By Egena Sunday Ode
The Federal Government has said International Oil Companies IOCs operating in Nigeria are collectively owning the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, over $4b.
Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who dropped the hint on Thursday at a briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja noted, however, that government had begun the process to recover $4 billion from the IOCs.
The indebtedness spanned from several years of unpaid commitments from the 3%, each of the IOCs are mandated to remit to the interventionist agency from their annual budget.
Akpabio said that the funds were part of monies NDDC was expected to deploy in executing development projects in the oil producing region in Nigeria and vowed that government will do whatever it takes to recover the funds from the oil companies.
Akpabio who was speaking on the performance of the NDDC as part of the activities of his Ministry, however berated the agency for “ acting like Father Christmas and Stock Exchange” over the years.
The Minister also revealed that the NDDC was owing contractors about N3 trillion through frivolous contract awards, many of which have remained unverified.
“We are investigating the NDDC through the forensic auditing. Since my assumption of office, l have checked and have not seen even a 5km of road done by the NDDC. We are still searching to understand where the funds they spent went into and we are going to find them”
Also speaking on the Ogoni clean up, he disclosed that 21 sites have been completed while new contracts will soon be awarded for 36 new sites.
“ NDDC is being owed over $4b by the IOCs and federal government is making every efforts to collect the money. They were expected to pay 3% of their annual budget to the NDDC, all of them are owing the NDDC”
“The federal government is owing a little bit on 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 3percent of their annual budgets. All of them have failed to do so at different times.”
Also speaking on the 3% dedicated to the host communities under the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act, Akpabio opined that the Ministry should be allowed to manage the funds, but added that it will ensure that none of the host communities will be shortchanged
“The problem of the host community fund is not the percentage neither is the problem money. But how the money will be utilized judiciously and the same time, in a way where this 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.
This PIB has been a game on the drawing board.
“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.