South South governors seek better stake for oil communities
•FG promises reconstitution of commission’s board after forensic audit
The South-South Governors’ Forum has sought upward review from 2.5 to 10 per cent as Host Community Trust Fund for oil-bearing communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
It also advised President Muhammadu Buhari to safeguard the funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in an escrow account pending the constitution of a board for the interventionist agency.
The forum’s Chairman and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, made public the resolutions after their meeting at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday night.
He said: “We took up the issue of the PIB, which is already before the National Assembly. And having compared notes, 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 is inadequate.
“We have discussed with our people and collectively as leaders, we urge the National Assembly to increase the provision from 2.5 to 10 per cent in the best interest of our communities and the nation.”
The state chief executives maintained that the communities have a role to play in the protection of Nigeria’s oil infrastructure, and would do so religiously if adequately taken care of.
He described as worrisome the running of the NDDC in over a year first by an interim caretaker committee and later an interim administrator.
According to him, the situation does not augur well for the people of the oil-rich Niger Delta, “as an opportunity for all states to be well represented does not exist.”
The chairman further observed: “So, it means that the NDDC is actually run in such a manner that is not truly beneficial to our people because there are no stakeholders’ inputs in its running.
“We do know that there is a forensic audit taking place. And if that is the reason the board has not been constituted, our advice is that the funds being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted for accountability.”
When eventually inaugurated, the governors stressed that the advisory council must be made to oversight the board for checks and balances in a way that ensures value for money.
MEANWHILE, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, yesterday, assured that the NDDC board would be inaugurated at the completion of the audit.
During a tour of the agency’s new office in Port Harcourt ahead of its official commissioning tomorrow by President Muhammadu Buhari, he recalled that the governors, in the first place, demanded the inquiry, urging them to be patient.
In his remarks, NDDC’s interim administrator and chief executive, Effiong Akwa, asserted: “The essence of this event is for journalists to see things themselves, as seeing is believing.”
He commended Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State for providing the enabling environment for the execution of the project.
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