HOST communities and stakeholders in the South-South zone are outraged at governors of the region over how they manage the 13 per cent derivation, saying they (govs) have disappointed the oil-bearing states with their distressing performance, over the years.
They said the governors have no definite plan to uplift the standard of living of the people in oil-bearing communities, while those of them who set up oil development commissions were shortchanging them of funds, the same accusation South-South governors leveled against the Federal Government.
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, recently, accused the Governors of Niger Delta states. Speaking at a webinar on ‘Resolving the Host Communities Question’, organised by Orderpaper in partnership with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Niger Delta and the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, NNRC, Enang also indicted the governors of misappropriating the 13 per cent derivation fund.
”The Governors have not been kind to the Niger Delta and I want to pray that the National Assembly amend the Niger Delta Development Commission Act, as well as amend the constitution so that the 13 percent derivation does not go to the governors; it should go to the host communities and targeted at the development of these communities.
“This is because the governors used the 13 percent derivation to buy aircraft and used the money to develop and build many houses and these monies are found in Banana Island and foreign countries. Let us find a legislative means whereby these monies can be used for the development of the communities.”
Community leaders across the region, who corroborated his claim, said oil communities were not feeling the impact of the 13 per cent derivation because of wrong-headed policies and contemptible implementation.
We are disenchanted with our govs – Prince Okareme, OMPSTAFOR
In Delta State, National Coordinator, Oil Mineral Producing Areas Stakeholders Forum (OMPASTAFOR) Prince Maikpobi Okareme, categorically stated: “Certainly, the host communities are very much dissatisfied with the way the governor of Delta and other Niger Delta states are managing the 13 per cent derivation fund.
“The legal funding arrangement of providing half of the derivation fund to the host communities through the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, has been contemptuously put aside. For the past five years, Delta state government has always received more than N100 billion derivation fund yearly from the Federation Accounts, yet, DESOPADEC’s yearly budget had never been up to N50 billion.
“In fact, the budget for 2018 was a mere N28 billion. Sadly too, the budgeted amount is in most cases was not fully released directly to the commission. Since the beginning of this administration Delta state, has retained its number one status as the highest oil-producing state in Nigeria with more than 30 per cent of total oil production.
The average monthly amount received for the 13 per cent has in most cases been more than N10 billion, yet we are not aware of any month DESOPADEC has received up to N2.5 billion, not to talk of N5 billion that is supposed to be 50 per cent of the average N10 billion in line with the DESOPADEC law.
Nothing to show in Ugborhen community – Mebradu
President of oil-rich Ugborhen community, Mr. Philip Mebradu, asserted: “The 13 per cent derivation fund, you know it is paid to the state and not the communities and as I speak to you, we have not seen or felt the effect of the derivation fund in Ugborhen community.
“Apart from what Seplat has done for us as their host community, you know how this thing works, that the cash is channelled through the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, truly, no single projects that the commission has done that you can count on.
“We have been starved of projects, and the only Seplat handled some of the projects like roads and the community hall that you see in the village,” he said.
Mebradu added that despite the efforts of Seplat to improve lives in the community, what the oil community had got was not commensurate with the volume of oil they produce.
”Go to the community, you cannot point out one project, not even an uncompleted one, 13 per cent derivation fund should have been paid to the communities direct and it will be better utilized,” he said.
Itsekiri oil/gas communities worse off- Princess Fregene, APPDIOGCOM
Also speaking, Convener of Association for the Promotion of Peace and Development in Itsekiri oil and Gas Communities, APPDIOGCOM, Princess Grace Fregene lashed out at governors for allegedly failing to manage the 13 percent derivation, affirming that there was nothing substantial to show in Itsekiri oil and gas communities in Delta state.
Her words: “Federal government should increase the 13 per cent derivation and pay directly to oil and gas host communities. This done, peace will come automatically to Niger Delta. This is because the fund will be better used, prudently utilized to solve the problems plaguing us in the Niger Delta.”
“The Governors and the interventionist agencies have failed the host communities with poor infrastructural spread, absence of projects procured and above all financial recklessness,” she asserted.
DESPOPADEC programmed to fail – Itsekure, activist
Activist, Matthew Itsekure, said: “On the 13 per cent derivation, it is still a far cry to our developmental yearnings in Delta state looking at the cumulative earning that accrue in relation to actual physical infrastructures on the ground. It has been either provisions of wrong needs that bear no direct impact on the people or poorly executed jobs that do not stand the test of time.
