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FG, lawmakers want 13 per cent oil derivation paid to host communities

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The Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, yesterday sought an amendment to the Niger Delta Development Commission Act to ensure that the 13 per cent oil derivation fund is paid directly to host communities instead of governors.

The Federal Government was forced to concede 13 per cent of the revenue accruing from oil to Niger Delta states following agitations that the zone, which produces oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, was being denied development.

The money is geared towards checking poverty, youth employment and violence, among others in the region.

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However, the majority of the communities have been accusing the governors of diverting the money, denying their people the basic necessities of life.

Speaking at a webinar organised by OrderPaper Nigeria on ‘Resolving the Host Community Question, Enang, Speaker, House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Essien Ayi, decried growing poverty in Niger Delta.

They called for an urgent overhaul of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a review of the 13 per cent extra revenue being voted for oil producing states as well as a consideration of the ecological fund.

Enang, who blamed the governors and oil companies for some of the problems in the region, urged the National Assembly to intervene.

“Oil companies such as Agip, Shell and Mobil seem to have conspired in ensuring that Niger Delta communities are impoverished by way of dividing them,” he said.

“The National Assembly should amend the Niger Delta Development Commission Act, and they should amend the constitution, so that the 13 per cent derivation does not go to the governors; it should go to the host communities and targeted at development of these communities.”

The presidential aide also urged the legislature to retool the Local Content Act, stressing that it was focusing on big capital projects instead of looking at the local communities in every oil areas.

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Enang said: “Let the committee on Niger Delta look at the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) headed by Simbi Wabote; it is almost veering out of purpose; it is not working for the development or management of local content in oil producing areas. Let it return to the mandate for which it was created.”

Gbajabiamila said the House would find a sustainable solution through legislative actions.

He said the lawmakers were looking to address the loopholes in the NDDC, while taking proactive steps through the PIB.

According to him, the political differences bedeviling the development of the region must be addressed.

Ayi condemning what he called “disdainful exposè and consequent disgraceful display by some actors upon whom the sacred responsibility of ensuring development of the Niger Delta Region was entrusted”.

He said cooperation was needed to address the problems in the region.

The lawmaker said: “Nigeria must not allow the crisis of this global pandemic to go to waste and must therefore seize the opportunity to reform and improve the petroleum sector which remains the mainstay of the economy.”

“In this regard, the leadership and indeed, the entire House of Representatives eagerly await the outcome of this conference in order to highlight it as a significant value addition to deliberations and other legislative interventions on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) when we reconvene from our annual recess.”

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The Executive Director, Centre for Social Studies and Development (CSSD), Ken Henshaw, faulted a lack of structures for dispute resolution in affected communities.

He said oil communities are losing confidence in the ability, impartiality and willingness of regular judicial processes to efficiently resolve disputes between resource-affected communities and oil companies.

According to him, efforts should be made to ensure that benefit-sharing mechanisms translate to tangible benefits for the people of the Niger Delta region.

Also speaking, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, lamented that there had not been an effective monitoring of the NDDC and the 13 per cent derivation fund.

She called for the scrapping of the NDDC, stating that the commission had failed in its mandate, while she advocated the use of the model for the development of Abuja to develop the region, using established contractors to build major projects.

Koripamo-Agary insisted that the region is dire in need of infrastructure development.

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