The Shell Petroleum Development Company SPDC and its joint venture partners, NNPC/SPDC/TotalEnergies/NAOC has unveiled eight Host Community Development Trusts (HCDTs) in Rivers State.
The unveiling came last week on the heels of scathing criticism by a section of civil society groups in the Niger Delta on the deficiency and poor implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA)
It also brings to 16 the number of HCDTs already unveiled by the joint venture, with first 8 unveiled in Yenagoa earlier, and the joint venture describing it as consolidation of “the gains of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in the region”.
A press statement by Abimbola Essien-Nelson,Media Relations manager said the 16 trusts, which have been presented to the public are part of the 22 incorporated in the joint venture’s areas of operations in Imo, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa states.
The statement quoted the acting permanent secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Mrs. Blessing Orlukwo, who represented the commissioner at the unveiling ceremony as saying, “The Rivers State Government welcomes the establishment of Trusts and will support them to achieve their objectives”.
In his comment, deputy managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC), Mr. Wessel de Haas, said; “The hope of SPDC, as the operator of the joint venture, is that the unveiling of the trusts will set the tone for a better narrative and the dawn of a new era in the Niger Delta.”
Highlighting the impact of crude theft, pipeline vandalism and social unrest on the operations of oil companies, Mr. de Haas enjoined members of the HCDTs to take advantage of the grievance-resolving provisions of the PIA and ensure hitch-free oil and gas explorations and production activities to guarantee funding for the trusts.
He advised communities not to allow “internal strife and chieftaincy struggles to negatively impact the setting up of or operations of Trusts in their areas.”
The chief upstream investment officer, NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services (NUIMS), Mr. Bala Wunti, who was represented by deputy manager, External Relations, Mrs. Bunmi Lawson, advised the trusts “to demonstrate efficiency and expertise in executing projects using means that amplify standard and quality and ensuring that the allocated funds are used for impactful initiatives that address the identified needs of the communities.”
In an address, the chief executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, described the SPDC-operated joint venture as ‘first among peers’ for the early incorporation of 22 out of a total 33 community trusts.
Represented by NUPRC’s assistant director, Host Community, Mr. Olatokunbo Karimu, Komolafe said; “It is our hope that the peace and harmony exhibited by the communities under the HCDTs will be sustained during the day-to-day management of the affairs of Trusts, to address the developmental needs of impacted host communities in oil-producing areas.”
Chairman of one of the trusts, Chief Mike Enwukwe, who responded on behalf of his colleagues, said the trustees would serve with diligence and accountability to continue to earn the confidence and cooperation of communities.
The PIA was enacted in August 2021 and is changing the interface between oil companies and their host communities. SPDC, on behalf of the joint venture, is managing a seamless transition from the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) initiative which it introduced in 2006, to the new dispensation. The process includes engaging hundreds of communities and community leaders on the provisions of the PIA.
While oil companies are expected to fund the community trusts from 3% of their operating expenditure in the preceding year, the PIA penalises acts of vandalism, sabotage, and civil unrest by communities with appropriate deductions from the allocated funds.
SPDC hopes to incorporate a total of 33 community trusts in its areas of operation.