Governors of the Niger-Delta region have this week started mobilizing forces to quash the rising agitation by oil-producing communities for the Federal Governments to cease paying the 13% oil derivation fund through state governments.
Leaders of oil-producing communities in the Niger-Delta, under the platform of Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Nigeria, have of recent sent powerful delegations to the Presidency, National Assembly, Revenue Mobilization, Fiscal and Allocation Commission and other government agencies, expressing their preference for the 13 per cent derivation fund to be paid directly to host communities, as they argued that the 13 per cent did not belong to the state as it was not part of the consolidated revenue fund account of the state.
Some of the communities have warned that they would shut down oil flow stations in their area if the Federal Government did not heed their demand.
In one of the several letters to the RMFAC, the communities said: “Thirteen per cent derivation fund is not part of any consolidated revenue of state governments; it is not part of any state allocation. The fund is a benchmark for revenue allocation for host communities in Nigeria. It is, therefore, illegal to allocate 13 per cent derivation fund through a third party to the host communities.”
It gathered that the governors were not at ease with the campaign that payment of 13 per cent derivation to state governments was unconstitutional, as well as the allegation that they (governors) misappropriated N7.282 trillion in the last 13 years.
An informed source hinted, yesterday, that the recent outburst by South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, during a visit to him by leaders of the group that payment of 13 per cent derivation to state governments was illegal, was a source of concern to the governors, knowing the weight of the opinion of the elder statesman on matters affecting the region.
Already, the Presidency has directed a probe into the increasing complaints and agitations by the communities over alleged misuse of funds by the governors.
Our source said: “President Goodluck Jonathan had directed an audit of all oil revenues, including the 13 per cent derivation fund disbursed through the Federation Account to ascertain the utilisation of the fund.”
The probe, which would be conducted by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency International, NEITI, is expected to determine how oil revenues are applied to entities such as Niger Delta Development Commission, Petroleum Trust Fund, and the 13 per cent derivation revenue allocated to some oil producing states and how other monetary and fiscal transactions in the sectors have been utilised during the period under review.
They are expected to conclude the probe in nine months and was confirmed by a member of the NEITI Stakeholders Working Group, Mrs Faith Nwadishi.
In a petition addressed to the RMFAC chair, signed by Chief Henry Okpaks (Rivers), Mr. Wole Abel (Ondo), Mr. Monday Aghaghe (Edo), Mr. Ufot Nkang (Akwa Ibom), Mr. Macpherson Kurobo (Bayelsa) and Chief Willam Igere (Delta), the leaders said: “The 13 per cent derivation fund belongs exclusively to the oil and gas producing communities, which are the sources of derivation.”
They also proposed that a Derivation Board, comprising an executive chairman, secretary and members, including a member from RMAFC, be set up to administer the 13 per cent derivation fund. They added that the chair should rotate among oil and gas producing states every four years.
They stated that the 13 per cent Derivation Fund currently being managed by the state governors in the oil and gas producing states was an aberration, adding that the fund had been managed without regard to the oil and gas producing communities, who are owners.
On the planned audit by NEITI, the leaders called on the organisation to visit the host communities and ascertain the facts on ground.
“We wish to affirm in very strong terms that any report or audit investigation without physical visit to the communities hosting oil facilities is unacceptable to the communities.
“The state governments, which received this money illegally, used the fund to develop their state capitals and non-oil and gas producing communities, leaving the actual oil and gas producing communities in hunger and penury.”
They stated that the illegal and unconstitutional payment of 13 per cent derivation fund through the state governments had left the actual oil and gas producing communities in abject poverty.
The agitation is louder in Delta State, where Senator Francis Okpozo and former chair of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Wellington Okirika are leading the offensive.
According to a source: “Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is meeting with some of these leaders on Saturday (tomorrow) in Warri to see how they can iron out their differences, as things will not work out well the way matters are going at the moment.
“Uduaghan is among the first governors in the region to set up an oil commission, which is DESOPADEC to manage the 13 per cent derivation fund. But the truth is that what is remitted to the commission is only 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation fund, not the entire 13 per cent that comes from the Federal Government and we are saying that it is unconstitutional.
“Even as we cry in Delta State that sometimes, the whole 50 per cent does not come to DESOPADEC, in some states of the region, there is no commission at all to manage the 13 per cent derivation fund. Except in Edo, Ondo, Imo and Abia states, where the governors also set up commissions, all the governors just use the money the way they like without challenge from the lawmakers.”
In Rivers, the oil communities could barely meet, not to talk of confronting the governor, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, on the use of 13 per cent derivation fund.
However, they have now found their voice in the agitation for the direct payment of the 13 per cent derivation to host communities as a result of the support from the leadership of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Niger Delta.