By Emma Amaize, NDV Editor, Sam Oyadongha, Emma Una, Emem Idio & Harris Emanuel
Oil communities and activists in Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states have articulated their revulsion at the failure of governments of the two states respectively to establish oil commissions like other Niger Delta states to manage the 13 per cent Derivation to the states.
They point at Delta, Edo, Ondo, Abia, Imo states, where the governors had set up oil commissions to administer stipulated proportion of the fund, but representatives of some oil communities in Edo and Delta states, who spoke to NDV, recently, said state governors still short-change the oil commissions.
However, as Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa oil communities battle the governors to inaugurate oil commissions to manage 13 per cent derivation fund, available information indicates that Cross River no longer receives derivation from the Federal Government after it lost 96 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state in 2008.
Though information on the actual amount received by Akwa Ibom on monthly basis has been shrouded in secrecy by government authorities especially the Ministry of Finance, indications have emerged that the state received well over N60 billion from January to July.
The state has over the years been lumping the 13 per cent derivation fund with the monthly statutory allocation from the federation purse to implement its programmes and policies.
Clamour for setting up of special commission
Recently, the people of Eastern Obolo, an oil-rich council in the state raised concerns over an alleged marginalization of the area, despite their immense contribution to the oil production quantum which has made the state the leading producer of crude oil, as well as the effects of gas flaring and called on the state government to come to their aid as the gas flare from oil production activities, was making life unbearable for them.
They spoke through President of a socio-cultural organisation in the council “Obolo Me Obolo”, Mr Emmanuel Paul, who insisted on the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Oil Producing Development Commission like other states in the Niger Delta region for the development of oil-producing communities.
“Our appeal is that Governor Emmanuel Udom should create an oil-producing community Commission for Akwa Ibom State. Delta State has it, other states in the Niger Delta region have theirs and they are reaping the results of it already. If we have an oil-producing Commission that is funded by government most of the demands will now be channelled through the Commission,” he said.
A community leader in Mbo, Elder George Antai, equally towed the same position and explained that there was nothing on ground to show that the state has been spending 13 per cent derivation funds in the area, alleging the neglect of Oro nation, comprising Mbo, Oron, Okobo, Urue Offong /Oruko, Udung Uko local government areas by successive administration in the state. These areas lie in the oil and gas belt.
According to him, the area which is the third-largest ethnic nationality and which produces 70 per cent of the state oil production quantum has been relegated to the background in the scheme of things.
Akwa Ibom govt denies misuse of funds
But the state government has dismissed its alleged marginalisation of the oil-bearing communities insisting that development in the state cut across all strata.
Information and Strategy Commissioner, Iniobong Ememobong, who spoke with NDV said: “In Akwa Ibom State, we are doing comprehensive and holistic development. Yes, oil minerals are in specific locations but like you know every, oil revenue is used to develop Abuja that has none. When you look at holistic development, towns must be developed, but the focus of the Completion Agenda has to do with rural and riverine areas.
“Infrastructures are being spread around. There is hardly anywhere in this state that you won’t find critical infrastructure. The roads network being undertaken by the state government lead all the way from Uyo to the East/West road and turn back again and link the coastal areas. There is the superhighway that is being planned for the Ibom Deep Sea Port when you go there, you will see the roads in Eket.
Even the Amagada road the government has promised the Eastern Obolo. If you go to Ibiono Ibom, you will see roads there. Critical infrastructure must be spread and not segmented.”
No room for embezzlement
On the alleged mismanagement of the derivation fund, Ememobong said, “In Akwa Ibom, we publish a yearly account and our yearly account is yet to be challenged. It is there on the website. So, the process of accountability has been entrenched. The governor is not only an Accountant but a Chartered Auditor as well. Embezzlement does not happen here.”
Bayelsa: According to the report, the state had between December 2000 and 2018 received over N1.8tr from 13 per cent derivation principle. But the squalid state of affairs in the oil-producing communities and feeling of neglect by the locals has reinforced the clamour for the establishment of a special commission similar to NDDC to cater for the needs of these communities because of the perceived absence of government in the communities.
The key oil-producing communities have been victims of decades of neglect and nearly all facilities in these rustic farming and fishing settlements are either sponsored by Shell or Agip, while the state which is the custodian of derivation fund is absent.
We are treated like orphans
At Oluasiri-Nembe clan in Nembe LGA, a major host community of OML 25, with numerous oil wells and the Olua Marginal Field where over 50 per cent of the natural gas feedstock to the Nigeria LNG plant in Bonny is transmitted from the Gas Plant stationed in her territory, there is hardly any noticeable presence of the state in terms of provision of basic social amenities.
“The cottage hospital complex built by the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company about twenty years ago after a long struggle by the community has never served as a hospital because the state government is yet to equip it, man it with medical personnel and run it, despite repeated appeals to the authorities” lamented an indigene who simply identified herself as Nengi adding, “The clan and its people are treated like orphans by the state, in terms of development.”
Also, Mr Iniruo Wills, a legal practitioner and environmental activist from the oil and gas-rich enclave told NDV that government is only interested in the fund that accrues the state from the vast oil and gas resources of the area and not the well being of the people.
