Port Harcourt — Oil workers have urged the National Assembly to scrap the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and channel its current statutory allocation directly to oil producing communities, to stem unrest in the volatile Niger Delta region.
The chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) joint committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Chika Onuegbu, said this has become imperative, if the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Bill is to make any impact.
Onuegbu said oil workers under the aegis of PENGASSAN and NUPENG canvassed this position at the public hearing on the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Bill because they were worried about the inadequacy of funding for the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Trust Fund.
According to him, oil workers' interactions with host communities indicate that the 2.5 per cent Operating budget proposed in the bill is grossly inadequate.
"Our further reflections on the need for the Petroleum Host Community Fund indicate that the massive failure of the NDDC is a major driver for the need for this fund. Moreover the 2.5 per cent of OPEX provided in this bill is just a fraction of the oil and gas companies' contribution to NDDC. It is, therefore, our considered opinion that the National Assembly and the Federal Government should accept the reality that NDDC has been a massive failure, repeal the NDDC Act and disband the NDDC, and channel the NDDC funds directly to fund the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Fund. This, in our view, will deliver better value than the NDDC."
He further said oil workers are concerned about the adequacy of the mandatory contributions in the bill, because inadequate provision of funds or subjecting the funding to donations and other optional means may scuttle the laudable objectives of the bill, dash the hopes of the petroleum host and impacted communities and further breach the trust between these communities and the government of Nigeria.
The PENGASSAN and NUPENG joint committee chairman stated that the provision in the bill, which is aimed at making the host and impacted communities ensure that petroleum facilities in their communities are safe or else the funds will be discontinued, has been a very contentious one.
Onuegbu urged the National Assembly to reconsider the inclusion of representation of host communities or their inputs into the appointment of the board of trustees.