23 Jan 2021


Local Communities Demand Implementation Of Petroleum Laws

"There is also lack of cooperation between state authorities and national MPs and that is hindering implementation of the petroleum laws. He further stated that communities are demanding oil revenue to be used for development activities."

By Patrick Godi.

In the face of surging coronavirus cases in South Sudan and its crippling effects, communities living in the oil producing areas have said they’re are not safe and at high risk from the pandemic.
Community meeting in Paloch, Upper Nile.
The spread of COVID-19 in the country continues to unprecedentedly impact on the health, economic and social aspects of its citizens further exerting pressure on the limited services leading to inadequate access or political influence to have those services delivered.

This was echoed in a community awareness meeting on COVID-19 prevention and Enhancement of local communities’ participation in management of natural resources in Melut and Palouch organised by UNYDA, a local association of young men and women from the region in collaboration with Norwegian People Aid (NPA).

Melut County is situated on the eastern bank of the White Nile with a population of about 49,000 people as of 2008 census and it is one of the oil producing counties in the state.

A local chief said that ‘there is minimal contribution from oil companies regarding provision of services aimed at preventing COVID-19. The gap between community and oil companies seem to be widening’.

There is also lack of cooperation between state authorities and national MPs and that is hindering implementation of the petroleum laws. He further stated that communities are demanding oil revenue to be used for development activities. He urged oil companies for support to prevent the spread of the disease and enhance community resilience.

South Sudan’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), 2013 and Petroleum Act (PA), 2012 are the governing laws on the oil industry. The petroleum act allocates 2% and 3% oil revenue to local communities. Representative of women said that during several rounds of talks, they had tried to engage state authorities on the implementation of this stipulation but to no effect so far.

However, Locals are optimistic the government in Juba will act differently. The Ministry of petroleum is currently carrying out an Environmental Audit.

While in Palouch, another oil producing Payam in the State, the representative of chiefs noted that some chiefs are not aware of the petroleum laws but solely rely on area MPs and youth as “their eyes” who are aware about channels of reporting complaints up to the national level in Juba.

A youth representative in Palouch, added that “as youth we are working very hard to voice community demands and concerns to relevant authorities. We are contemplating having a meeting with state authorities.” He called upon all stakeholders to support them.

The leaders urged Government to work closely with them to ensure effective implementation of the petroleum law including activation of community development committee coordination forum (CDC- CF). The youth leader in Melut said young people need to be able to play an active oversight role in monitoring of oil revenue allocated for local development projects in the locality.
Concerning implementation of the petroleum laws, He added that governors, commissioners and state ministers seem reluctant, concluding that “It’s only God who is with us”.

South Sudan is recovering from a long internal civil conflict that cut its oil output by almost a half. At the height of its production the country pumped over 350,000 bpd. Plans are underway to rehabilitate damaged oil infrastructure and exploration of new blocks to boost exports.

Dissatisfaction regarding negative impacts of the oil industry continue to reverberate louder in the oil producing region. A UNYDA staff traces these issues back to the period of the then Khartoum regime whose policies on the sector were opaque and disregarded local involvement in the management of oil revenues, clarity on the oil revenue sharing modalities, investment and management making it difficult for communities to demand transparency and accountability.

UNYDA emphasised they’re working hard to increase awareness on COVID-19 preventive measures and reduce social vulnerability in collaboration with NPA under oil for development project. They hope to reach heads of the local community through structures such as Community Development Committee (CDC), youth organizations, county development committee, women organizations, council of chiefs, Payam development committees, farmer’s association, religious leaders, and any other organized group recognized in the area in a COVID-19 sensitive manner.

The organization says it has limited resources and is therefore calling upon oil operating companies to increase corporate social responsibility and support it in delivering developmental activities and protective gears to mitigate effects of the virus in Upper Nile State.

According to the latest data from the Ministry of Health there are currently 2,106 cases with 954 recoveries and 40 deaths. The country continues to struggle to address many issues exacerbated by the global pandemic.

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