Governors differ over alleged diversion of 13% oil derivation funds - THE ENCOUNTER NEWS


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Governors differ over alleged diversion of 13% oil derivation funds

AMID mounting allegations of diversion of 13 per cent oil derivation funds levelled against oil-producing states, some governors have refused to give detailed accounts of how the money has been spent over the years, while others simply maintained sealed lips.

Interestingly, even those that responded provided terse statement that did not reflect tangible projects executed with the accrued funds, which is said to be in the region of N9t since 1999.

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, unemployment and violence, among others in the region. Other states that are benefitting from it are Ondo, Imo, Abia, Anambra and of late, Lagos.

In September, the Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, 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 state governors, as majority of the communities have been accusing the governors of diverting the money, thereby denying their people the basic necessities of life.

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

Two weeks ago, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, also lamented the alleged diversion of the derivation funds by oil-producing states.

He expressed regrets that the fund’s utilisation has become a political tool in the hands of benefitting state governors, stressing that the fund’s diversion has contributed to blatant underdevelopment of the region.

“It is fair that the 13 per cent 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 per cent?”

As these allegations mount, some groups in the Niger Delta, including Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) said the people do not need Omo-Agege’s comment to know that the derivation funds were not spent judiciously. 

WHEN the Edo State government was contacted, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, promised to make the state’s position known shortly. One week after, he was again reached on phone, but failed to pick up, neither did he reply to text messages on the issue.

THE Rivers State government also kept mum on the issue when contacted as the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, failed to respond to several calls, neither did he respond to text messages sent to him on the subject.

Also contacted on the issue, the state Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Dr. Peter Medee, declined comment and directed The Guardian to speak with Nsirim, the Information Commissioner.

WHEN the Lagos State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Olalere Odusote was contacted on the development, especially the latest allegation by Omo-Agege, he responded: “I do not understand the question, I am a bit confused because the allegation is not specific, even at that, it is not enough to say Lagos has been mismanaging its derivation funds.” 
He continued: “I am not aware of his statement and how to respond to it. If there is a specific allegation, I can look into it and answer. But for now, there is none, somebody has just made a general statement, which may, or may not be properly quoted. So, it is difficult to respond to, as nobody can say all the states have been doing that. There is nothing to defend because there is no specificity to the allegation. I cannot respond to something that is not clear. Let him back up his allegation with evidence.”

THE Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, while reacting to the allegation said that governors of oil-producing states are doing well with the funds, despite persistent accusations by stakeholders in the region.

Speaking in Asaba, Okowa said agitation for the money to be paid directly to affected communities was untenable since it would be impossible for all oil-bearing communities to control their resources.He asked: “If they are agitating for 13 per cent to be paid to them directly what then happens to the remaining percentage?

“If every community wants to control the resources, then we are heading towards being a Banana Republic, but if any governor mismanages the money, he should be voted out. Again, if they want the 13 per cent, why not the entire percentage?” He asked.

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