Natural Resource Values Belong to All People, Not Corrupt Bureaucrats
Niger Delta Wants Direct Allocation to Host Communities
More and more people are turning to the ideas advocated by the Niger Delta Fund Initiative. Let Nigeria's oil wealth benefit all the citizens of Nigeria, not a tiny mandarinate of corrupt officials and the oil corporations that bribe them.
Here are portions of an article appearing in the Vanguard of Lagos (Nigeria). It is being distributed by allafrica.com.
by Emma UjahThe people of oil-rich Niger Delta have insisted that the direct allocation of derivation funds to host communities rather than state governments, was the panacea to pipeline vandalisation, hostage-taking and attacks on oil facilities in the area.
A group comprising elders and youth leaders led by Chief Wellington Okrika and Chairman of Gbaramatu Development Committee, Mr George Timinimi, who held discussions with the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, in Abuja, said host communities would protect oil facilities if they directly received monthly oil revenue derivation, based on the outputs from their localities.
Members of the group of 12 expressed shock at the volume of funds received by the state governments -- in 2005 alone this amounted to N279.608 billion. They have called for the establishment of the Host Community Commission (HCC) to which all derivation would be paid directly and which would administer the funds in accordance with the development priorities of the communities.
Okrika said: "We are calling for the establishment of Host Community Commission in each of the oil producing states to receive that derivation money directly. When the money is received by the HCC, it will utilise it in accordance with the priorities of each state.
"This direct payment of derivation to host communities is the greatest insurance to all that is happening: hostage-taking, pipeline vandalisation. If host communities know that at the end of the month, there is money coming directly to them, of course, everybody will go and protect his own flow station. I will protect my flow station.
"But why protect my own flow station for now when what is being produced is taken by someone else? So, give us the money, we will manage the money ourselves. We will protect the facilities because that is what we should do.
"The Revenue Commission had in the bill, currently before the National Assembly, asked that at least 30 per cent of each month's derivation must be paid directly to the host communities to enable each of them determine how to utilise it to the satisfaction of the people.
"As long as the money is with the governors, it will be difficult for you to get that money," he said, and urged other oil producing states to emulate Ondo State where a derivation commission had already been established.
"Ondo State is doing very well because they already have a commission where 40 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation is given to it to manage. The people are less restive. There is peace in that state because the people are happy. I don't understand why the state governments in other states cannot do the same when they know legally that the money does not belong to them.
"They should not keep the money on our behalf and tell us what to do with the money. In practice, they don't even ask us. They just do what they want to do and we are saying no, this money belongs to the host communities legally. Give it to us, we have capacity, we have manpower--educated men and women-- to manage the money ourselves," he said.
The host communities' representatives said their proposal for the constitution of the commission included a representative of the RMAFC to ensure that the money was spent transparently.
In his presentation, Mr Timinimi said the money released to state and local governments never, in real terms, got down to the host communities and urged the commission to undertake a tour of the region to convince itself that the agitations by host communities were justified.
"When you hear that the Niger Delta is volatile, when you hear that they are so hostile, they are so restive, if you go there personally, you'll discover they are not. One good thing I want this commission to do is to take a tour of the Niger Delta and we are ready to sponsor it from individual contributions, not even the Federal Government. Because of our convictions, we are ready to cough out the little that we have to sponsor this trip and then you would be shocked by what you will see in the Niger Delta communities. You will know that nothing is happening in these communities."
Chairman of the RMAFC, Engr. Hamman Tukur, told the group that his organisation had done a detailed analysis of the Niger Delta issues and that the Bill before the National Assembly would adequately addresse the problem of inadequate funding of host communities' development projects by state governments, when it is passed.
He regretted that federal legislators did not give that bill the accelerated attention it required. According to him, the issue of derivation and other revenue allocation remained the only way to ensure peace and stability in the nation.
"We knew that if you received your oil revenue derivation directly in each host community, based on the quantity of oil produced in your community each month, you would protect the oil facilities and make sure that nothing disrupts oil production in your state. That was why we recommended that you get paid directly," he said and charged the Niger Delta people to put pressure on their legislators at the National Assembly to push for the passage of the Bill.
He told the group that members of the commission wanted to tour the area but had to put it off on three occasions due to concerns about security. He was assured by Mr. Timinimi and the chiefs that the commissioners would be welcome to the Niger Delta and that they would not come to any harm.
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