By Chimezie Godfrey
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has called on oil bearing communities to commence the selection of credible persons to populate the Board of Trustees of their respective Host Communities Development Trust (HCDT) as provided for under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
Director General of NOA, Dr. Garba Abari made the call during an advocacy visit to His Royal Majesty, The Oduosa of Utagha-Ogbe Kingdom in Kwale, Delta State, Obi Isaac Pius by NOA and its civil society partners.
Represented by the NOA Bayelsa State Director, Mr. Gogo Iyaye, the NOA Director General noted that nearly four months have already been lost since the signing of the PIA into law, leaving only eight months to the commencement of the Trust Fund as stipulated by the Act.
He stressed the need for prompt but careful selection of the Board Members for nomination as soon as the Trust becomes operational.
While providing soft copies of the PIA to the traditional cabinet of Utagha-Ogbe Kingdom, Abari acknowledged the concerns being expressed by host communities about some provisions of the PIA.
He however observed the need for them to first take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Act in order to maximize its benefits while hoping for future amendments to cater for the concerns of host communities.
Furthermore, he said the HCDT Fund would come directly to the oil bearing communities, in addition to existing 13% Derivation, the NDDC funds, the budgetary provisions for the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta and the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government, hence the need for host communities to take keen interest in the management of the Fund.
The Oduosa of Utagha-Ogbe Kingdom, Obi Isaac Pius, in his response, was delighted by the effort of NOA and its partners in sensitizing his community on the provisions of the PIA, describing the visit as an eye-opener.
He said members of the community, which hosts 5 operating oil companies, were eager to receive and comply with the guidelines to be issued by the PIA Implementation Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier, the CISLAC Executive Director, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), represented by Mr. Chinedu Bassey appealed to the Utagha-Ogbe monarch to use his exalted position to mobilize for the appointment of only credible persons who will serve the community’s interests into the Board of Trustees of his Community Trust Fund.
He said even though the oil companies under the Petroleum Industry Act have powers to appoint members of the Trust Fund, host communities have the right to nominate persons for appointment thereto. This, he said, necessitated the collaborative advocacy by NOA, CISLAC and OXFAM.
On his part, the Country Director, OXFAM in Nigeria, represented by Mr. Henry Ushie said the objective of the sensitization is to empower communities to ask the right questions to enable them benefit from the Petroleum Industry Act.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of interest shown by the Kwale traditional institution and community members in ensuring that they take full advantage of the provisions of the PIA.