“What we see are a litany of uncompleted projects dotting the entire landscape in Itsekiri and several other Niger Delta communities. All of these are possible because the provisions of the law establishing the commission was skewed to fail on service delivery.
“While other regions’ peer group mechanism is enhancing positive infrastructure growth and service delivery to their citizens, our equivalent of BRACED Commission are working at cross-purpose, only united in failure on an electoral campaign promise.
Derivation shrouded in secrecy in Edo
In Edo state, stakeholders said they little knowledge of how their governor spends 13 per cent derivation apart from that 40 per cent of the fund is reportedly allocated to the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission, EDSOGPADEC.
Our source indicated the remaining 60 per cent is allocated as approved by the House of Assembly based on a proposal on annual budget by the state government.
Checks at the Accountant General’s office in Benin City yielded no result as the reporter was referred to the Ministry of Finance, where civil servants refused to volunteer information in the absence of the Commissioner.
EDSOGPADEC focuses its operations on the three oil-producing local government areas in the state namely Orhiomwon, Ikpoba-Okha and Ovia North East. Our finding showed that several projects initiated have remained uncompleted, while those completed have not been put to use.
For instance, an abattoir built by EDSOGPADEC in Ikpoba-Okha is under-utilized; a brand new police station at Uromehe in Orhiomwon local government has remained unopened over five years after completion; the Benin – Abraka road, which was to be jointly funded by the Edo State Government, EDSOGPADEC and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has remained uncompleted until date.
A visit to the website of EDSOGPADEC at the time of this report indicated that the last public operation was the advertisement for tender for the construction and completion of the uncompleted building at the orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, in Okada Ovia North-East local government area, which has been under construction for decades.
Amend 13 per cent derivation Act – Inwalomhe, JRC Executive Director
Executive Director, Justice Research Centre (JRC), Donald Inwalomhe, said the way out is for the Act to be amended to make room for the inclusion of host communities, as according to him, the governors only sit over the disbursement of the fund without any input from the host communities.
“The Act establishing that 13 percent derivation should be amended to incorporate the input of the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, which is how progress could be made at the local level as far as oil derivation is concerned. It is not just the governors alone that should sit down and decide what goes to the oil-producing communities, there should be a reflection of the host communities so that as far as development is concerned, much will be achieved at the local level.
“The problem we have now is the governors who decide the allocation of the 13 per cent. As long as we operate the 13 per cent derivation based on the decision of the governors, the oil-producing communities will not benefit much, which is why if you ask them to account for the 13 per cent now, I do not think any of the oil-producing states can account for that 13 per cent derivation adequately.
“When you ask the host communities what they have benefited from the 13 per cent derivation, you will not find anything because they are not carried along. You can imagine since President Obasanjo introduced the 13 per cent derivation till date, there have not been any amendment, so the National Assembly should come up with an amended Act in line with the modern-day realities.
“In Edo State, you have three oil-producing local government areas, but if you go deep, you are supposed to capture those communities that are actually producing the oil, but these have not been done.
As at today, I can tell you the Ikpoba-Okha produces more oil than the other two, but this has not been captured because before now, Pan Ocean used to operate in Delta state and Edo state, however today, the company is operating only in Edo. This has not been reflected and Ikpoba-Okha is the only local government where they operate so you cannot even say this is the number of oil wells they are operating the only thing is that we know they are operating in the state.
“You must capture all the oil-producing communities and then talk about increasing the13 per cent. The National Assembly should set up a committee to amend 13 per cent derivation Act and capture all the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, it is fundamental,” he added.
Sloppy affair in Rivers
At the inception of 13 per cent in 2000 under former governor, Peter Odili in Rivers state, the state government never entertained the idea of an oil communities development commission, dedicated to utilizing the accrued funds exclusively for the development of oil-producing or host communities.
True to type, officeholders under current Rivers administration were evasive in highlighting to what extent the government is channelling accrued 13 per cent derivation to uplifting oil communities in the state.
It is, however, apparent that many oil communities in the state, which the fund is meant for, will remain neglected, as long as the power a community wields in government determines the project that comes to it and not oil production quantum.
