ABUJA – THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT plans to plough 10 percent of the money it makes from the Niger Delta oil back into the oil-bearing communities in a bid to put a permanent end to agitations in the region, a report said yesterday.
Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mohammed Barkindo, confirmed that talks were being held on ways to give back a share of the oil wealth to the oil-producing states where militants have cut production by a third over the past three years.
According to reports, the initiative, if approved by the National Assembly, would signal a new phase in governmentâ€™s efforts to forge a lasting peace in the key production area of the worldâ€™s eighth largest oil exporter.
But the source said the plan had to be cleared because of expected opposition from the other regions of the country.
Authoritative sources told Vanguard yesterday that the move is a direct fallout of the visit of Niger Delta governors to Aso Rock in the wake of amnesty declaration by the Federal Government.
The ten per cent plan, according to the source, will be an amendment to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly Emmanuel Egbogah, President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s Special Adviser on oil, was quoted as saying that the president supported transferring wealth from the NNPC to delta communities.
NNPC GMD, Mohammed Barkindo, confirmed that discussions were being held to find ways to give a share of the oil wealth to the nine oil-producing states.
â€œWe are looking at the various options on how we can empower the producing communities without violating the current laws,â€ said Barkindo.
The NNPC holds Nigeriaâ€™s majority stake in joint ventures operated with international oil companies. Currently 13 percent of oil revenue goes to the oil producing states.
A special government appointed technical task force last November recommended that the 13 percent be hiked to 25 percent and gradually increased to 50 percent. The government is yet to respond.
Egbogah said he intended to add the proposal to reforms the government hopes to enact by the end of the year, which would also impose tougher terms on oil companies.
The plan for the delta is â€œa serious one, a major one, something quite revolutionaryâ€, Egbogah said.
It would be recalled that as part of finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua offered amnesty to militants and most militant leaders have accepted it and laid down their arms.
Militants have long demanded a greater share of the oil revenue for the oil communities. The offer would apply to all communities in oil-producing areas of the delta who would receive cash benefits, delivered through a trust-style mechanism which they could then pool for social projects.
â€œThese benefits will flow directly to them,â€ Egbogah said. â€œEvery community, whether blind or deaf or dumb, every citizen will say: â€˜I own a part of this businessâ€™.â€