Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, has decried alleged diversion of the 13 per cent derivation funds by oil producing states, insisting that the states should deploy 100 per cent of the funds for the development of oil-bearing communities.
Omo-Agege, who represents Delta Central Senatorial District, argued that deploying the funds fully for the lifting of oil producing communities was preferable to state governments releasing only 50 per cent of the money to development commissions in their states.
He noted that since host communities bear the burden of environmental degradation from oil exploration activities, it was only fair that all funds be channeled into the development of the impacted areas.
The lawmaker stated this when a delegation of Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON), led by the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass and Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff, visited him in Abuja.
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Omo-Agege, who is Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review, lamented that the use of 13 per cent derivation funds had become a political tool by governors of oil producing states.
He said the diversion of the money has contributed largely to the underdevelopment of the region, as the affected communities could hardly boast of access to the basic necessities of life.
He restated his call for gas flaring penalties in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to be paid to the host communities and not to the Federation Account, stressing that the annual contribution of 2.5 per cent actual operating expenditure by oil companies to the Host Community Development Trust Fund should be increased to at least five per cent.
The Deputy President of the Senate stressed that penalties from gas flaring would be used to ameliorate the living conditions in Niger Delta communities, as they suffer from the environmental impact of oil explorations.
On the proposed boards and management of Host Communities Trust Fund in the PIB, he maintained that there was the need for the host communities to be carried along and urged the Niger Delta people to show more interest in the development of the region and hold their leaders accountable.
Other lawmakers who assisted Omo-Agege to welcome the guests are, Senator Biobarakuma Degi Eremienyo (Bayelsa East) and representative of Warri Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Thomas Ereyitomi.
Speaking, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Matters, Ita Enang, asked Omo-Agege to intervene in the N98b gas flare fund, the controversy surrounding the Pipeline Surveillance Contract (PSC), payment of 13 per cent derivation to oil producing communities, and the need for a bill to establish a Derivation Commission.