Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, says that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is owed as much as N3trillion by International Oil Companies (IOCs).
On the other hand, the Commission owes is indebted to its various contractors in excess of N3 trillion.
Fielding questions from journalists at the weekly Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Committee, at the State House, Abuja on Thursday, Akpabio also assured Nigerians that his Ministry would monitor the judicious use of the host communities funds (3% of total oil revenues) enshrined in the new Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
The Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Effiong Okon Akwa, who was asked by Akpabio to make the clarification on the debt profile, disclosed that the total debt to contractors stood in excess of N3 trillion.
But Akpabio further hinted that a clearer picture of the financial status of the NDDC is contained in the Forensic Audit Report soon to be submitted to the President anytime soon
“NDDC is also being owed $4billion by the OICs unremitted funds. The federal government is owing a little bit of its own part that it should do to the NDDC. I believe that with the audit of the Commission, we will begin to offset those things, working closely with the Ministry of Finance.
“There are plans to pay those debts. I want to see a balance sheet of the NDDC that is bankable. The IOCs are expected to pay to the NDDC 3 percent of their annual budgets. All of them have failed to do so at different times.”
Asked to comment on protests by the stakeholders in the Niger Delta against the three percent host communities fund in the PIA, the Minister said what should be priority now is the judicious use of the funds to improve the lot of the oil bearing communities.
He added that his ministry would monitor the modalities for the disbursement of the funds in order to avert communal clashes and acrimony in the region.
He said: “The problem of the host community fund is not the percentage neither is the problem money but how the money will be utilized judiciously and at the same time, in a way where this is no acrimony. I don’t want what will break or cause communal clashes.
“So, I believe strongly, as a ministry that is responsible for the peace for the region, that we will take interest in how certain decisions are made as to who is a host community and who are those that should manage the fund.
“The law would have provided for this but at the same time, human being must also assist in the law in such a way that there is no acrimony.”
Akpabio noted that the oil bearing communities have never had it so good since oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, Bayelsa state in 1956.
“Some communities could not even do this solar powered toilet, some had no drinking water. Even water tankers supplying them water failed because they had oil exploration and exploitation had destroyed their water system.
“But now with the PIA, they would be able to do certain things for themselves without waiting on oil companies, the federal government or the state to do it for them,” he said.
Akpabio, who harped on judicial and beneficial application of the fund regretted that such percentage given to the NDDC in the past was not used well.
He added that since the money would be going directly to the host communities, his Ministry would carry out sensitization advocacy, especially on the composition of those who should be in charge of the fund and make input.
He suggested that the deployment of the fund should be project based not like the normal contracts but something similar to direct labour in the communities.