…Kemeabogha, activist, quoting NEITI report 2007-2011 says Master Plan remains dream after $47b spent
…’Community producing 100mpd annually got only street lights, transformers’
Comrade Efegi Kemeabogha is the President of Rural People’s Assembly, RPA, in the Niger Delta. In this interview, he speaks on the findings of RPA on International Oil Companies, IOCs, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and the state of oil producing communities in the region. Excerpts:
I have heard about RPA in the course of my investigative work to rural communities but not much is known about it. What is RPA about?
The Rural People’s Assembly is a non- governmental organization registered in 2016 with members cutting across the nation. Our core mandates are to promote sustainable development in rural communities in Nigeria, promote good governance and manpower development, promote equitable resources management in Nigeria and promote monitoring and evaluation in Nigeria. Our membership comprises people from all walks of life, including environmentalists, lawyers, accountants and historians.
Can you tell us some of the efforts your organization has made in line with your core objectives?
The RPA is more of an investigative organization and we’ve done a lot of work in the past five years in the Niger Delta. It’s a fact that as a result of the crises in the region over the years, and for the fact that no oil producing community in the region has been transformed from rural community to urban state since the discovery of oil at Oloibiri till date, we carried out investigation on the oil industry in the nine states of the Niger Delta. However, the controversy over the NDDC left us with no option than to unveil some of our findings.
We believe this may enlighten the public and enable the National Assembly and the Presidency to take informed decisions concerning the NDDC. We hired some of the best consultants, both international and local, to look into the oil industry over the years.
We also delved into the status of oil production in communities and their level of depletion, as well as the operations of the NDDC since its creation. Our findings are quite revealing and they are contained in a document we title ‘The Unprecedented Cruelty against Oil Producing Communities in the Niger Delta’. We sent a copy of the document to NDDC on the 27th of November 2017 and waited for about a year without response from the Commission.
Can you unveil the contents of the document?
This is a document that contains almost all the oil fields in the Niger Delta, almost all the contributions of oil/gas by individual communities in the Niger Delta; this is a document that contains all NDDC projects/programmes committed to all communities in the region and this is a document that contains almost all the major oil producing companies and their volume of contributions over the years.
We made repeated efforts, reminding the Commission on the intricate content of the document but met with consistent rebuff. Having waited in vain, we had no other option than to proceed to the court of law to challenge the NDDC for breaching the implementation of the Sharing Formula as contained in the Act establishing it.
Through the research generated, a compendium of oil and gas fields producing or not, their hosts, LGAs/states and level of production and depletion of oil-fields from 1999 were identified. We identified 413 oil fields with 338 producing across about 4,000 wells across the region.
Note that oil producing and bearing communities to onshore fields are referred to as hosts while those in the deep offshore are known as neighbouring communities. Though, getting official documents for such research work in a country like ours was not easy, RPA looked at the NDDC annual budgets and the pattern of projects/programmes initiation to implementation, including appointments, employment, scholarship and other forms of empowerment.
With the current crisis rocking the NDDC, what is the position of RPA?
We can’t talk about the crisis generated by the Forensic Audit on the NDDC and the probe of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) without referring to relevant Sections of the NDDC Act and the core policy framework guiding its operations. Part 2, Section 7 of the NDDC Act 2000 under powers and functions clearly states its obligations and, based on that, the NDDC came up with two fundamental policies in 2001: the NDDC Master Plan and the Sharing Formula.
The inter-state and intra-state sharing formulas are clearly stated with percentages stipulated for smooth operation of the Commission but they are violated and trampled upon.
Our findings revealed that oil producing communities remained neglected and marginalized by the NDDC managers despite these extant provisions. For instance, Egbema-Angalabiri and Agbidiama communities are host to five major oil fields in Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State.
These fields produce an average of 100 million barrels annually but since the creation of the NDDC, Egbema-Angalabiri has got only a few solar-powered street lights and two units of transformers. Also, Agbidiama got a six-classroom block and a dysfunctional solar-powered water facility. These fields produced 33 million barrels of crude oil in 2004, a production more than the combined contributions of Edo and Abia states in that year.
Similarly, Yorkri and Sekebulou communities in Burutu LGA of Delta State host the prolific Forcados Yorkri oil field that produced 25 million barrels in 2000, 18 million in 2001, 9 million in 2004, yet there is no single development project in these settlements. Bille in Degema LGA of Rivers State that hosts the prolific oil fields of Awoba, Awoba North and Krakrama (the second oil field discovered after Oloibiri) but it stands to be one of the least beneficiaries from NDDC in Rivers State.
