Prince Dr Mike Emuh the National Chairman of HOSCON speaks in this interview on the crisis in the Niger Delta, the thorny issues of PIB, the long drawn battle of 13 percent derivation fund and the all important Ogoni clean up/ community remediation exercise. Excerpts:
As the National Chairman of HOSCON, what do you think is the way forward out of the crisis rocking the NDDC?
Presently, I see the crises at the NDDC as a challenge against the accelerated development of the Niger Delta. It is a challenge against corruption and a challenge against bad or fraudulent contractors who implemented their contracts shoddily to rip-off our common wealth.
Besides that, I also blame the management and staff of the NDDC who were corruptly recruited and appointed to oversee the affairs of NDDC, who turned out to become racketeers.
Though NDDC was corrupted, to wreck much havoc on our polity, the NDDC still remains an agency established for the development of the oil and gas producing communities across the country. So the way forward is to sanitize the system since we can’t throw away the baby (NDDC) with the bath water.
To answer your question properly, there is an Act of parliament that established NDDC, right from the time of OMPADEC which is Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission that later became NDDC. The primary purpose for the establishment of the agency is to promote the development of the oil producing communities but not to be controlled by an individual who could be a Minister from any Ministry.
Since NDDC is autonomous, it cannot be subjected to the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of State for Petroleum. We are saying capital NO to that practice. We, the HOSCON stakeholders object to NDDC being supervised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. That is against the spirit and the letter of the Act that gave birth to the NDDC.
Perhaps I need an example to underscore and substantiate my argument. The North East Development Commission is autonomous and it has never been under any ministry supervision. So it is a great error for NDDC to be under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
NDDC, as it is has its own budget and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs also has its own budget. For clarification purpose on record I as the National Chairman of HOSCON am not against the person of the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio nor the Minister of Environment but I am totally against their intervention in the operational activities of NDDC on the bases of equity, fairness and justice.
Talking about the way forward, NDDC should be under the control of the Presidency, just as the Amnesty programme is under the Presidency. Those who were recommended and screened by the National Assembly as Chairman and Managing Director respectively should be sworn in by Mr. President in the spirit of the rule of law.
The Act that established NDDC did not give room for caretaker committees or Sole Administrators which falls within the premise of what can be described as an aberration to the norms.
We are asking the FG in strong terms to release funds to the NDDC so that the agency can settle genuine contractors who executed their contracts to specification but are now wallowing and dying in pain as a result of failure of the agency to pay them.
All outstanding NDDC contracts should be completed now that we are in the dry season, and for this to take place the new chairman and the new directors should be sworn in like I said earlier by Mr. President.
Sir, the 13% derivation fund is another thorny issue that has dragged the oil producing communities backward. In your own opinion, what do you think is the panacea to this protracted problem of 13% derivation?
The 1999 Constitution as amended in Section 162 Subsection 2 states it expressly clear that 13% derivation fund is an Executive Legislative law empowering the President and the host communities to have the control of 13% derivation fund which is over
N40 billion income to HOST communities and not to any State government or Local government control.
Thus, it is a great error for the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMFAC) to direct the payment of 13% derivation funds to state governments who have earned over
N40 trillion in the past twenty years to the damnation and dilemma of the Niger Delta region which is now the poorest in terms of development in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
To paint a vivid picture of the realities on ground, here in Delta State, our industries are shutdown, i.e. DSC, AT & P, Asaba Textile Mill, Delta Glass opp. Beta Glass in Ughelli, the four Seaports in Delta State alone, in comatose is a sorry state to remember. I need not to remind you of what is happening to the other oil producing states of the Niger Delta and beyond, as the story remains the same ugly trend of neglect and abandonment.
Since there are no industries in the Niger Delta, there is no employment for the teeming youths in the region, no mechanized agricultural farm, no electricity, though we have all the rivers and sea there is no drinkable water for the inhabitants of the Niger Delta as our waters are polluted with oil spills perennially.
It may interest you to know that our traditional rulers are suffering in silence as none of them owns an oil bloc as they are suffering with meager allowances from state governors. Again I emphasize that it is an error and an insult for state governors to be controlling traditional rulers who are the rightful owners of the oil and gas in their kingdom.
In my own advocacy as the National Chairman of HOSCON, no traditional ruler of an oil producing kingdom should receive less than five million naira per month. Their children should be on scholarship courtesy of the PTFD sponsored by the International Oil Companies (IOCs), National Oil Companies (NOCs) and state governments.
