By Ebi Perekeme
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio has said to avoid any crisis that may arise in the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act, a trust fund would be opened for the 3% allocated to host communities.
He said the Ministry of Niger Delta would ensure that the funds are used on executing tangible projects for the host communities, rather than disbursing it among the elite class from such communities.
According to Akpabio, rather than engaging in arguments over how the 3% would be utilised, President Muhammadu Buhari should be commended for mustering the political will to sign the act into law after over five decades.
“I think the major problem is not about the disbursement but how it will impact the communities. These funds will be managed by the host communities themselves and the 3% will go into a trust fund for the various communities who are the original indigenes. We are excited about the Petroleum Industry Act, our job is to help facilitate the effective participation of the host communities. The trustees of the fund will come from the actual community.
“PIA when implemented is going to assuage the feelings of the host communities because they never had any real benefit in over 50years. The major thing now is to use it well for their own benefit”.
The Minister made these remarks on Thursday, at the 19th session of the State House briefing series coordinated by the Presidential Media Team.
On the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, Akpabio said the report which detailed discrepancies in contract awards in the past, including flagrant disregard for public procurement procedures among other infractions, was ready for presentation to the President.
He said as soon as the Ministry gets a convenient date from the presidency, it would be submitted.
Meanwhile, International Oil Companies IOCs are alleged to be owing the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC over $4billion dollars, Akpabio also revealed this during the course of the briefing.
From an explanation offered by the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, the IOCs are expected to remit 3% of their earnings to the NDDC annually but all of them have been defaulting.
On the East West road project still under construction, the Minister said over N10billion have been committed into the project by the current administration, adding that delays associated with the project includes paucity of funds and the 15km Eleme, Onne sections which were not originally captured in the project.
He said the entire stretch of the road which is over 338km has 41 bridges linking major sections.
Revealing that out of the N10bn budgeted for it in 2021, over N7.4billion have been paid out to the contractors.
He said come what may, the federal government is committed to completing sections 1-4 of the East West Road by 2022.
Regarding the award of contract to complete the NDDC headquarters in Rivers State, Akpabio said the building was being used as conduit pipe to siphone money from government.
He noted that rather than complete the building and move in, previous administrations were paying N300million as rent annually.
He said it is on record that he is the first Minister that visited the headquarters to find out what was stalling the project.