Oil host community leaders jostling to get into trust funds to loot like before have been warned that this time, it could be slow march to jail.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Amadi Charles, dropped this bombshell Friday, October 13, 2023, saying that he has already got hints at public relaxation centres where some persons have boasted that this is their turn to ‘chop.’
Charles was speaking at the unveiling of the NNPC/Belemaoil JV Host Community Development Trusts (HCDT) Board of Trustees at Golden Tulip Hotel in Port Harcourt.
Says, Petroleum Industry Act different from MoU
He warned that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is not same as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) system where he said many got away after diverting host community funds.
He said: “Please, there is a new system PIA, not so in MoU system. Eyes are on you. Don’t let your community down. This is a slow march to jail. Be warned.”
Speaking further, he said three percent of capital budget (Capex) was no small money. “This is answer to years of clamour for development. Development is now in your hand.”
The commissioner advised the newly set up boards never to select projects above 75 percent of their allocation, saying the MoU system caused many projects to be abandoned.
He went on: “Set up credible professionals in Management Committee. Let one person not corner the five percent that is for the administrators.”
In his keynote address, the Deputy Managing director of Belemaoil, Sunday Akpoduado, revealed that the major objective of the board is to stop bickering in oil communities.
He mentioned their host local councils as Bonny, Akuku-Toru and Degema. He said much work is to be done, and that all hands have to be on deck.
He warned against divide-and-rule, noting that the Belemaoil host communities were living together for ages and must not fall apart because of oil. He regretted that the way things stand now, to travel to those areas is very expensive because of some factors. He did not mention insecurity that now requires hiring forces to gCuard travellers.
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The deputy MD pointed out that to gather was not the achievement but to meet the objective and the purpose which he said was to work together for better results in host communities in oil region.
Commending the community leaders that came for the event, the deputy MD said Belemaoil has been pushing in very high quarters to succeed, saying only the complementary actions of the communities would make it a success.
In his address, Bala M. Wunti, the Chief Upstream Investment Officer (CUIO), NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services (NUIMS), who was represented by Eki Okoro, described the event as a significant moment not only for the NNPC Limited/Belema JV settlors, but for the entire host communities and the nation as well.
He said the NNPC Limited was a socially responsible business that is geared towards the economic empowerment of the communities, and the country at large. “We are sensitive to the needs of people and our goal is to ensure that Nigerians benefit from CSR (corporate social responsibility) interventions based on verifiable and critically assessed needs of the various identified beneficiary states across the country.
“The Petroleum Industry Act’s provisions ensure the Nigerian Upstream Host communities receive direct social and economic benefits from energy operations.”
He also said that in the NNPC Limited, their vision for social intervention is to continue to operate in an ethical and sustainable manner and deal with the environment and social impacts occasioned by our activities.
“NNPC, along with its partner have implemented various projects in the areas of education (building and equipping of schools/ classrooms, laboratories, donation of books, scholarships, Quiz competitions, etc.) skill acquisitions and economic empowerment, healthcare, solar power, and other infrastructural intervention projects.
“The Host Community Development Trust (HCDT) as established under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring our operations benefit the Host communities in tangible and long-lasting ways.
To ensure transparency and accountability, he said, the trust was set up to be managed by Board of Trustees having representatives of the Host communities and a secretary from the settlor, all who are of high integrity and professional standing.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the community leaders, traditional rulers, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Rivers State Government and other stakeholders who have supported the asset from the initial stages of the PIA HCDT implementation to this moment. I must sincerely appreciate Belema Oil Producing Limited, who have worked tirelessly to bring this vision to reality. Without all your support and guidance, the inauguration of the Board would not have been possible.”
In another address, the NUPRC CEO, Gbenga Komolafe, who was also represented, said the event represented the beginning of a new era, and that the Act created the Fund.
He made it clear that the Board of Trustees (BoT) should select professionals to man the management, then Management would set up Advisory Committee.
He reminded the communities that their three percent (3%) would be deducted if vandalism occurred in their place. “If there is no development in your area, it’s almost your fault. This is laudable.”
Representatives of the three local councils spoke in support of the Trust Fund. Bonny LGA said Belemaoil is ahead, urging the community leaders to allow the Trust Fund become a tool for progress, not for fracas.
The representative from Akuku-Toru LGA urged Kula people to remain in peace and not Kula to be against Kula. He said they needed all the developments they could get.
“If you want to earn your three percent, support Belemaoil to make money so it can grow.”
The monarchs that control the area also spoke, assuring the sustainability of the Trust Fund and its operationality.