– Each to pay $100 million yearly to undisclosed account
– It’s illegal, height of social injustice, say SERAP, Mitee, Briggs
The National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), an arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has directed operators in the petroleum industry to contribute to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Intervention Fund for the people of the North East.
A letter to the operators, exclusively obtained by The Guardian, shows that contributions will be made to a proposed “Dedicated Account,” while specific areas of infrastructure development interventions were spelt out, which should be “treated as urgent.”
However, as urgent as it is meant to be, the NNPC and some of the operators were reluctant to speak on specific issues raised by The Guardian in an enquiry sent to them.
Although the NAPIMS’ directive did not indicate how much the IDP Fund is, The Guardian learnt that each operator is expected to contribute at least $100 million annually to the fund.
The directive is coming as a surprise to many analysts, especially as there is already a Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) engaged in various intervention programmes.
President Muhammadu Buhari in January last year appointed a committee headed by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and a host of others as members, to rehabilitate infrastructure and resettlement of the IDPs.
Aside from these, respective individuals and corporate establishments, foreign and local, have initiated various support programmes for the North East IDPs, which make the NNPC/NAPIMS directive curious, especially as the Federal Government will share in the contributions based on its equity stake in the joint venture (JV) operations.
The NNPC is the government’s concessionaire in the oil ventures, and would inevitably pay from its share as part of the operating cost for the year.
The letter titled “Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Intervention Programmes/Projects and Proposed Dedicated Account” reads: “Further to the creation of a line item in the 2017 budget (5800:11) and the allocation of funds therein, it is our firm belief that to achieve the purpose for which the intervention programme and attendant budget was meant, you are hereby advised to carry out the following:
“•Immediate construction of the resettlement projects;
“• Constitution of a project monitoring committee (composed of NNPC/NAPIMS/operators facilities engineers and community development personnel);
“• Opening of a dedicated account exclusively for the purpose of prompt payment for IDP intervention (projects and programmes) activities;
“• Funding of the account one-off, to avoid payment delays due to the vendors/contractors; and
“• Ring-fencing of the IDP budget.
“NAPIMS, in conjunction with operators, will utilise the IDP intervention funds to construct resettlement facilities that can be replicated at various locations as detailed overleaf:
“• Units of 2 bedroom twin bungalows – 50 units per settlement (expected to house 100 families);
“• Schools (primary and secondary);
“• Health care centres/cottage hospitals;
“• Market stalls;
“• Provision of potable water; and
“The facility is also expected to have roads, drainage channels and waste disposal systems.
“A soft copy of the bill of quantities and cost structure will be forwarded to you soon.
“Please treat as urgent.”
The letter was signed by former Group General Manager of NAPIMS, Dafe Sejebo, for the NNPC, who ironically was relieved of his position the same day, after making a presentation on the IDP intervention programme.
But the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) declared the NNPC-NAPIMS directive as illegal and should not be encouraged, as it is government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens and not tax-paying corporate entities.
SERAP President, Tokunbo Mumuni, told The Guardian in a telephone interview: “From my personal opinion, the legal obligation of a company that I know would be payment of taxes. Any company established under the law to now be compelled to make donations to any cause is illegal.
“And if a company or individual refuses to do it, such will not be subject to any legal penalty because it is the business of government to take care of Nigerians who are dependent on it.
“For NNPC to issue a directive to companies is not legally justified. For a company to do specific things, as long as it’s not coming under any legislation by the lawmakers, there is no compulsion in it. No government establishment has a right under the law to issue any directive not from the legislature for any company to comply with.
“If this type of thing is encouraged, it will create problems in the land and should not be encouraged. I don’t think the directive of the NNPC represents the law of the land, as this is not passed by the legislature and codified in the written law.
“Contribution or intervention, to me, should be a matter of conscience for such companies carrying out legitimate business under the law through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Contribution should be a voluntary thing, not a directive because it is the business of government to take care of its citizens, and the business of corporate establishments to pay tax.”
The NNPC Group spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, in a very brief text message, wrote: “The JVs/IOCs under their trade group, OPTS, voluntarily agreed to assist the IDPs. It is part of their corporate social responsibilities.”
When prodded further that there is no such indication of an agreement between the corporation and Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) in the NAPIMS letter, he added, “What I sent to you is NNPC’s stand”, indicative that all is not as they seem with the IDP intervention programme.
The Guardian had sought to know why the corporation is “urging” operators to support an IDP Fund, in addition to building houses for the North East families.
