Companies will no longer have any excuse not to pay —Saraki
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Senate, yesterday, finally reviewed and amended the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Establishment Act of 2000, to make it mandatory for International Oil and Gas Companies to set aside three percent of their budget for the development of the Niger Delta region.
The Bill for an Act to amend Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act, 2000, and for other matters connected therewith, was yesterday read the third time and passed.
The Bill, which was sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, PDP, Delta North, was read for the first time on July 26, 2017, read the second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta for further legislative action.
The Bill is intended to augment and strengthen the Principal Act so as to clarify certain provisions of the Act, obliterate obvious lacuna and propel the Commission towards excellent service delivery, which will in turn impact positively on the Niger Delta Region and the nation in general.
The bill will also clarify certain provisions of the Act and to provide for prompt remittance of funds due to the Commission and penalties for delay or default.
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided, said that with the passage of the bill, these oil companies and other stakeholders in the gas sector will now be mandated by law to remit the three per cent to the Niger Delta region, just as he said that this would help to boost the revenue base of the NDDC to carry out some projects as well as arrest youth restiveness in the region.
Earlier in his presentation, sponsor of the Bill, Senator Nwaoboshi, said that gas processing companies have not paid the 3% statutory fund to the NDDC, adding: “However, Section 14 of the Act which provides for fund for the Commission has been strengthened to ensure prompt release of statutory funds to the Commission.
“There are adequate statutes to ensure proper utilisation of the funds, more so, the National Assembly will definitely carry out its oversight function over the Commission, to ensure accountability in the utilisation of the fund.
“Accordingly, it is imperative to amend the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act, 2000, so as to pave the way for more efficient running of the commission.”
“It would be recalled that this hallowed Chamber, at its sitting on October 11, 2016, while considering the request of the President for the confirmation of the Chairman and members of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) observed certain ambiguities in the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act, 2000 and thereupon, mandated the Committee on Niger Delta to carry out a review of the Act.
“The Committee ensured that a comprehensive review was carried out, as major stakeholders were also consulted and their inputs equally considered and all of which culminated into the provisions of the Bill, which I believe would definitely take care of the lapses in the Principal Act.
“It would also be recalled that the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000 through the Principal Act was to accelerate the development of the Niger Delta Region and consequently stem the spate of restiveness in the region, which was impacting negatively on national resources. The Commission to some extent has been executing its lofty mandate, but for the obvious impediments, particularly, in the area of funding. It has therefore, become necessary to review the Principal Act, so as to reposition the Commission in carrying out its core mandate efficiently.
“Suffice to make reference to Section 2 (1) (b) of the Act, which states as follows:
“There is hereby established for the commission a Governing Board (in this Act referred to as “the Board”) which shall consist of –one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member States, that is –; Abia State; Akwa Ibom State; Bayelsa State; Cross River State; Delta State; Edo State; Imo State; Ondo State; and Rivers State”.
“ It turned out that the interpretation of “an indigene of an oil producing area” has been problematic for oil producing area seems to be quite amorphous. This Bill has taken care of the issue by clarifying the phrase to read thus: an indigene of an oil producing Local Government Area. I believe, this has resolved the issue once and for all.
“ An onerous challenge being encountered by NDDC since its establishment in 2000 is in the area of funding, particularly, delay or default in release of fund for it to carry out its functions. For instance, the Commission is being owed the sum of over N1.8 trillion, while its debt profile is over N1 trillion. Worst still, in breach of the provision of the Act, no money from ecological fund has ever been released to the Commission, neither has gas processing companies paid the 3% statutory fund to it. However, Section 14 of the Act which provides for fund for the Commission has been strengthened to ensure prompt release of statutory funds to the Commission.
“There are adequate statutes to ensure proper utilization of the funds, more so, the National Assembly will definitely carry out its oversight function over the Commission, to ensure accountability in the utilization of the fund.
“Accordingly, it is imperative to amend the Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act, 2000, so as to pave the way for more efficient running of the Commission.”