South-South Governors on Tuesday demanded the upward review from 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent, appropriated to the Trust Fund for host oil Communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now before the National Assembly.
The Chairman of the South-South Forum and Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, was quoted by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as expressing the governors’ stance on the appropriation review proposal at the end of their meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Okowa, who noted that the 2.5 per cent currently proposed for host communities in the PIB was inadequate, said: “We are of the view that while we welcome the Host Community Trust Fund, we do believe that 2.5 per cent that is appropriated in that bill for the purpose of host community fund is inadequate.
“We have discussed with our people and collectively as leaders of the people in our various states and as leaders standing in on behalf of our people, we urge the National Assembly to increase the provision in the host community fund from 2.5 per cent to 10 per cent.
“This is in the best interest of our communities and the nation,’’ Okowa said. If satisfied with the provision of the trust fund, Okowa maintained that the host communities would be watchdogs of oil facilities on behalf of the Federal, State Governments and oil companies.
“A peaceful environment in the various oil communities would enable us have greater and seamless production, without any form of disruption going into the future.
“The Governors have also urged President Muhammadu Buhari that in the absence of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), funds for the commission, beyond the payment of salaries, should be put in an escrow account until he constitutes the board”, the governor added.
On the reported ongoing forensic audit in the commission, Okowa said the governors were aware that due to the exercise the board has not been constituted.
In view of the development, he said the governors advised that “monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account, until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money for visible accounting.’’
He also expressed the governors’ concern over the running of the NDDC in over a year by an Interim Caretaker Committee and lately by an Interim Administrator, saying that the interim arrangements is not in the best interest of the people of the Niger Delta region since the opportunity for all states to be represented on the board of the NDDC has been blocked.