‘Stopping 13 per cent derivation dangerous’
Criticisms have begun to trail proposed plan by the Federal Government to scrap the 13 per cent derivation fund to oil-bearing states, and the silence on the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Dr. Michael Itokem, Senior Registrar, Department of Family Medicine, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), said: “The 13 per cent derivation has gone a long way to help people of the South South, taking the Akwa Ibom experience into consideration.
“I don’t think the President should stop it. Rather, he should set up a committee to check use of the funds, if at all the Presidency thinks the fund is not properly utilised.
“Stopping it will fuel agitation in the South South, which is already gone bad with series of bombings going on. Certainly, the country will not benefit, if such an action is taken.”
He added: “Whether funds are used well or not is not the issue. Instead, we should ask questions on what led to the introduction of 13 per cent before we begin to stir the hornet’s nest.
“Look at Akwa Ibom State. So much has been done with the funds, especially in the regime of Godswill Akpabio. If the President wants people to benefit from it, if there is insincerity about it, let him set up a body to oversee the fund, or governors should give lists of projects for all to see.
“Putting an end to it does not make any sense. Looking at capital projects, much of it is going to the North. I think what the President is trying to do is divide the country and stifle the South. His action might be seen as political, to stifle the South and empower the North, so that they will perpetually be politically and economically strong.”
On the PIB bill, Itokem said: “I think the President and the North know the benefit the South will get. But the North doesn’t want it because the South will benefit. If he believes the bill will bring peace, let him do it.”
The proposed $10 billion infrastructure fund for Niger Delta has the capacity to stem the wave of unrest in the oil-producing region if implemented sincerely.
The former Industrial Relations Officer of PENGASSAN and TUC in Rivers State, Chika Onuegbu, told The Guardian that in view of the fact that the country had lost over $7 billion this year alone in the Niger Delta, due to pipeline vandalism, militancy and crude oil theft, spending $10 billion on infrastructure in four years, would help stem the wave of unrest in the region.
Onuegbu explained that the major issue facing crude oil production today was militancy. He said the recent launch of the oil and gas roadmap was uncalled for. He argued that a government that was serious about expanding its oil and gas sector ought to have taken the step long ago, and not resort to unnecessary funfair.
“I hope this does not end up as another slogan by the government. You don’t have to launch the roadmap before you begin to address the Niger Delta issue. Pass the PIB! The talk about gas revolution and plans to increase oil production to 3.8 million barrels by 2018 and zero militancy by 2018 are mere media hype. The Minister should do his work,” he said.
Onuegbu said the 13 per cent derivation could not be scraped by an executive order, but rather by a constitutional amendment.