By Yusuf Ibrahim
The Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson recently granted a press interview to an international news media where he raised some serious issues concerning the Federal Government’s management of revenues earnings from crude oil as well as activities oil companies operating in the state.
Outside carpeting the federal government on his quest for resource control, the governor picked on Oil Companies operating in the state, for confrontation over an issue that is beyond the control of the duo.
While the governor may be right in advocating for resource control, natural justice demands that he doesn’t have to drag corporate entities or entrepreneurs who are helping build the economy into disrepute to achieve his goals.
There is no gainsaying that the attack on the oil companies is unfair, uncalled for and unwarranted, as the people of Bayelsa has partly enjoyed the meaningful impacts of been reckoned as an oil producing state for the years accounted for.
Of course, the revenue supposedly associated with an oil and gas host community is becoming an unbearable burden that one has to awake from its deception, owing to the required and necessary amenities, infrastructural development that are in the gaze of ‘Vague Futurism’ for the people of Bayelsa state.
The Governor who blamed the companies and its operations for the challenges he is having in the state is being economical with the truth. Furthermore, castigating them, as well as saying he has nothing to do with the state as well as describing these companies in the state as ‘mafia like,’ does not proffer solution to the perceived challenges facing the state.
The attack only gives credence to the assumptions in some quarters that recent change in altitude of the host communities to the company may have been sponsored by the state government.
For instance, a group in an attempt to stop Aiteo from renewing her operating license posted as leaders of host communities filed a suit at the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, against the company including others like the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Site Exploration and Production Limited as co-defendants.
The said aggrieved communities, led by their representatives in the suit marked FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015, are asking the court for an order setting aside the application, steps and processes initiated by Aiteo Exploration and Production Limited, identified as the fifth defendant, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The move can be said to be a fallout of what the governor explained in the said interview as the state’s failure to win the bid for the OML 29, an oil block currently operated by Aiteo.
The Governor’s response to the questions evidently suggest so. How has that worked out?”
Dickson responded thus, “I feel very bad about that. The Bayelsa State government never was given an opportunity to manage that oil block, which is the single biggest oil asset in our country. Benedict Peters doesn’t have anything to do with us; he doesn’t want anything to do with this state. That’s the attitude of all the oil companies, local or foreign.
” They rely on the federal government that has given them the licences. They rely on federal security to oppress the locals. Since he got that oil block, Benedict Peters has not even come to the state. We read in the newspapers about the billions he’s spending supporting different federal causes but he’s not concerned about what happens to our state.”
Answering another question which goes thus, What about the role of Nigerian oil companies?
Dickson said, “Aiteo, Agip […] These guys are going to have a mafia-like hold on this state.
“Our not being in control has created an additional problem, which is actually a bigger problem, of security in the state. Aiteo, Agip, all of them, the security and surveillance contracts they give, the criminals they work with and so on… If care is not taken in the next couple of years, these guys are going to have a mafia-like hold on this state because of the resources they have and the mafia-like way they relate to criminal elements.”
How successful is 13 % derivation fund managed
A quick retrospect on the issue, posses lamentations on the NorthErnest Hemingway, which has not the privilege to become an oil-producing States. For facts, immerse development could have beckoned on the North and West if it had one-third of oil revenue proceeds delivered to it as in the case of the Bayelsa state and the Niger Delta region.
While one is not against the quest for resource control, the important question that comes to mind when this argument surfaces is to what use the current 13 per cent derivation allocations be put? How has the huge funds accruing from it affected the lives of the indigenes of the Niger Delta since the inception of the initiative?
Despite claims of neglect and abandonment, investigation has revealed that governments of oil-producing states in Nigeria had over the years, failed to utilize the resources provided them to develop their states and the region.
Data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, revealed that oil-producing states received N7.006 trillion as payments under the 13 per cent Derivation principle over the last 18 years, from 1999 to 2016.
Analysis of the payments showed that from 1999 to 2003, N360.4 billion was paid to oil-producing states; N1.338 trillion were paid to the states between from 2004 and 2007; 2008 to 2011 saw the states receiving N2.36 trillion, while from 2012 to 2016, the states received N2.947 trillion.
But the huge sum notwithstanding, the Niger Delta region continues to suffer from massive infrastructure decay, widespread poverty and environmental degradation, among numerous others.