Traditional rulers should be on free medical treatment anywhere on earth because they deserve it as the custodian and curator of the heritage and civilization of the people from one generation to another in their respective revered throne.
I repeat that 13% derivation belongs to the Host Communities, though our former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who regretted making the mistake of ceding 13% derivation funds to state governors lamented his mistake at the Special Economic Council for Coastal States when he was still in power but he instructed that the state governors should give a substantial part of the 13% derivation fund to the Host Communities and to create an oil area producing development commission in their various states.
Kudos to his Excellency, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, the former governor of Delta State who created DESOPADEC with 50 % out of the 13 % derivation fund. Thanks to the late former governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu who created ONDOPADEC with 40 % out of its allocation . Former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion followed in quick succession to create ESOPADEC with 40% of derivation fund from its allocation. Time will fail me to mention Abia and Imo States that obeyed OBJ’s instruction.
However, it is on record and it is a shame and woe to Akwa Ibom State, Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Cross Rivers State that disobeyed our agreement (HOSCON) with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the retired National Director of DSS, Chief A.K Hallsford who was the Chairman of the Socio-economic Council for Coastal State established by then President Obasanjo.
We of the Niger Delta region will not cease to thank Chief Dr. Wellington Okirika (CON), aka Mr. thirteen percent who led HOSCON to OBJ to correct the abnormalities or error that allowed the 13% derivation fund allocation to State Governors.
We will not stop to sing the praise of the Deputy Senate President distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, we are indebted to the SSA to the President on Niger Delta Affairs in the person of Senator Ita Inang who is supporting HOSCON in the vanguard of the struggle to claim their stolen mandate of 13% derivation fund to HOSCON.
Though my life is at stake as the National Chairman of HOSCON, for choosing to be in the main stream of the struggle for the agitation for the payment of 13 percent derivation fund directly to the host communities which is a divinely endowed prerogative to the Niger Delta people, I assert once again that the 13 percent be given now to the host communities without out any waste of time no matter whose ox is gored.
Although the governors of the oil producing states are against our agitation and the law of 13 percent derivation, the HOSCON board of trusties, the National Exco and the over 12 million membership of HOSCON numerical strength are pleading with President Muhamadu Buhari to stop allocating 13 percent derivation funds to the governors of the oil producing states because enough is enough. I strongly suggest that President Buhari should create a presidential committee to manage the 13% funds to the profit of HOSCON as it was practiced in the time of Late President Shehu Shagari when the fund was 1.5% before it was increased to 13% derivation fund by Late General Sani Abacha
President Muhammadu Buhari should not follow the mistakes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo but he should implement the law of 13 percent derivation in favor of HOSCON as we know him to be a law abiding president.
Ogoni clean up is one important project that was started by the current administration to cushion the negative effect of oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta region. Coincidentally, you are a member of the HYREP boardI In your own assessment, how successful is the journey so far?
In the same realm, HOSCON must thank Mr. President for the creation of HYPREP for Ogoni clean up/ Community remediation.
Although the project is moving on at a slow pace, the testimony is that contractors are at site working at Ogoni land.
However, I am appealing to Ogoni trust fund board of trusties, the governing council, NOSRA, HYPREP, and the government to meet with the expectation of the Ogboni people in terms of the implementation of the Ogoni cleanup exercise.
May I again emphasize that it is an error that the international oil companies IOC’s are yet to carry out a single remediation work in the Niger Delta. It is a national crime driven by greed for the IOC’S and the NOC’S to caution to wind by choosing to disobey the law that bind them in terms of the Nigerian local content Act which permits them to stay and to develop their site of operation. It is unfortunate that the creeks and all the oil producing communities are abandoned by the IOC’s.
I strongly posit that the IOC’s should relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region as directed by the presidency as it was with Shell in warri Delta State, Mobil and Ibinor in Akwa Ibom state and some other oil companies that operated in River State.
All the oil companies as a matter of urgency should carry out remediation and development of the host communities with immediate effect.
Oil companies should show their practical readiness and willingness in concrete terms to stop gas fleering in Nigeria before 2022 as Nigeria loses billions of dollars to gas flare and the host communities suffers the health hazards that are worse than corona virus killing the people the Niger Delta as a result of gas flare industrial pollution.
HOSCON is demanding that the oil majors should pay the over 10 billion dollar outstanding gas flare penalty to the Host communities directly.