Tales of woe
“The oil and gas-rich Oluasiri-Nembe Clan has been continually betrayed by all successive Bayelsa State administrations. I don’t know of one Naira of meaningful government expenditure that has been done there by the Bayelsa State government from 1999 till date. The state government has abandoned our people completely and kept them like the Bakassi of Bayelsa State. This is very unfortunate and hypocritical,” Wills lamented.
Comrade Alagoa Morris, Head, Environmental Rights Action/Friend of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) in Bayelsa and other concerned activists in the state have persistently advocated the creation of a special commission to cater for the needs of the oil-producing communities noting that the host communities dwellers have suffered abandonment for too long as the 13 per cent derivation has never been felt in these far-flung communities.
Crusade for social and environmental justice
“We felt that it was unjust to deny the oil-producing communities’ proceeds from the 13per cent which is accruing to the state because of them. If the Federal Government can recognize the need to give that fund in appreciation of taking care of the goose laying the golden egg; why should our own government do this social injustice to those who ought to benefit from it?” Morris queried.
He added that the campaign for the creation of Bayelsa State Oil Producing Area Development Commission was a social and environmental justice as the communities cannot suffer oil industry induced pollution while others far from the troubled spots enjoy the funds.
“It was for this reason that sometime in 2006 or thereabout some of us came up with the idea of sending a bill to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, especially the ‘Eagle Eye’, requesting the House to come up with a law that will create a body similar to the NDDC to take care of the special needs of the people in oil-producing communities. But because of the legislative proceeding, it was not easy for us. Then in 2008, the umbrella body of NGOs in the state also saw the need because of the near absence of government presence in the host communities.
“So the Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organisation Forum (BANGOF) sent a private bill in collaboration with another NGO to the House of Assembly and the then Speaker, Rt Hon Werinipre Seibarugu graciously received same at the conference hall of the assembly promising to look into it but nothing was done.
“It is sad that over twenty-three years after, we the Ijaws are in full control of our state, our people are still drinking from the same water that Isaac Boro was complaining about many years ago. Our people still bath in the same water, wash their clothes, plates, even corpse, defecate and use in cooking,” Morris lamented.
Unbundle fund from governors
In his submission, the National Coordinator of Association for Rural Chiefs, Alabo Nengi James, noted with sadness that there is no template for the spending of the 13 per cent derivation fund in the state, while the oil-producing communities which suffer the brunt of oil exploration activities are neglected by the government and suffer deprivation.
ALSO READ: Soku oil wells: It’s unfortunate Diri questioned payment of accrued revenue to Rivers — Wike
Alabo James, who is also the immediate past Chairman of Nembe Kingdom Oil and Gas Committee, said the fund should be unbundled from the governors and channelled to the oil-producing communities.
Fund diverted to develop non-oil-producing communities
“There is no agency of government that is carrying out any 13 per cent derivation projects in our area. As far as we know, the funds are tied to the monthly allocation that is received by the governor. In my place, we are a major oil and gas producing area but we don’t have anything from the state government to show for it.
“We suffer the adverse effects of oil exploration and exploitation the most with no tangible development while places that are developed are those without oil or pipelines but because they are fortunate to produce governors and top political office holders who divert the 13 per cent fund to develop their area.
“The 13 per cent is just a name because here there is no template for spending the funds and we don’t know how it is spent. Some years ago as the Vice Chairman of Host Communities, I was among those who spearheaded the clamour for the establishment of the Bayelsa State Oil Producing Areas Commission, BASOPADEC,” he said.
13% our commonwealth — Bayelsa govt
However, the state government through its Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Hon Ayiba Duba defended its management of the derivation fund saying, “Environmental problem everywhere is shared by everybody in the state because of her peculiar nature.”
According to the commissioner, “In all the local government areas of the state and in almost every clan there is one oil facility or the other. So how do you place them? Who do you leave out? Lands owned by people from a community may not have an oil well but a neighbouring community to mine might have, and the hazards are mine. But then the truth must be told that this is our commonwealth and commonwealth should be shared by everybody.
“If we go into the argument that I am oil-producing so 13 per cent of the state derivation is for me then the states that are not producing oil will not get anything from the sale of crude oil. So far so good, Bayelsa has been using her share of 13 per cent for the good of everybody in the state the same way the Federal Government is using the oil for the good of the entire country whether you have one pint of oil or not it is shared by everybody.”
Struggling financially due to loss of oil wells
In Cross River: Since the state lost its ninety-six oil wells to Akwa Ibom State in 2008, it has been left out of the oil revenue.
According to the Commissioner for Finance Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong, the state has been struggling financially owing to the loss of its oil wells which came with the loss of Bakassi Peninsula. “At a point during the era of Senator Liyel Imoke as governor of this state and President Goodluck Jonathan in office, the state was given N250m monthly to assuage the impact of the loss of our oil wells but since the inception of this government nothing has been given to us.”
He said several efforts have been made by Governor Ben Ayade to persuade the Federal Government to assist the state yet nothing has come from that effort. “Last year, we organized an oil and gas summit and brought in international and local stakeholders in that sector and even the then Minister of Petroleum and the Permanent Secretary of that Ministry who is now the Head of Service of the federation to convince them that the state still harbours oil reserve and should be considered for compensation or should be listed among oil-producing states yet nothing came out of it”
He said the state’s case is pathetic and that even in the NDDC the state is treated like an orphan by being given very few appointments “just because they feel it is a favour being extended to us since we do not produce oil.”