HOSTCOM demands release of gas flare penalty fund
Ndubuisi Francis and Ufora Orizu in Abuja
The federal government has approved N100 billion for the completion of Sections 1 to 4 of the East-West road project.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani made the disclosure in Abuja at a meeting with the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM), led by its National Chairman, Chief Style Benjamin Tamaranebi.
At the meeting, HOSTCOM, the parent body of all oil and gas producing, impacted, satellite communities in the Niger Delta region, appealed to the federal government for the release of the lingering gas flare penalty fund as discussed and approved by late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2009.
In 2018, findings from a Presidential Inter-Ministerial team on assessment tour of Sections 1 to 4 of the East-West road from Warri, Delta State to Oron, Akwa Ibom State indicated that contractors would require about N100 billion to complete the four sections of the flagship project in the Niger Delta region.
Usani told the HOSTCOM representatives during the Abuja meeting yesterday that the submission from the committee culminated in the federal government’s approval of the N100 billion.
China Export-Import Bank, the minister added, had also agreed to support the construction of Section 5 of the road from Oron to Calabar at the cost of $500 million, while the federal government would pay counterpart funding.
According to Usani, the federal government was on the verge of awarding the contract with a new design.
The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the minister stressed, is to monitor the completion of Sections 1 to 4 of the road, adding that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs had acquisced to the directive of the Presidency that the N100 billion should be paid directly to the contractors from the Federation Account.
The minister revealed that the federal government had also directed that the Gas Flare Penalty Fine being requested by the host communities, be released to them.
Earlier, the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Prof. Claudius Omoleye Daramola, decried a situation where contracts were awarded to the indigenes of the Niger Delta region, who ended up abandoning the projects after payments, warning that decisive actions would be taken to address such misdeeds.
In his remarks, the National Chairman of HOSTCOM, Chief Style Benjamin Tamaranebi, said their visit was to seek the federal government’s collaboration through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, in a bid to address the challenges of various communities in the Niger Delta region.
He lamented that oil exploration and exploitation companies hide under obnoxious government laws to neglect their host communities.
While calling for the release of the Gas Flare Penalty Fund, he noted “It is said that laws that are repugnant to moral sense cannot be enacted. How can one explain the foot that the penalty fund for gas flaring is held in Abuja while citizens of the immediate communities who bear the brunt of the gas flare are dying of the poisonous impact of the gas flare arising from the huge damages to the eco system, farmlands and sources of livelihood to the people in the communities, within oil producing communities.”