No oil agency since Odili period -Deeyah, KAGOTE President
President of KAGOTE, apex socio-cultural unifying force for all four Ogoni local government areas, Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme of Rivers state, Emmanuel Deeyah, disclosed: ”I was part of Dr Odili’s government. The governor then was of the opinion that it is not every single village in the state that produces oil, so when you begin to limit the oil revenue to only the communities that produce oil, don’t also forget that pipelines crisscross other communities that are not oil-producing.”
“When you limit that, you will be denying a lot of people what is their due. As a result of that, he (Odili) said there would not be anything like oil-producing areas development commission or agency.”
“In defiance of the ideals of the 13 per cent which compels special development attention to communities that attract the derivation revenue from the oil and gas drawn from their soils, oil communities, majority remote, rural in appeal, remain the poorest, most deprived and undeveloped of communities in the state.
“The norm has been to concentrate development on Port Harcourt, the capital city and home localities of those holding political power and influence. These extraneous considerations have remain the key determinants of who and which area attract what proportion of the accrued derivation,” he asserted.
Deeyah revealed: “What that has meant is that the over N2, 512, 958, 965 Rivers derived between 2000 and 2017 and N51.4Billion (January-July) 2019 aside the periods unspecified have found no expression in addressing mass poverty, unemployment, absence of schools, basic healthcare in oil communities.”
“Their suffering is aggravated by mass pollution of the oil operating environment compromising their farming livelihoods in the degradation of land and aquatic environment.
“Conversely, in the concentrated development of Port Harcourt metropolis (Port City and neighbouring Obio Akpor local government areas) from October 2019 till date, the Rivers Government has signed contracts for five flyovers, aside the billions of naira that has gone into health, education, housing, sports and other roads infrastructures in the state capital.
“The first three flyovers nearing completion cost over N21B according to Governor Nyesom Wike, the fourth flyover with two link roads at N18B and fifth, signed a couple of weeks back at almost N16billion.
“This skewed equation of the proverbial man by the rivers side washing hands with spittle while even non-oil locality enjoy more of the derivation continues to fuel anger, strive, violence and criminality in the oil communities where the majority live under the survival of the fittest.
“The situation also promotes violence and vandalism against oil companies who the host communities see as an alternative government to meet their every needs even as they (oil majors) further commit enormous funds in CSR in the communities aside their contribution to interventionist NDDC.
“A most recent expression of anger by aggrieved oil communities over their neglect in Rivers was the shutdown in 2017 of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 Belema Flow Station, by Offoin-Ama, Belema and Ngeje Communities, Akuku-Toru LGA, costing the country over $1.7b of arrested production,” he explained.
Sara-Igbe, ex-PANDEF spokesman laments
Bemoaning the sustained lack of government and even the oil firms development presence in the communities, Publicity Secretary, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, who hails from the OML 25 area said: “We have been agitating for long that infrastructure in our communities were poor.
The government under military regime gave us water, but it was laden with iron, not healthy for consumption. Fetch it today, the following day the whole water will be coloured. So, we have not been using water. In recent times, the state government has not done anything for us.”
FG verifies oil communities’ predicament
At last year’s mutual agreement to reopen of the shut assets, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Sen Ita Enang attested to the health dangers with drinking from the ‘Opusuya’, the aged-long pond water that sustains Belema people in absence of portable water from the government.
At Offoin-Ama, the only educational institution present, a piteous makeshift basic school, made of the wooden structure was said to be from the communal effort. The European Union and Rivers State Government had erected in the village square, a water project, five years back.
But Amayanabo of Offoin-Ama, HRH King Sibia Sukubo Aaron, Kilima Diaba Offo XIII said, “It was never completed.”
Enang, faced with the long-suffering of the communities on the occasion had was touched that they were asking for school and hospital in 2019 after 40 years of oil and gas being taken from their soils, saying: “ I scooped the water from the pond which you people drink. It is smeared with oil.”
“On behalf of the nation, I apologize to you. We will change for the better for you, for us all as a nation. We will not only build schools, hospitals for you, we will provide complete communities for you. Working with the state government, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty, Ministry of Niger Delta Affair, we will ask to know what they are doing.
“We are coming here at a very good time. Just two days ago, the President presented the draft 2020 budget to National Assembly (NASS). Now that I have seen what you go through, we are going to take this message to the NASS, to redirect the budget to know what they are providing for you,” he said. (Text, except of the headline courtesy of Vanguard)