Consequently, the fund has become a subject of controversy between the oil-producing communities and their various states government, with the former asking the Federal Government to start paying the money directly to the communities and not into the coffers of the state.
Alarmed at the lack of development in oil-producing states despite the huge amount pumped into the states over the years, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed that the Federal Government is considering stripping states of the proceeds of the 13 per cent derivation funds, making sure that the funds are used for the development of oil-producing communities.
According to the minister, “The biggest problem in the Niger Delta is that as you go from point to point, you really cannot see any infrastructural investment. The Presidency is also reviewing a proposal that we have given him to look at how the 13 per cent derivation is applied.
“Right now it is a budgeting tool for state governments. We are going to be appealing to them to begin to put quite a bit of that into the core areas of the oil-producing communities, and not just to see it as a budgeting number,” the minister insisted.
The minister is not alone in this line of thinking, as President of Host Communities Producing Oil and Gas in Nigeria, HOSCON, Mr. Mike Emuh, in an interview with journalists recently called on the Federal Government to stop remitting the 13 per cent derivation allocation to the states.
According to him, the law, as amended in the 1999 Constitution, Section 162, Sub-section 2, states that 13 per cent derivation should be given to the host communities, adding that there is no law in Nigeria that stated that the fund should be given to a state governor or to a local government.
He said, “It was a gross misplacement of priority that the 13 per cent derivation funds were given to governors who lavished the money for the past 16 years without any development – human capital development and infrastructural development.
“Over 10 trillion naira had gone down the drain by those that claimed the money by then and this wrong act is still in practice till now.”
There is no doubt that these calls emanating from stakeholders within the region is an indication that state governors has failed to utilize the funds at their disposal judiciously.
By implication, as chief executives of their states, they have failed to manage the state’s profitably with the much they have. This is why the call to refresh our minds on the need to appreciate investors like as some of the oil companies who through hard work have created employment for over 20,000 Nigerians and are contributing meaningfully to the country’s economic development and growth.
To this end, Bayelsans are employing the host community governors to look inward and as a matter of urgency restore the beauty and accolades that should be associated with a host community rather than trading blames. The people of Bayelsa state awaits structures and enabling environment to foster relentless investments as well as investors to the state to grow its economy for the future of the unborn generations.
Communities accuse Bayelsa govt of neglect
Meanwhile, a group known as Integrated Oil and Gas host communities in Bayelsa state recently accused the state government of total neglect of the area despite the 13 per cent derivation received monthly from the federal government.
The group also faulted the commission of enquiry set up by the state government to investigate activities of pipeline surveillance in the state, describing it as a one-sided committee targeted to smear the image of some prominent leaders in the state.
The Secretary of the group, Hon. Zuwa Konugha, who spoke with newsmen in Yenagoa, expressed concern over what he called the deliberate plans by the state government to play politics with the livelihood of the teeming youths who are beneficiaries of the employment opportunities provided by the surveillance contractors in the state.
The group said the most worrisome aspect is that the committees recently inaugurated to probe the environmental concern in the state caused by oil companies are made up of foreigners, adding that the state government carried out its plans without recourse to regulatory agencies like NOSDREA, DPR and other major key stakeholders.
The group also stated that the government does not have the support of the host communities to carry out its intended plan to ridicule their members through its commission of enquiry, demanding that the government should immediately take a comprehensive data of oil and gas production of various communities and work out modalities on how to engage its indigenes in empowerment activities.
Earlier the Chairman of the group, Mr. Gift Ebiki, stated that the host communities have never benefitted from the state and federal government, adding that the host communities will continue to press forward their demands until the area is developed.
With the current demand for infrastructure development by the people, wisdom demands that Hon Dickson should rather invest his time and the 13 per cent derivation fund to the benefit of the citizens of the state rather than engaging in a meaningless fight. It is only through collaboration with the oil producing companies that the communities will be provided with basic infrastructures like good roads, water, hospital, electricity, employment and the other good things of life.
Creating an atmosphere of rancour between the oil companies and the host communities can only help prolong the evil days they have become due to negligence on the part of the state government. Only an atmosphere of peace, tranquillity and cooperation can bring the needed development to the state. This I why the governor most join hands with indigenous and oil companies operating in the state to develop it rather than engage in media controversy.
...An envisioned voice from the North writes