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Niger Delta Ministry seeks control of 3% for host community

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Determined to ensure that the ordinary people in the oil bearing communities benefit from the Three Percent allocated to them in the newly assented Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry on Thursday stated that it has an important role to play in the disbursement of the fund.

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The minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio who addressed newsmen at a briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team in the State House, Abuja, Thursday, assured that the Ministry of Niger Delta would ensure that the funds are used on executing tangible projects for the host communities, rather than disbursing among the elite class from such communities.

He said notwithstanding the controversy that has continued to trail the three percent allocation, the move by the President is a good starting point.

He also opined that rather than the back and forth over how the 3% would be utilised, President Buhari should be commended for mustering the political will to assent to the law after over five decades.

“I think the major problem is not about the disbursement but how it will impact the communities. These funds will be managed by the host communities themselves and the 3% will go into a trust fund for the various communities who are the original indigenes,” Akpabio said.

“We are excited about the Petroleum Industry Act, our job is to help facilitate the effective participation of the host communities. The trustees of the fund will come from the actual community.

“PIA when implemented is going to assuage the feelings of the host communities because they never had any real benefit in over 50years. The major thing now is to use it well for their own benefit.”

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Continuing, Akpabio prayed the people to see the development as a major step in the right direction.

“The problem of the host community fund is not the percentage neither is it the problem money. But how the money will be utilized judiciously and the same time, in a way where there is no acrimony.

“I don’t want that will break or cause communal clashes. So, I believe strongly as a ministry that is responsible for the peace for the region, that we will take interest in how certain decisions are made as to who is a host community and who are those that should manage the fund.

“The law would have provided for this but at the same time, human being must also assist in the law in such a way that there is no acrimony.

“The Petroleum Industry Act PIA when implemented is going to assuage the feelings of the people of the host communities because they never had half a percent when oil when discovered in 1956 in Olobri. That is why I said that it is not the percentage that is the issue. Some communities could not even do this solar powered toilet, some had no drinking water, even water tankers supplying them water failed because they had oil exploration and exploitation had destroyed their water system. But now with the PIA, they would be able to do certain things for themselves without waiting on oil companies, the federal government or the state to do it for them.

“My prayer is that the people would see this as a major step. People are arguing about percentages, I am not interested in that. We would manage this 3% but the major thing is to use it well. Even the small percentage that use to come to the NDDC, at least, they did not utilize it well. I believe the host communities would list out their problems, come together in unity and justify this action of Mr president and this action of Nigerians.

“This one is going directly to the host communities. We will do a lot of sensitization from the ministry, visit the people. When we look at the Act and know the composition of those who should be in charge of the money, we will also make our inputs. And it should be mostly project based. It shouldn’t be like a normal contract. It should almost be like direct labour. It is a major leap forward.

“Today, majority of Niger Deltans are very happy that the government has decided to deal with the host communities directly. This one will touch their lives directly. I also know that some communities will fight but of course, it is expected. Most of those things would be settled.

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On the controversial forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Akpabio said the document which detailed discrepancies in contract awards in the past, flagrant disregard for public procurement procedures among other infractions, was ready for presentation to the President.

He explained that as soon as the Ministry gets a convenient date from the presidency, it would be submitted.

Also at the briefing, the Minister revealed that the International Oil Companies (IOC’s) were owing the NDDC over $4billion dollars.

“NDDC is also being owed $4billion by the OICs unremitted funds. The federal government is owing a little bit of its own part that it should do to the NDDC. I believe that with the audit of the commission, we will begin to offset those things working closely with the ministry of finance. There are plans to pay those debts. I want to see a balance sheet of the NDDC that is bankable. The IOCs are expected to pay to the NDDC 3 percent of their annual budgets. All of them have failed to do so at different times.”

Corroborating, the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, explained that the IOCs are expected to remit 3% of their earnings to the NDDC annually but have all been acting in default.

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On the East West road project still under construction, Senator Akpabio said over N10billion have been committed into the project by the current administration, attributing the delelay in the completion to paucity of funds among others, and the 15km Eleme, Onne sections which were not originally captured in the project.

He said the entire stretch of the road with a distance of over 338km has 41 bridges linking major sections, disclosing that of the N10bn budgeted for it in 2021, over N7.4billion have been paid out to the contractors.

He, however, assured that the federal government is committed to completing sections 1-4 of the road by 2022.

Speaking on the award of contract to complete the NDDC headquarters in Rivers State, Akpabio alleged that the building was being used as conduit to siphone money from government.

He furhter alleged that previous administrations were paying N300million as rent annually, rather than facilitating the completion of the building and move in.

He said it is on record that he is the first Minister that visited the headquarters to find out what had stalled the project.

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