Leaders of oil host communities in the Niger Delta region and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, on Tuesday traded tackles over the 10% recommendation of profit to be paid to the communities by the late President Shehu Musa Yar’adua.
The opposing views by the leaders of oil host communities who were present in their numbers were triggered by a fresh recommendation in the PIB that 2.5% would be remitted to the host communities against late Yar’adua’s 10% that didn’t see the light of the day.
Late Yar’adua’s administration at the time in the 6th National Assembly recommended the 10% to be paid by Oil Companies doing businesses in the Niger Delta to mitigate hardships occasioned by oil exploration in the region.
Speaking during the second day at the Public hearing on the Petroleum Industry bill (PIB) in Abuja, the host communities producing oil and Gas also suggested the immediate scrapping of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
NDDC, they maintained, has outlived its usefulness and has been turned into a conduit pipe for the privileged few Niger Deltans, which they added, “the scrapping would pave way for another agency to be created to address the needs of the region.”
The National President of the Host Communities producing Oil and Gas, (HOSTCOM), High Chief Benjamin Style Tams, lamented that all the interventionist agencies established by the Federal Government for the development of host communities had failed.
He insisted that NDDC should be scrapped, adding that it has become a cesspool of corruption, while he recommended the establishment of “Host Communities Producing Oil and Gas Commission.”
“What we want is 10% equity remittance from the various oil firms to respective host communities as proposed in the PIB considered in the 7th National Assembly but not assented to.
“It is even very annoying that having reduced the 10% to 5% in the last bill considered by the 8th National Assembly, it is further slashed to 2.5% in the current bill.
“This is not acceptable to us as host communities of the oil producing firms. The 10% earlier proposed must be worked upon if the bill is to be acceptable to the various communities bearing the brunt”, he fumed.
But speaking further in an interview with the press after the joint Committee public hearing, the Minister differed, saying:
“I speak advisably as a member of the Host Community myself. If you have to look at it properly, you will see that 10 per cent of profit is different from 10 per cent of the operation cost from the various oil firms.
“Before now, you had the provision of 10 percent of profit and profit means that if I don’t declare it, you don’t have anything. I can decide to say 100 per cent of profit and not declare any profit, so you don’t get anything.
“But in this case, it’s 2.5 per cent of the OPEX. So, at the end of the year, you look at your operating cost and take 2.5 per cent of that cost to the budget of the next year.
“As far as we are concerned, we have made a very fair proposal. Fair to the host communities, to the country and to the oil companies.”
He added that provisions made in the bill were just proposals before the National Assembly.