The same ill-fate befalls on Jakrama town in Ahoada East, Rivers State hosting Adibawa and Adobawa North oil fields, yet only one water project was provided by the NDDC. Also, in Edo, the Ologbo Oil Field in most cases produced 20% of the state annual oil production yet Ologbo, which is a trek-able distance to Benin-City, remains a forgotten settlement by the managers of NDDC. In fact, NDDC is unprecedentedly cruel to oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
Can you also throw light on the state of neighbouring communities to deep offshore oil fields?
RPA is of the view that the oil and gas producing communities, especially the neighbouring communities to the deep offshore oil fields, are not even aware that the Federal Government, through the NDDC, made provisions for them to be developed via the 3% annual budget contribution of the oil companies to NDDC.
For instance, in 2008, SNEPCO, operator of the popular Bonga Deep Offshore Oil Field, contributed N6.48b to the NDDC budget. Also in 2009, Stardeep, the operator of Agbami Deep Offshore Oil Field contributed N4.94b to the NDDC. Yet, these neighbouring communities such as Amatu1 and 2, Belabiri 1 and 2, Letugbene and Besangbene live in the slump in a swamp with acrobatic structures till date. This piteous situation is the same across all major oil producing rural communities in the Niger Delta.
Now, IOCs are shifting their bases of operation to offshore soaring offshore oil production and onshore producing oil-fields will be depleted by 75% to 80% in the next ten years and there’ll be nothing like 13% derivation. Oloibiri oil-field dried up within 20 years of operation and nobody knows how long the oil fields in the region will follow the same fate. We fail to realize that oil is a non-renewable energy.
From the foregoing, what’s RPA’s position on the IMC probe by the National Assembly?
For all these atrocities of NDDC against the oil producing communities, the National Assembly House Committees that appropriate the budget approval with oversight supervisory functions did not deem it fit to invite or probe the NDDC.
NEITI, which is also a creation of parliament with mandate to audit the entire extractive industry in Nigeria, audited the NDDC from 2007 to 2011. In its report, N250 billion could not be reconciled, 22 projects were duplicated and N9.2 billion meant for small pocket jobs in the nine states could not be accounted for.
Again, the Commission came up with the Niger Delta Master Plan from 2000 to 2004 with an estimate of $50 billion US dollars to transform the region within 15 years period. Investigation revealed that over 47 billion US dollars has been invested in NDDC for development projects from the commencement of the Master Plan implementation in 2005 to date which makes complete the 15 years deadline. But the Master Plan remained a dream till date. In all these, the National Assembly House Committees did not see it necessary to probe into the accounts of NDDC.
Does it mean RPA is stating that the NDDC operations do not comply with the law establishing it?
We discovered in our studies that non-oil/gas producing and bearing communities benefit 75% from NDDC development projects and programmes due to the fact that managers of the Commission are mostly from the non-oil producing and bearing communities.
For instance, in Bayelsa, Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA benefits an average of 31% of the total state projects allocations from NDDC followed by Sagbama LGA with 29% and both LGAs were the only ones not producing crude oil and gas in the state within the period of study.
Painfully, high oil producing LGAs such as Ekeremor and Nembe hardly benefit from same agency. Specifically, Ekeremor LGA produces over 50% of the entire state contribution to NDDC annually but receives an average of 4% only.
This is applicable to other major oil producing LGAs such as Warri South and Warri South-West LGAs in Delta State and Eastern Obolo LGA in Akwa Ibom. For instance, in Delta, we discovered that Bomadi local government area, where there’s no oil production, has more NDDC projects.
RPA also discovered that 51% of the regional jobs were diverted into individual states at varying degrees with Delta being the highest beneficiary. In terms of development by sector, about 52% is annually budgeted to roads/bridges yet where are the roads in the Niger Delta? Where are the model schools and health facilities in the rural oil producing communities? RPA keeps asking, who cursed the Niger Delta?
Do you think the forensic audit can address some of these issues you’ve raised if successful carried out?
First, we commend Mr. President in his efforts to sanitize an extensively abused organization. We are certain the outcome of the forensic audit will expose the endemic corruption in the Commission but not sure if it will address the desired impact on oil and gas producing communities.
What is your next move in this fight for justice for deprived host communities in the Niger Delta?
This is the time to act and NDDC must attend to this issue of neglect meted out to oil/gas producing communities. We will not relent in the pursuit of justice for these deprived communities as we’ve gone a long way. In fact, we cannot stop at nothing after spending much money in this struggle. The criminal neglect of oil producing communities by NDDC must stop and RPA will continue to stand firm in this fight against injustice and oppression.