The Public hearing on the proposed amendment of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission DESOPADEC law held on Thursday July 17, 2015 at the DTHA Complex, Asaba, with majority of the stakeholders hailing the convening of a public hearing by the Okowa administration and throwing their weight behind some of the proposed amendments.
Some others, however, disagreed with some of the proposed amendments in the Bill, saying they negated the principles of derivation on which DESOPADEC was been founded and funded.
The chairman of the Adhoc committee on the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill, Honourable Dennis Omovie, while addressing the large gathering of host community representatives, told the stakeholders that the public hearing was to get their inputs in order to come out with a law that would be all embracing and all encompassing, adding that laws were made with provisions for amendment in line with present day realities, and the proposed amendments would make the Commission more effective and efficient in utilizing the resources accruing to the oil and gas producing communities and delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
Honourable Omovie also noted that oil bearing communities had suffered considerable neglect from oil exploration and exploitation activities over the years, hence the need to bring development to them through DESOPADEC and assured them that the committee would critically look into all memoranda and oral presentations made at the public hearing, in order to accommodate a wide range of views in the process of passing the Bill.
Airing their positions and contributions, the stakeholders and groups from Oil and Gas bearing communities welcomed the proposed amendment which sought to change to present nomenclature of the commission and hailed the Okowa administration for providing the platform for a public hearing, which has given the people the opportunity to make their positions clear on certain grey areas concerning the structure and function of DESOPADEC.
The stakeholders, including former speaker of the State House of Assembly Honourable Olise Imegu, Delta South Oil and Gas Producing Ethnic Nationalities, Ndokwa Leaders and Elders Council, Ika Ethnic nationalities of HOSTCOM, among others, said that the commission should be properly funded, while the nominees for appointment into DESOPADEC should be nominated by HOSTCOM before confirmation by the State House of Assembly.
They also advocated that the principle of production quantum by each of the ethnic nationalities should be used as a criterion for project execution, employment and appointment into the commission, stressing that anything contrary to this would shortchange ethnic nationalities that produce more Oil.
The stakeholders equally advocated that the 13% derivation revenue be paid directly into the account of DESOPADEC, while interference by government should be discouraged.
Some other stakeholders including the forum of legal practitioners of Oil Bearing
Communities, Gbanamatu Oil and Gas communities said the name DESOPADEC should be retained while separate commission for Oil and Gas should be established.
Majority of the stakeholders at the Public Hearing including HOSTCOM, Delta State chapter who spoke through its chairman Dr. Peter Egedegbe maintained that the description, Oil and Gas producing communities should be retained while ethnic nationalities should be expunged because the derivation was based on oil and gas producing communities and not ethnic nationalities, even as they called for the decentralization of DESOPADEC and urged that only gazetted oil and gas producing communities should be accommodated in the new arrangement on the proposed bill.
The elders and leaders council of Ndokwa ethnic nationality under the Chairmanship of High Chief (Dr) Godwin Otunuya Iwegbue equally threw its weight behind the amendments saying that DESOPADEC needs to be restructured for equity and effectiveness and also to address the obvious lapses in the current management structure, which falls short of the collective expectations of Ndokwa ethnic nationality as a major oil and gas hub in delta State.
The chairman noted that the current allocation formula to ethnic nationality in the state was lopsided and has completely marginalized the Ndokwa nation despite her contribution of more than 15% to the oil production of the state, adding that oil companies operating in Ndokwa land are making steady progress in their daily production output and their contribution to the state may hit 20% in the next two years.
Chief Iwegbue further stressed that Ndokwa land has the largest single pool of gas reserve in sub-Saharan Afica and exploration and exploitation is yet to start in several corked gas wells.
Accoding to him, Ndokwa land produces 7billion cubic feet of gas, and still Ndokwa nation has been poorly treated in the allocation of funds, projects and representation, he said that the house committee should investigate the reduction of Ndokwa production quantum from 12% to 9% while production have not decreased.
On his part, Professor Lucky Akaruese of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State said the proposed DESOPADEC amendment Bill should be thrown away as it negates the rights and declaration of the United Nations indigenous people and the principle of resource control.
The stakeholders also echoed the need for government officials to stay away from executing contracts in the commission.