Oil producing communities in the Niger Delta will receive additional N176 billion yearly from a special development fund to be set up under the new Petroleum Industry Bill, industry experts said.
President Goodluck Jonathan presented the bill last week, with provisions for the creation of a Petroleum Host Community Fund, into which oil companies will be made to pay 10 percent of the profits they make from "upstream" operations.
The bill did not say specifically how much would be realised if the law takes effect, but a former presidential aide had said this provision will make available up to $1.1 billion yearly, which is equivalent of N176 billion.
"The PIB will give local communities 10 percent equity participation and those that are impacted by the industry will receive dividends amounting to $1.1 billion or more," Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, former Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum Matters, was quoted as saying in the 2011 edition of the Oil & Gas Year magazine which is the latest issue.
This provision is the latest in series of interventionist measures taken by the Federal Government over the years, thereby funneling billions of naira monthly to the oil producing region.
One such interventions is the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), which spends an average of N200 billion yearly on the oil region since the year 2000.
Also, at least 13 per cent of monthly oil revenue realised by the Federation is set aside for the oil states as required by the Constitution, making available hundreds of billions annually for the nine Niger Delta states.
The nine states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Abia, with a combined population of about 31 million, had received N1.951 trillion as 13 percent derivation from 1999 to 2008, according to government records.
In 2009, government intervention efforts led to the creation of the Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs which administers the multi-billion naira amnesty programme initiated by the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, as well executes development projects in the region.
The ministry was allocated N60 billion in the 2012 budget. Despite the Federal Government alleged lackluster budget implementation, the Niger Delta ministry has achieved the highest budget funding of 50 percent this year, the House of Representatives was told last week.
Apart from intervention agencies and measures, the oil producing region also got the lion's share of Federal Government projects in the past 16 months, cornering 86 percent of projects approved by the Federal Executive Council between March and August 2011, amounting to over N760 billion out of N883 billion projects, according records published by the Bureau for Public Procurement in October last year.
The oil region further got projects worth N246 billion approved by FEC between August 2011 and June 2012, out of a total N927 billion projects awarded within the period, BPP documents show.
In addition to the foregoing, the oil producing region benefits from multi-million naira community projects administered by the oil companies operating in the area.
If the new PIB is passed as proposed, the oil companies will have to contribute 10 per cent of their profits to the new fund for the oil host communities.
A provision similar to this was proposed for inclusion in the former PIB submitted to the National Assembly during the tenure of the late President Yar'Adua, but the bill 'technically died' and had to be redrafted by President Jonathan's government which now included it.
Top international oil companies whose profits will be affected by the bill include Shell, Total, Exxon Mobil, Eni and Chevron.
There have been concerns over the amount of oil revenue going to the oil host communities while poverty ravages other regions in the country.
But critics say most of the funds do not get to the people in the oil communities because of high level of corruption by politicians and community leaders
If the new bill scales through, the communities will become "part owners" of the oil business with condition to protect the oil installations in the region.
Egbogah said in the Oil & Gas Year magazine: "We have a proviso that should vandals do anything to disrupt production they will be penalising themselves. For that, we agreed that the community would forfeit their annual dividend. They will be able to police the pipelines themselves because they are theirs to protect."
The funds will be looted, activists say Comrade Celestine AkpoBari, national coordinator of Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria, said the new bill is another avenue by the politicians to steal.
"This is another nomenclature to loot. The purpose is simply to steal not to work. There are many of such funds but they never worked. There are ministries for power, but that doesn't mean that we have power," he told Daily Trust by telephone.
"Who is going to manage the fund? Other funds created to develop the Niger Delta region such as NNDC has been mired by corruption. Who is going to manage the fund? It is the same old song. The recurring decimal is creating more avenues for corruption," he added.
"Who is going to benefit from the fund? Is it the host communities where pipe lines are laid or the communities affected by the oil spill? That is the confusion the new bill seeks to create because there are communities without pipelines but terribly affected by the spillage. Who gets what?" he queried.
Also, the Chief Nengi James, the executive director of the Bayelsa-based Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch (NIDDEMCOW), said that the proposed law is another document that won't be implemented. "The new PIB law won't be implemented. The problem is not about laws but it is about their implementation," he said.
"The same politicians have been mismanaging our resources for decades are going to mismanage the new fund. So, there is nothing to celebrate. What we need is true federalism where the federating units will control their resources. The doctored PIB law will make no difference as far as we are concerned."