South-South Governors Want Host Community Oil Fund at 10%
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Governor’s of oil-rich South-South Nigerian states have demanded an upward review of the provision of 2.5 per cent as Host Community Trust Fund in the keenly debated Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to 10 per cent, in the best interest of oil communities and the country.
This was made known by the Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and Governor of Delta State, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa, at the end of the forum’s meeting which held at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
“We took up the issue of the PIB which is already before the House, and having compared notes with ourselves, we are of the view that while we welcome the Host Community Trust Fund, we do believe that the 2.5 per cent that is appropriated in that bill for the purpose of host community fund is inadequate.
“We have discussed with our people and collectively as leaders of the people in our various states and as leaders standing in on behalf of our people, we urge that the National Assembly should increase the provision in the host community fund from 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent in the best interest of our communities and in the best interest of our nation,” Mr Okowa said on behalf of his colleagues.
The South-South governors maintained that the communities have a role to play in the surveillance of the nation’s oil facilities and pipeline network.
They expressed the belief that if the communities feel satisfied with the provision of funds for them in the PIB, they are more likely going to be the watchdog on behalf of the federal government, the states and oil companies.
“And the peaceful environment that would be seen in the various oil communities would enable us to have greater production and a seamless production in which we do not have any form disruption in our oil productions going into the future,” he submitted.
Governor Okowa described as worrisome the running of the NDDC in over a year by an Interim Caretaker Committee, and now, an interim administrator.
According to him, this situation does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as an opportunity for all states to be represented as they ought to be represented in the board of the NDDC does not exist.
“So, it means that the NDDC is actually run in such a matter that it is actually not truly beneficial to our people, because there is no stakeholders input in the running of the affairs of the NDDC.
“We do know that there is a forensic audit taking place and if that reason the board has not been constituted, our advise is that monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money in a such a way it will be visibly accountable in the best interest of the peoples of the Niger Delta,” the Governor stated.
The Governors demanded that whenever the board of the NDDC is constituted, the advisory council must be called upon to place its role to ensure there are check and balance in such a matter that the states will truly have value for money expended by the NDDC.
They also advised President Muhammadu Buhari, that in the absence of the board of the NDDC, funds for the commission beyond the payment of salaries should be put in an escrow account until he constitutes the board.
“We feel already shortchanged as a people in the Niger Delta and we believe that we do not wish to see this kind of situation continue going forward into the future, because our people feel the pains, we do not want a situation where there is an abuse of processes, neither should we have a situation where we have abuse of funds,” they noted.