From Ameachi Prosper (The New Diplomat’s Delta State Correspondent)
Deputy Senate President (DSP), Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has decried the inappropriate utilisation of the 13 per cent derivation fund meant for oil producing communities by Governors in the Niger Delta region.
Recall The New Diplomat had reported leaders in the region have pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to authorize a direct disbursement of the 13% derivation fund meant for oil communities as first line charge to host Oil and gas producing communities to address existing under-development in the highly devastated oil areas.
DSP Omo-Agege in an interview with the Vanguard over the weekend said Niger Delta Governors have continued to mis-apply the fund to the detriment of oil producing areas that are in ruins.
Omo-Agege, who had in the past canvassed for the direct disbursement of the funds to host communities, added that Governors in the region have continued to deploy the funds for purposes they’re not meant for.
“Rather than channel these funds to the development of the requisite host communities, governments of the Niger Delta have either misused the funds or diverted them to the development of non-oil producing communities in cities and state capitals,” Omo-Agege said.
Speaking further, Senator Omo-Agege, who represents Delta Central Senatorial District at Upper Legislative Chamber lamented that in states with Oil Producing Development Commissions such as Delta state, only 50 percent of the fund is allocated to the Commission monthly to manage on behalf of the host communities. Questioning how the remainder of the fund is being utilised, he asked: “What happens to the other 50 percent?”
Omo-Agege continued: “So the issue of mismanagement of the 13 percent derivation fund by state governors is not a campaign rhetoric for me. Far from being a shot in the dark, the position I have taken is both credible and reasonable, just as it is a service to the people who called me to serve, and in fact, to humanity.
“The fact that the impact of the oil wealth coming from the Niger Delta is not felt by the people who live in the oil producing communities has been a source of concern for me, over the years.
“It is also a concern directly shared by numerous communities who play host to critical multi-billion-dollar oil and gas assets, and who bear the burden of environmental degradation.”
“You know very well that industrial waste, oil spillages, gas flares, fire disasters, acid rains, flooding, erosion and so on, caused by decades of oil and gas exploration have led to the pollution of farmlands and fishponds, which has left the host communities with poverty and disease.”
Recall a recent survey conducted by The New Diplomat in the six states of the South-South namely, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers had revealed the popular position of people in the South South region on who should directly access the fund.
According to the survey, people of the geo-political zone said the derivation funds should rather be paid directly to the host communities, which suffer the brunt of environmental devastation, as a first line charge as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The findings revealed that “81 per cent of South-South people demand a situation where the existing 13 per cent derivation is released directly to the host oil-producing communities as first line charge.”
“While 10 per cent of the people believe that it is better to maintain the existing structure, nine per cent were somewhat reserved, wanting more clarity by demanding that the National Assembly should be encouraged to legislate a direct disbursement legal protocol for the host oil-producing communities,” the report stated.
DSP Omo-Agege, while backing the demands by the Oil and Gas producing communities to have the fund directly disbursed to them, said: “It is to ameliorate this pitiable conditions of the people that 13 per cent of the revenue generated from oil sales was set aside in section 162 of the Constitution as derivative fund to develop the region. Twenty-one years and many governments later, the condition in the Niger Delta remains dire with little or nothing to show for the huge sums released so far to the oil producing states, for the development of the oil producing areas.”