities and stakeholders to share their views, know their rights and demand for transparency to start from the local government level.
In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary, PANDEF, Chief Ken Robinson, thanked the organizers and all Niger Deltans at the Forums. He highly commended the role Order Paper has made in terms of inputs and recommendation in achieving the PIA. He however explained that PANDEF is disappointed by the final outcome of the PIA. He called for the need to push further demands and review on the PIA, as it lacks what he described as “resource justice”. He decried a situation where communal lives have been lost, including ecological gains and as such cannot continue to be the norm, making a strong appeal for equitable resource justice that will support and improve the standard living of the Niger Delta communities.
While Mr. Goddey Ineh who represented Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, Controller, Nigerian Upstream Sector expressed delight to be part of the GIFT Colloquium. The GIFT Nigeria Project and Order Paper including other affiliated organizations he enthused are essential to effective governance, adding that the Commission will continue to encourage all Stakeholders as well as the NGOs, as the oil sector has now become a cause for concern. With the PIA, he expressed strong hope that issues of Host Communities, the issue environment passed by the federal government will address these critical factors. He called on all to focus more on educating the Communities on the PIA to harness the full value of the implementation of the Act, adding that the onus is on the Government to make sure that the PIA is implemented in its fullness. The Environmental worthiness he emphasised is key referencing the Ogoni Clean Up by HYPREP. He called for peace in the region to be sustained to ensure that the cleanup exercise is done and completed for the benefits that will be accrued from the Oil and Gas sector to the Host Communities.
Agreeing with the representative of the Upstream Sector, Mr Tamuno Dappu, representing the Chairman of PENGESSAN Port Harcourt Zone (Peter Onita). he described as laudable the initiative by GIFT Nigeria Project. He made a firm promises that PENGASSAN will continue to collaborate with the OrderPaper and the GIFT Clusters to achieve the full implementation of the GIFT Project.
Speaking for the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Mr. Charles Abanah expressed a profound sense of fulfilment in working as partners with GIFT Nigeria Project to ensure that the impact of project is achieved. He explained that the outcome of the colloquium is to clarify issues of Transparency, pertinent issues on Revenue Remittance, Service Delivery and Project Monitoring and Evaluation in the Niger Delta region. He referenced on how some Sectors/Government Agencies have to remit deliberately not remitted accurately and the action Government is taking to ensure remittance is received accurately and when due.
In concluding the open discussion, Mr. Oke Epia, ED-Order Paper Advocacy Initiative expressed delight in, and commended Mr. Abana and the critical central role the FRC plays in the workability and implementation of the PIA. He further explained that steps were taken to unveil sections and clauses in the PIA that will affect the Communities. The purpose of the Host Community Colloquium is to stimulate conversation on how the Host Communities perceives the PIA, what the Host Communities should do to get value from the PIA then use that value to get it right. He recalled how members of the Host Communities engage in a bawl at the PIB Public hearing in the House of Representatives on January 21, 2021, showed how important implementation needs to be enforced to justify the extant PIA. According to NNPC GMD, he explained that with a 3% of annual OPEX of Oil Companies in Nigeria, which is to be paid to HostComs based on PIA valued at #205billion based on year 2020 projection, he explained that governance mechanism using both the Commission and its Authority have powers to regulate the Host Communities. On the other hand, Host Communities have the responsibilities to support existing structure: Host Community Development Plan and the Formation and Operationalization of the Board of Trustees to follow where the Money will come from, Administration and Allocation of the fund, Punishment for vandalism, Timeframe and penalty.
The Panel Discussion was moderated by the Project Manager of GIFT PROJECT, Lady Ejiro Umukoro with three panellists: Mr. Charles Abana, Chief Ken Robinson and Mr. Goddey Ineh.
Abana gave deep insights into the Fiscal Responsibility Commission Act 2007, the gaps within, and the need for a new amendment in light of blocking leakages, MTEPF, Remittances, Revenues, Allocations, prudent management of Natural Resources, securing greater transparency and accountability within the medium-term focal operation, and to set a framework on public debt management. A situation he explains where ministries spend more than 50% of what they earn/generate should discouraged some of the calls for the FRA 2007 to be amended. Goas regards the Host Community inclusiveness, he explained that there should be a guiding law for the vulnerable populace, women, and youth to be duly represented and be part of Communities engagement. The communities he emphasised must hold leaders accountable.
Ineh emphasised that the main thrust of the PIA is to provide cordial, harmonized working relationship between the Host Communities, Oil Companies and the Government.
Chief, Ken Robinson; It’s the sector that incorporate the host communities. We should go back to our communities, engage our traditional rulers, youths, women and communal groups to do things differently and better.