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PIB: When the people’s campaign yielded fruit

About host communities’ trust fund

Ordinarily it was supposed to have started by the end of last month – that is the trust fund for host communities according to the Petroleum Industry Act, which was signed into law on August 16 last year by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Of course the fund, even though it will not solve all the environmental pollution problems in the Niger Delta region because of oil exploration but at least it will solve some problems if judiciously used. It is on record according to the national oil spill detection and response agency that a total of 1,086 oil spills were recorded in Bayelsa State from 2015 to 2022.

The women are mainly the ones that suffer the spills most because they are the farmers, the fisher women and they do most of the artisanal works in the host communities.

Although looking at the whole act generally, it is for the benefit of the oil companies and the Federal Government bearing in mind that most of the conditions are not favourable to the host communities. One of the conditions is that the 3% of the annual operating cost of the oil company’s expenditure be given to the host communities.

But this raises the question of who determines the operating cost and the annual income.

Consequently the naïve communities may not even know what to do and how to go about getting the money. And what this means is that there might not be anything like Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU).

Bayelsa Amazons Advocacy Campaign Group birthed

Even at that, the women at the time were not entirely being carried along in the scheme of things as far as oil politics was concerned. Bearing this in mind, a group known as Bayelsa Amazons Advocacy Campaign recently embarked on a campaign to lobby to ensure 30% of the 3% annual host communities trust fund that will be coming to the communities.

With that, the group recently embarked on an advocacy visit to the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo to canvass for the inclu-  sion of women in the management of the fund, the job opportunities, the management and other chances and truly the campaign paid off because it gave birth to a committee known as the Women’s Economic Inclusion Committee on PIA.

Stakeholders sceptical about PIA

At the visit, the Deputy Governor while being sceptical over the PIA had asserted that the role of state governments had been deliberately undermined.

Lamenting that governments in the oil and gas producing states in the Niger Delta region had virtually been reduced to mere observers, he noted that there were a lot of lacunas in the PIA which clearly put the oil-bearing areas in disadvantage adding that President Buhari had denied the state governments their full participation in the implementation of the PIA.

He said: “We have some lacunas in the PIA law. You can’t deprive a man of his right and expect him not to complain. Considering the way that law is couched, they have actually reduced the role of the oil bearing states to that of a ‘siddon looker’.

“I’m really worried that those who made the law have as usual, undermined the state in terms of exploration and management of oil resources. And you know that anything that does not have a legal backing lacks the potency for its enforcement.”

Also the Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council in Bayelsa State, King Bubaraye Dakolo had recently advised the host communities in the Niger Delta region to first of all kick against the portion of the PIA which says that any oil disruption that takes place in their domain will be counted for them as loss to their 3% yearly funds that will come to them from the oil companies operating in their domain.

King Dakolo, who is the Ibenanaowei IV of Ekpetiama Kingdom, argued that PIA was not actually meant to help the people of the Niger Delta region but instead that the act was meant to impoverish the people the more thereby making them to helpless.

Speaking in Yenagoa when the Bayelsa Women’s Advocacy Campaign group in conjunction with Global Care Rescue Mission, led by Elizabeth Egbe, paid him a courtesy visit, King Dakolo told them to kick against the obnoxious act first before asking for 30% of the 3% that is supposed to come to the host community stating that if the act is allowed to be practiced like that, the host communities  may not even have any 3% to share.

The king said that the group’s campaign was laudable and noble but advised them that agitating for 3% from 30% of all the funds accrued from oil may be shooting themselves on the foot adding that according to a document from Shell, women’s inclusion must be at least 30%.

He said: “The PIA in my mind is an anti-people’s act. It is aimed against the people of the Niger Delta, the oil producing people, against men, women and children of the oil producing communities. And that is why no oil industry actor is complaining.

In fact they sponsored the bill. “They pocketed those in the national assembly, bought them over and greased their palms so that they pass this nonsensical document. Before you begin to talk about some enjoying 3%, the 30% has to come first but will the 3% come the way it was structured?

They said for you to get the 3%, there must be no disruption in oil and gas activities in your domain. The oil companies have not been the best of companies. In the last 70 years, they have shown that they are only out for the money.

BAACG demands

The leader of the group, Egbe had said in all the advocacy visits that the group was asking for women’s inclusion in the community trust fund that will come according to the Act adding that more than 30% of money to be received from gas flaring penalties for the purposes of environmental remediation on and relief of host communities, as enshrined in the PIA, should consider, interest of women around host communities.

She continued: “30% operational necessities for host communities’ development trust should be allocated to women.

Appointment of board of trustees across the trust should consider 30% composition for women. Appointment into host communities’ management committees should consider 30% composition for women.

“Capital funds for host communities should be equitably allocated for the benefits of men and women. Matrix for distribution of trust funds should be technically structured to equitably benefits men and women.

“Fund managers to be appointed should be persons with gender equity licenses. Executive managers to be appointed should be made up of 30% consideration for women. Host communities’ advisory committees should be constituted with 30% women or more.”

 

The group also asked that each host community needs assessment should be developed through gender neutrality stating that host communities development plans should be developed through gender justice.

The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social Development and Empowerment, Faith Opene had explained that the agenda being championed by the women group was aimed at achieving 30% representation of women in the PIA implementation.

And their campaign yielded fruit

In less than two months after the resumption of the campaign, Bayelsa State Government seeing the importance of the women in the society inaugurated a committee which she called the Bayelsa Women Economic Inclusion Committee (BWEIC) on PIA.

Inaugurating the committee on behalf of the governor of the state Douye Diri, the Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo charged them to do all they can to make sure that the committee succeeds.

He said: “I believe that this committee doesn’t only have the capacity to think, they also have the capacity to think and put it into practice because of the array of persons in this committee.”

The deputy governor had assured recently when the group went on a courtesy call to his office that that the government would set up a committee to monitor and follow-up the implementation of the PIA in the state.

The members of the committee are Faith Opene to be supported by Princess Egbe, Mary Accrah Bekeowei, Secretary, Omubo Ifiemi Karina, Assistant Secretary, Doubra Ofoni, Financial Secretary, Victoria Feboke PRO, Pauline Onyibe, Publicity Secretary, Winner Obonin Dominic and Deme Pamosoo for the legal team.

Others are Juliet Teibowei, Queen Tessy Diongoli and Queen Agala Pat for conflict resolution, Biobelemo Akpolo as women mobiliser, a representative each from women in renewable energy, Joy Daniel for the virtually impaired persons, Debekeme Katherine to represent the women farmers while Eunice Debekeme is from tax justice and good governance platform.

Thanking Bayelsa State Government for setting up the committee, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social Development and Empowerment, Faith Opene, assured the government that the committee was ready to work and achieve the aim for setting it up.

She said: “This committee will hit the ground running and we will constantly report our activities to the government.”

 

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