Our questions were:
• Why are operators being compelled as a matter of policy to contribute at least $100 million yearly to the fund?
• Why is such intervention coming as a matter of policy from NNPC/NAPIMS rather than leaving it to the discretion of the individual company’s CSR programme?
• Why is such an intervention only for the North East, since the Niger Delta region where the funds are coming from has suffered a worse devastation on account of militancy and E&P activities?
• What plans are there to also compel the same interventions in the Bakassi IDPs, Nigeria’s first IDP victims? and
• Does the NNPC/NAPIMS have similar plans to also settle IDPs in the Middle Belt displaced by the Fulani herdsmen?
The OPTS of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) was also non-committal, even as a very competent source disclosed that “interventions are being harmonised in support of the government initiative, and companies are expected to align with the programmes.”
In an official email to The Guardian’s enquiry, which was sent out to all the JVs, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), responded as follows:
The Guardian: To what extent has Chevron complied with the directive to oil/gas operators to intervene in the rebuilding of the North-East region following Boko Haram insurgence?
Firm: CNL is committed to the industry-wide strategy for the intervention blueprint for the IDPs in the North-East region of Nigeria in line with the proposal by our partners, NAPIMS of NNPC.
The Guardian: Since the intervention is a budgetary provision for the 2017 operations, how much is being set aside for the provision of the infrastructure identified in the programme?
Firm: We request that all enquiries about this proposal should be directed to NAPIMS.
The Guardian: How comfortable is Chevron about undertaking these interventions as the Northeast is outside its areas of operations?
Firm: As we stated earlier, CNL is committed to the industry-wide strategy for the intervention blueprint for the IDPs in the North-East region of Nigeria in line with the proposal by our partners, NAPIMS of NNPC.
On its part, Total Exploration and Production Nigeria (TEPNG) said: “Total’s CSR efforts go beyond its areas of operation though we have specific programmes for our host communities.
“Without prejudice to the budgetary provisions you made reference to, Total has always been in support of all genuine efforts aimed at alleviating the plight of citizens who have in one way or another been affected by the activities of insurgents in the North East. In 2015, the company collaborated with the Nigerian Red Cross Society and carried out some rehabilitation and livelihood support programmes.
“We are also considering other ways of assisting the IDPs such as training in various skills and provisions of starter packs, to enable them to engage in economic activities aimed at restoring normalcy to their lives while reducing dependency.
“This is in addition to our decision to deploy four units of maternal referral centres which will be equipped with state-of-the art technology enabling the centres to serve as specialist hospitals designed to cater for women and children in the region. Two of these units will be located in Borno State.
“Apart from the above, we are also collaborating with NAPIMS, the Presidential initiative for the North East and OPTS to implement other projects aimed at ameliorating the situation in the North East of the country.”
The Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCIN) simply said: “Shell with financial contributions from staff of Shell companies in Nigeria has provided funds to support internally displaced persons (IDP) affected by the conflict in North-Eastern Nigeria.
“The intervention, which is being led by two implementing partners, Family Health International (FHI360) and Mercy Corps, provides IDPs and vulnerable host populations in Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State with health, food, water, sanitation, livelihood support, education and shelter materials.”
Notwithstanding the need for the rehabilitation of IDPs in Nigeria, the selection of the North East alone for urgent interventions as noted by SERAP throws up a lot of posers, such as:
• Why is participation in the North East IDP Intervention programme under compulsion and should be treated as urgent, when similar interventions in other parts of the country have not been accorded the same treatment?
• In particular, what programme has been put in place for the Bakassi IDPs, for instance, Nigeria’s very first experience of human displacement, who were abandoned by the same Federal Government that unilaterally ceded their land to Cameroun?
• Furthermore, why has the Ogoni cleanup declared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in its report as a matter of urgency more than seven years ago not received such integrated and coercive intervention?
•Why has the Federal Government not rebuilt the Niger Delta, from where the $100 million contribution will be raised, arising from oil and gas activities and environmental degradation, as being clamoured?
•Will the displaced persons in the Middle Belt, especially in Benue and every other state down to the South West, South South and South East Nigeria on account of the wanton destruction by Fulani herdsmen, be treated with similar interventions?
All these issues further reinforce agitations and the call for restructuring, especially as there appears to be uneven distribution of the nation’s wealth.
In agreement, a former chairman, Board of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), and former President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee described such a move as the height of social injustice, adding that such discrimination was fuelling various agitations in the country.
