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Spaces For Change Launch Guidelines Empowering Host Communities On Equitable Contracts Negotiations

R-L: HRH Eze Emmanuel Assor, S4C Executive Director, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Rep of NNPC GMD, Mr. Chris Akamairo, Hon. Kingsley Uju, member representing Ohaji Egbema Federal Constituency and ES NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, during the unveiling of the CIG in Abuja

By Gift Eguavoen

A Guideline to empower resource host communities to negotiate fair and equitable contracts with extractive companies, have been launched by Spaces for Change (S4C).

Also contained in the Guideline, are information enlightening host community members to the role of government in ensuring that the enormous wealth and benefits from the country’s natural resources are applied in ways that improve the lives of all Nigerians.

Known as the Community-Investor Guidelines (CIG), the document was developed with the objective to support host communities in engaging meaningfully throughout the lifecycle of an extractive project – from discovery and exploration, to planning, construction, operations, and closure – according to a statement by the Executive Director of Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri.

The Guidelines was formally unveiled in Abuja, at the just- concluded National Extractives Dialogue (NED 2022), co-hosted by S4C and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), with support from Ford Foundation, which brought together over 150 stakeholders in the mining, oil and gas industry from Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, amid jubilation, especially, among the host communities of extractive projects in Nigeria.

Ibezim-Ohaeri explained that the CIG is a follow-on to the initial study “Natural Resource and Benefit–Sharing Negotiations between Host Communities and Extractive Companies: A CaseStudy of Assa-North and Ohaji South [ANOH] Gas Development Project,” conducted by Spaces for Change, which red-flagged the extensive power asymmetry characterizing the relationship between extractive investors and host communities.

“The Guidelines provide reader-friendly information about the duties and obligations of the investors as well as the rights that communities have regarding a range of issues, including land acquisition, compensation, and the ability to say “no” (Free, Prior and Informed Consent) to any new project.

“The Guidelines also include a range of tools and avenues for communities to claim these rights, including through investor-community agreements and how to translate these contracts into enforceable legal obligations,” she said.

Unveiling the report, His Royal Highness (HRH) Eze Emmanuel Assor, Odozie Obodo 11 of Assa, Host Community, Ohaji-Egbema, Imo State, commended S4C’s longstanding support to communities either hosting or impacted by numerous extractive projects across the country.

“Through S4C’s interventions, our eyes have opened. We used to think that governments and corporations are doing us a favour when social and economic infrastructure development projects are sited in our communities. We now know our rights. We now know that we have a right to benefit from the natural resources extracted from our backyards. Armed with the Guidelines, we will go back to our communities to claim and assert our right to a safe environment, and the right to participate in extractive industry operations”, he said.

Extractive360 reports that present at the unveiling were stakeholders from relevant Federal and State government agencies, the National Assembly,  the global EITI, civil society leaders as well as community leaders and traditional rulers from resource rich communities in Kogi, Gombe, Nassarawa, Anambra, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Imo, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Edo, Zamfara among others.

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