From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A Non Governmental organization, Policy Alert, has launched a new campaign to empower resource-rich communities in the Niger Delta with data for holding government and extractive companies accountable in their activities in the area.
The group Executive Director, Mr Tijah Bolton-Akpan, made this known to newsmen yesterday when it launched the campaign in Port Harcourt, titled “Wetin We Gain”.
He said reason for the campaign was to create awareness for oil host communities in the Niger Delta to know how to demand their rights from the government and companies operating in their areas and also for the government to be transparent in dealing with its citizens in communities.
According to Bolton-Akpan “Policy Alert has today (Wednesday) launched #WetinWeGain project, a campaign that seeks to promote greater disclosure on oil, gas and mining transactions in Nigeria, and empower citizens of resource-rich communities with adequate and accurate information to ask the right questions and thereby benefit fully from their natural resources.
“Due to poor management, opacity and corruption in Nigeria’s oil, gas and mineral sectors, the country has witnessed a massive hemorrhage of assets and revenues over the last six decades. Rather than Nigeria’s natural resources contributing to prosperity for its citizens, we have witnessed a downward slide on several development indicators, the latest being that Nigeria now leads the pack of countries having the highest poverty burden, with over 80 percent of its populace living in extreme poverty, according to a recent report.
“This campaign attempts to use data analysis and simplification, public sensitization, community capacity building and advocacy to drive home messages that can propel action and help us begin to reverse the resource curse, a phenomenon that sees resource-rich countries trailing behind on most development indicators.”
On his part, Nigeria National Coordinator of an organization known as ‘Publish What You Pay (PWYP)’ Peter Egbule said: “Corruption undermines the potential for revenues to be used to improve the economic and social lives of citizens, particularly resource-rich communities who suffer loss of livelihoods, destruction of their environment and other deprivations due to the extraction of these resources.”
He noted that recent developments in the international policy arena have resulted in a lot more extractive data becoming available than was previously possible, adding that the challenge has been to bridge the gap between extractive data and the utilization of such data by civic actors to demand accountability from governments and companies.
Peter who represented the UK Coordinator of PWYP, Miles Litvinoff commended Policy Alert and PWYP in their efforts in helping to raise awareness among Nigerian communities about the companies extracting their country’s natural resources and these companies’ payments to Nigerian government entities.