He said: “When you treat people differently, you are creating injustice in the society, and imagine that you are asking oil operators and not those who are selling groundnuts or doing textile. Oil exploitation is killing certain citizens of this country every day, and you remind me of what happened in some parts of the country, and the indigenes of those areas are not getting anything from the havoc associated with oil exploitation. I think this is the height of injustice.”
He argued that such discriminatory attitude raised issues on the unity of the country. “This preferential treatment in different parts of the area is part of the things that underline some of these agitations that are now being inflicted on the whole country today.”
While not disputing the need for assistance to the North East, Mitee insisted that such should not be done under compulsion. “It should be done on a voluntary basis; you do not make it compulsory. The oil companies will adopt it as part of their operations cost. That is why NEITI can’t trust their reports, because how will you account for that?”
Mitee, an Ogoni indigene, an oil-rich area where the United Nations (UN) declared a state of emergency on account of the pollution of the environment from oil and gas activities, said: “If you look at the whole issue of the Ogoni, as we speak, nothing you can show for it on the ground. In fact, my information on the case is that the ministry is sitting on the $10million that was said to have been contributed a long time ago. Because of issue of environment degradation, people are dying each day. The United Nations said it is the largest pollution in the world, and then many years after, nothing is happening. Each day you will hear, ‘we are putting up structures’, but nothing.”
Against this backdrop, he urged the government to “review the injustices, which led to insecurity, agitations in the country.”
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, an indigene of Bakassi, could not comment on the issues raised by The Guardian and the situation of the Bakassi IDPs in Cross River State. After two days of waiting after sending her a written inquiry with supporting documents on the latest development, she replied in a one-sentence text message.
“I really do not still understand and will need further clarification. Otherwise, I am sorry I cannot comment on issues I don’t fully understand,” she wrote.
But a human rights activist , Ann-Kio Briggs, while expressing sympathy for the North East IDPs, accused the Federal Government of flagrant insensitivity to the plight of the Niger Delta people and region in the face of widespread devastation of the environment.
To her, such preferential treatment for one region reinforces the call for restructuring. “This demand alone further justifies our call for the total restructuring of Nigeria, based on a new constitution not in three years or seven years, but before the 2019 elections.
“I speak on this issue with disbelief. I am not surprised that the Federal Government continues to show disregard and insensitivity to the Niger Delta people and region. I am in total sympathy with the plight of the IDP as they find themselves in this pathetic situation because of a terrorist group.
“Aside from the international intervention funds, the funds already set up by the Federal Government also comes directly from the Niger Delta people’s resources. It is unacceptable, and a slap on the face of the Niger Delta people, if we recall the devastation of our land and the lives of our people due to oil and gas pollution. There have been attacks on communities such as Odi, Odioma, Ogoni, Bakassi, the people of Middle Belt, and Igbo nation by herdsmen who have killed, raped and destroyed farms, homes and communities,” she said.
According to her, “in Niger Delta, Igbo nation, and the Middle Belt, hundreds of thousands, if not millions have been killed and made homeless; no international organisations are helping. My people drink polluted water from these very oil operators that are being asked to contribute $100 million each, and yet they won’t to even stop flaring gas, which is illegal.
“As a human rights activist, this is most unfair, and unjust against my people and region where the money that is expected to be given for the amenities come from, while we, the owners of the resources have not been provided similar amenities. I insist it is unfair, and remains unacceptable.”
Briggs accused the Federal Government of paying “lip service to one Nigeria, through its insistence that the ethnic nationalities should not negotiate their future in a country that is governed on the demands of a cabal which will continue to tear Nigeria apart.
“It is important that the Federal Government be reminded that when we count the revenue derived from oil and gas from the three zones, the 19 states and 419 local governments of the North of Nigeria contribute 0.00% of the oil and gas resources, yet the north benefits more, while the South which contributes 100% from the revenue benefits less.”
Briggs, who spoke passionately, said “this reaction expressed here is the reaction of the majority of the poor, neglected and offended people of the Niger Delta.
“It is urgent that the Federal Government knows that the compromised few Niger Delta people it claims to be negotiating with are not on behalf of the people and region, as we cannot see what is being negotiated if they cannot negotiate even what is being given to Northern IDPs from our resources.
“What are they negotiating for the Niger Delta if they can’t negotiate with the operators to raise $100 million each when they pollute our lands, waters, rivers, creeks, mangroves, and swamps?
“We don’t want crumbs from our God-given resources. The injustice we endure goes on and there does not seem to be an end to it. The Niger Delta Self-Determination Movement demands an end to this injustice,” she concluded.