The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, has condemned in unequivocal terms the diversion of the 13 percent oil derivation funds by oil producing states in view of the implications for the socio-economic wellbeing of ordinary people in the affected states.
The lawmaker lamented that despite the billions of Naira being distributed to the affected states from the Federation Accounts on monthly basis, the Niger Delta region remained hugely underdeveloped with the ordinary people lacking access to basic necessities of life, including portable water.
Senator Omo Agege, who is also representing one of the Niger Delta Region’s senatorial districts in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, made these remarks on Thursday in Abuja when he hosted a delegation of Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON), led by the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass in Brass Kingdom and Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff.
The lawmaker also rued the wasteful utilisation of the 13 percent derivation funds, alleging that rather than use the funds to improve the wellbeing of their people, some governors have turned the funds into political assets in their attempts to retain power at all costs
As a way of ensuring proper utilization of the funds for people-oriented programmes and projects in the affected states, Omo- Agege canvassed 100 percent utilisation of the funds for oil-bearing communities, as against the current practice where states disburse only 50 percent of the funds for the development commissions in their states.
Pointing out that since the host communities bear the burden of environmental degradation from the oil industry, it is only fair that the funds be channeled into the development of the affected areas.
The lawmaker clarified: “I have been discussing this matter with Chief (Wellington) Okrika even before I became a senator. It is fair that the 13 percent derivation is meant to ameliorate the conditions of the people who are most impacted by oil exploration and exploitation. That is the only reason this fund was set aside as a consequence of your agitation which you led for so many years.
“These funds are not meant for the state governments. The state governments are meant to be purveyors to host communities. Even in states that have development commissions, they only earmark 50 percent of the funds to the Commission to manage on behalf of the host communities.
“So what happens to the other 50 percent? We have always taken the position from the outset that 100 percent of the funds is meant for the development of host communities because it is not every area that suffers from oil exploration and degradation. But for some reasons, it has become a political tool.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Matters, Senator Ita Enang, urged Omo Agege to intervene in critical issues in the Niger Delta region, including the N98 billion gas flare fund, 13 percent derivation payment to oil producing communities the controversy surrounding the Pipeline Surveillance Contract, and the passage of a bill for the establishment of a Derivation Commission.
The Presidential aide pointed out the Niger Delta people should be engaged in the surveillance contract to give them a sense of belonging
This is even as he bemoaned the lack of development commissions in Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States and urged the Deputy President of the Senate to help in ensuring that the affected states have their development commissions in order to take development to the grassroots.