One day after the meeting between leaders of the Niger Delta region and President Muhammadu Buhari, oil-producing communities, under the aegis of Host Communities of Nigeria, Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, yesterday, reeled out an additional and separate five-point demand for the Federal Government, which it said would guarantee the success of the on-going dialogue and ensure a peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Niger Delta.
The demands are: Immediate release by the Federal Government, of part of the gas flare penalty funds to HOSTCOM; immediate passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by the National Assembly; re-routing of the 13 per cent derivation fund in the Exclusive List, directly to HOSTCOM account as enshrined in Section 162.2 of the constitution, which the group said is against the ongoing practice of payment to the accounts of states and local governments; outright award of pipeline surveillance contracts to HOSTCOM and creation of a new Directorate of Hostland Security with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, to cater directly for security needs of host communities including government and International Oil Companies’ investments.
During a visit to Vanguard’s office in Abuja, National Chairman of HOSTCOM, Dr. Mike Emuh, expressed joy over the dialogue held with the Niger Delta leaders, but faulted non-inclusion of youths of the region in the dialogue.
According to him, in the committee set up by the Federal Government, no youth was included. The youths, who are the major agitators, were not included among those to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, thereby denying them the opportunity to air their grievances.
He said: “We support everything that was discussed and agreed upon at the meeting, especially as they were all in the interest of the Niger Delta. However, it should not always be about the elders. The people who are responsible for all the destructions in the region and those who are at the forefront of the agitations are the youths; they should have been carried along also.”
ACCUSES GOVERNORS OF SUBDUING DISCUSSIONS ON 13% DERIVATION
He alleged that the issue of stripping the state governors of the 13 per cent derivation fund and transferring same to the host communities was curiously removed from the agenda of the meeting, because of the presence of the state governors at the meeting.
According to him, the state governors might have cautioned and prevailed on the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, not to bring up the issue of the 13 per cent derivation, because of their interest in the fund.
Highlighting the demands of the oil-producing communities, Emuh called on the Federal Government to immediately release part of the gas flare penalty funds, put at N98 billion, to HOSTCOM.
According to him, the Presidency had confirmed the availability of the fund and signed for the release, while the fund was scheduled to be released by October 2016, but due to certain circumstances, the release was delayed. He accused the Chief of Staff to the President of delaying the release of the funds, claiming that despite an agreement reached between the Presidency and leaders of the oil-producing communities, represented by HOSTCOM, the fund was yet to be released.
Emuh explained that the gas flare penalty fund was from fines imposed on oil companies for flaring gas in the region, with the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, collecting the fines and paying same into an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
He said the total funds was about N2 trillion, but an agreement was entered into with the Federal Government for the release of N98 billion, as majority of the funds had been spent by the Federal Government due to the absence of an organized oil-producing communities’ groups in the past.
Other demands, he said, included the immediate passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by the National Assembly, and the re-routing of the 13 per cent derivation fund in the Exclusive List, directly to HOSTCOM account as enshrined in Section 162.2 of the federal constitution, which he said was against the ongoing practice of payment to states’ and local governments’ accounts.
In addition, he called for an outright award of pipeline surveillance contracts to HOSCOM and the creation of a new ‘Directorate of Hostland Security’ with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, to cater directly for security needs of host communities including government and International Oil Companies’ investments.
In support of these demands, he said, “HOSCOM also reaffirmed and buttressed our main objectives of securing a very safe working environment and quality livelihood for our people with emphasis on food via massive mechanized agriculture; Health via upgrading our hospitals/medical centers with state-of-the-art equipment and restocking drug stores with genuine and top quality drugs and recruitment of very qualified personnel, education, training and retraining; women and youth empowerment; infrastructural development; “Industrial plants, modular refineries, fertilizer plants, agriculture and other industrial processing plants and adopting latest technology for gas flare elimination and clean up of the whole Niger Delta.”
He stated that HOSCOM had entered into partnership with some reputable international organizations and companies to deliver some of the objectives, noting that HOSCOM appreciated the President’s genuine intentions towards realizing a truly secured and peaceful Niger Delta.
He warned politicians against contaminating and jeopardizing the positive measures that were being put in place by the President, saying “Once more, we reiterate our determination to deliver the required dividends to our people, but it must be clearly noted that these noble objectives can be met with the immediate execution of the above matters mentioned.” (Culled from Vanguard)