Host Communities Seek Payment of N98bn Gas Flare Penalty Fund

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Sylvester Idowu in Warri

Members of the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCON) have declared as unacceptable the federal government’s continuous withholding of the N98 billion gas flare penalty money owed oil producing communities.

THISDAY learnt that the money, which was allegedly paid by the IOCS to the Department of Petroleum Resources few years ago have been a subject of controversy after it was transferred to the federation account.

The National Chairman, HOSCON, Dr. Mike Emuh, said this during an interview with journalists after he was affirmed for a second term of four years at an Annual General Meeting (AGM), held in Warri, Delta State.

According to him, there was a serious agitation in the Niger Delta region over the money.

He said the federal government, for reasons yet to be understood, have kept the fund in the federation account instead of the HOSCON account, maintaining that releasing the money would help to sustain existing peace in the region.

Explaining how the money came, he said, the money was paid by International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the DPR for the host communities in accordance with international law.

“The law requires the fund to be paid to the host communities for environmental degradation, pollution and plundering of their communities as a result of gas flaring.

“But the IOC paid the fine to the Department of Petroleum Resources and on receipt of the money, DPR paid the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, who later transferred it to the Federation Account. This is an aberration,” he added.

Emuh, also said that the federal government had also approved the training of 10,000 youths from host communities for pipelines surveillance and intelligence gathering job, based on the recommendation of the European Union that critical oil installations should be guided by host communities.

In the same vein, Emuh lamented that approval was also given for establishment of modular refineries in the region by host communities and 10 licences were agreed to be given to HOSCON, but the process was also delayed.

On the 13 per cent derivation fund, Emuh said there was no law backing the allocation of the fund to states or local governments as it is presently, saying it was the prerogative of the President and host communities to administer the fund.

According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari had asked HOSCON to forward the template for implementation and onward  release of the fund to the host communities, stressing that the governors who enjoy 13 per cent derivation fund may not be happy with the development.

At the meeting, Emuh and his executive committee were unanimously adopted for another tenure of four years after a motion was moved by his Highness Obong Okon S. Akpomowong, chairman Akwa Ibom HOSCON and seconded by chairman of Bayelsa State HOSCON, NIJ idubamo-Awala.

Delegates from Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Cross Rivers, Enugu, Ondo, Delta, Osun, Akwa Ibom and Osun were amongst the States in attendance during the meeting.