By Patrick Andrew
The National Conference yesterday pleaded with the federal government to pay the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), amounting to about N 1 trillion.
This came to light when a delegate, Sergeant Awuse, from River state alleged that the NDDC was not being funded by the Federal Government contrary to the position of the Committee on Devolution of Power, which had said the corporation was one of the instruments the federal government was using to address the problems of the Niger Delta.
He said NDDC is funded by oil companies and the oil producing states which are contributing a percentage of their money and consequently suggested that derivation should be increased to 30%.
However, Umar Kumalia faulted the position of Sergeant Awuse and said that the NDDC is funded by the FG. He said as a member of the House of Representatives, the House approved a funding structure whereby the FG contribution which was proposed at 5% was increased to 10% of annual budget.
He also said Oil Companies were also expected to remit 5% of their annual income to the NDDC. He said President Obasanjo vetoed the bill, but NASS vetoed him too.
But Femi Falana corrected Kumalia said based on section 14 of the NDDC Act and adduced that the FG was required to contribute 15% while Oil Producing states, as well as Oil Companies were expected to contribute 3% of their total annual budget operating on off shore and on shore. He said the FG has not been paying its contribution all through the Obasanjo presidency.
He said the NNDC was being owed about N1 trillion by the federal government and pleaded with government to pay them this money because it would go a long way to address the huge economic dislocation of the ordinary people as well as solve the matter of environmental degradation.
Also, Chief Edwin Clark said the NDDC is owed over N600 billion by the FG and they are in court. He said the UN had stated it requires bn to rebuild Ogoni alone. He recalled that in the 2005 Conference 17% was recommended for derivation, after which a senate committee under Ibrahim Mantu increased it to 18%, but 13% ended up being recommended with a promise to that it will be increased gradually.
Subsequent speakers pleaded with the government to “do the right thing” by meeting its obligation adding that failure to pay the debts would further heighten tension in the region even as they say government was simply giving the impression it attention’s problems.
Other said the refusal of the government to pay the NNDC fund while giving other regions the impression it was doing so merely increased the bad blood between other regions and the Niger Delta whom others think was being overfed.