The federal government has been urged to ensure meaningful participation of Niger Delta indigenes in the decision making of extractive resource projects, to bridge the trust deficit and restore lasting peace in the region.
This was part of resolutions reached at the end of a Virtual Conference on ‘Resolving the Host Communities Question’ convened recently, by OrderPaper Nigeria in collaboration with the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta and the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC).
In a communique issued, the group recommended that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and other laws should contain provisions that ensure that local communities are represented at the highest decision-making levels within institutions or structures established.
While calling for a stakeholder matrix that clearly identifies all stakeholders and their needs, the group noted the need for inclusion of hitherto ignored stakeholders such as women, youths, disabled persons and even the ‘unborn’ in consultations and conversations on the Niger Delta region.
In addressing the regions concerns, the group warned stakeholders to be conscious of conflict sensitivity, and urged government to focus on implementation at the grassroots level, and not only on policy making at the federal level.
Raising a key issue, the group pointed out that host communities of solid minerals and oil and gas resources should not be treated differently as it appears to be the case now as that gives the impression that some resource-bearing areas are inferior to others.
It therefore, demanded that the Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) which will allow for coordination of all the infrastructure projects in the Niger Delta Region be speedily operationalized and opened up for monitoring by stakeholders.
Furthermore, the communique signed by Hon. Henry Nwawuba, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Oke Epia, OrderPaper Nigeria and Tengi George-Ikoli, Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC), recommended that the complementary and supporting laws to ensure effective implementation of the PIB, such as the NOSDRA Amendment Act, be strengthened, while the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act be expanded to include provisions for social, human rights, conflict and vulnerable persons.
Speakers at the virtual conference which was the third in the series of Post Covid-19 Petroleum Agenda for Nigeria (PoCoPAN), include Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. Essien Ayi, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, Tengi George-Ikoli, NNRC Programme Coordinator, and Oke Epia, Executive Director of OrderPaperNigeria, among others.