Delta oil communities protest, allege N16b fraud
Alleging that the N16 billion in 2015 budget of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) was not accounted for, host communities yesterday, besieged the House of Assembly complex, Asaba to protest against the agency’s 2016 fiscal plan.
Led by the state chairman of the oil and gas host communities, Peter Egedegbe and National Coordinator, Maikpobi Okareme, the protesters who came in over six buses at about 9:30am, demanded that projects located outside petroleum bearing communities should not be approved by the lawmakers.
In a letter addressed to the Speaker Monday Igbuya, the protesters who were over a hundred, called for the full implementation of the 2015 budget as passed, especially projects that have been designed for which tender documents have been prepared and ready for distribution.
They argued that there was a need for more appropriation by the commission for capital expenditure than recurrent and pleaded with the lawmakers to stop deliberation on the 2016 budget, until the anomalies were corrected in the proposal.
Alleging that the 2015 budget has not been fully implemented, they further alleged that all the figures were cleverly omitted to short-change the host communities especially in the capital appropriation.
The chairman, House committee on DESOPADEC, Denis Omovie commended them for the protest and assured that the House would consider the interest of all stakeholders without neglecting the mandate of DESOPADEC.
Meanwhile, there is uneasy calm in a petroleum-producing community in Isoko South local council, Delta State, as two factions of the Olomoro Oil & Gas Landlords Association trade words over alleged large-scale fraud and corruption within the body.
The association is a creation of the constitution of Olomoro people and comprises four units namely wellheads, pipelines, access roads and Awaekia, which nominates the members.
The stakeholders cut across the three-quarters (Uruabe, Ukoli and Egbo) that make up the Olomoro clan. Through this body, royalty from oil exploration activities are paid to stakeholders in Olomoro.
Since its establishment, it was learnt that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and its affiliate firms had punctually paid yearly rents in line with established laws to affected families, directly through the various units within the association.
Since 2011 40% of all money and other benefits accruing from oil and gas exploration to Olomoro clan reportedly went to the association for use of their land.
Trouble however started when a splinter group of the body, led by Williams Iki-Ebieroma, alleged that the chairman, Alex Izogo, and his father/treasurer, Julius Izogo, have looted the funds of the association through corrupt and fraudulent means with adverse consequences for the Olomoro people.
The faction stated: “We notice a lot of recklessness, impropriety, gross indiscipline in the way and manner finances and administration generally of the association are managed by the duo of Alex Izogo and Julius Izogo without due regard to accountability.
Both men were accused of running the body as a family private estate. Major decisions concerning the association are taken without consultation with stakeholders’ by way of meetings.
“We strongly feel that the essence of the 40% entitlement to family landowners hosting oil and gas facilities and installations, as agreed by the people of Olomoro clan and guaranteed by its constitution, is being defeated.”
They said the benefits do not percolate to most family members, but to a few in the likes of Alex and Julius Izogo and their cohorts.”
But Alex Izogo, the allegedly deposed chairman, described the charge as a calculated attempt to “castigate and assassinate the characters of the association’s executive members.
Izogo, asserting that he remained the body’s chairman, as his tenure had not expired, disclosed in a statement signed by him and the secretary, Oghenede Sunday, that those behind the write-up were persons who do not have the mandate of its entire membership.
Izogo said the other faction’s move was borne out of greed and malice against his executive, whose tenure only started in August 2011 and that the association’s previous administration was in office for more than nine years.
He also claimed that the action of the Iki-Ebieroma group was just aimed at removing the present executives, just to occupy the positions they had been seeking for a long time.
However, Izogo disclosed that on receipt of the petition by “the disgruntled few,” the association’s executive members held an elaborate meeting which was fully attended by all of them except Iki-Ebieroma and his ‘cohorts,’ stressing that even the vice-chairmen and secretaries to the four persons who authored write-up attended.
He added that at the meeting held on April 11, 2016, the action of the Iki-Ebieroma group of four persons was discussed and a decision taken to suspend him and all his ‘collaborators.’
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