I must assert here and now that it is an error to pay gas flare penalty money to DPR, CBN and to the Federation account but rather the fund should be paid directly to HOSCON that suffers industrial pollution, the health hazards, the acidic rain, the corrosion etc as it is enshrined in the international law of gas flaring. The result of this negative practice over the years has been devastating because over 200 persons die in the Niger Delta monthly which is worse than COVID-19 but nobody cares. If our request is attended to, it will lead to the creation of jobs for our youths who are wallowing in pain and unemployment.
When HOSCON receives all of the above as their dues, there will be a full transformation, development and transmodification as we go into mechanized agriculture industrialization development of modular refineries gas plants fishing industries to mention but few that will create employment for the unemployed youth and suffering women of Niger delta region.
The PIB is again in another journey of processing in both chambers of the national assembly. Can the PIB see the light of the day this time around?
We of the HOSCON family simply appreciate the 9thNational Assembly for their strive and determination to ensure that the PIB is passed into law.
However, the deliberations’ so far on the issues was what led to the problems that took place on the 27thand 28th of January 2021 on the floor of the House of Representative and at the Senate.
HOSCON was duly invited and we submitted our memoranda to the National Assembly and declared our position (HOSCON) with regards to the PIB.
We have meticulously and tactically screened the proposed PIB that is just 40% in favour of HOSCON and 60% against HOSCON desire and prerogatives.
Our stand is on 2.5% Production Quantum to HOSCON as benefit so that we can sell our 2.5% crude accruable at the world market rate and at the same time use our 2.5% proceeds from the crude oil to develop our modular refineries and gas industries which will be the best thing that can ever happen to HOSCON on earth.
The agitation for 10% equity paraded by some persons is to the detriment of HOSCON because we do not have money to contribute as 10% equity neither do we profit from 10% profit sharing formular, because in that arrangement it is what the IOCs declare as profit that 10% will be given to HOSCON. The grave error in that equity arrangement is that when the IOCs make a profit of N100 billion, they may declare N10billion and HOSCON will now be entitled to take 10% of the 10billion profit declared by the metropolitan IOCs since the process is long and prone to manovering.Our safe anchor remains the parameters based on production quantum.
We can’t sit down to allow the IOCs to shoot us again on the toe. There is a difference between 10% equity sharing and 2.5% production quantum profit or sharing formular to HOSCON which is far higher than 20 to 30% equity shares. We need to understand this fundamental difference in the mathematics and calculus of petroleum production in hard currency (petrol dollar).
Secondly, in our paper we asked the National Assembly to purge out the politics of (Setlors) a policy that turns the oil companies becomes landlord through the State governors issuing Certificate of Occupancy to the companies in areas where they operate. It is an error to promulgate a law in the PIB that will empower the oil companies (setlors) to become landlords against HOSCON the original landlords.
At the moment, oil companies are guarded and heavily protected by the JTF, the Army and Police in their area of operation marked or designated as a no go area to HOSCON. Thus, it is detrimental when cooperate tenants (IOCs) becomes owners of certificate of Occupancy to the land that does not belong to the oil companies, hence we reject Setlors unequivocally. In other words the PIB wants to promote politics against the wish of the Host Communities that has been denied unquantifiable benefits all these years.
HOSCON I emphasize should remain landlords as God made them to be and benefit their divinely endowed prerogative of oil and gas as it is being practiced in the international community.
Thirdly, in our position paper to the National Assembly on PIB we maintained in our assertions that when the proposed Host Community Commission is created from the profit of HOSCON, nomination to all management and executive position should not be politicized but should remain the right of the Host Communities to nominate and recommend their own qualified candidates to occupy such executive positions in the commission.
We out rightly reject the FG and State government manipulation and imposition of candidates on HOSCON on the platform of politics.
Our traditional rulers and HOSCON leaders of thought should be the people in charge of recommendation of all available offices in the commission be it Chairman or Executive Directors. HOSCON have all that it takes to run every Oil Area Producing Development Commission and the proposed HOSCON Trust Fund Commission.
Summarily, the 9th National Assembly should not delay the passage of the PIB in favour of HOSCON. Moreso, the 13% derivation should go directly to the Host Communities as a separate law that bounds the Host Communities and the maintenance of the present law that established NDDC in favour of Host Communities.
When the above is harmonized in favour of HOSCON, the Niger Delta region will be a semi London just as Abuja is a semi Washington DC as a result of our oil and gas from the Niger Delta region.