Delta oil communities petition EFCC, seek probe of Okowa over alleged diversion of 1trn oil funds

OiL and gas communities in Delta State on Thursday asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to urgently investigate the immediate past governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, for allegedly misappropriating over one trillion naira oil derivation fund belonging to the state during his tenure.

The communities alleged that the diverted fund was from the 50 percent legally prescribed allocation to Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) from the 13 percent oil derivation fund for rehabilitation and development of oil producing areas in Delta State.

The communities operating under the auspice of Association of Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Delta State, through their representatives, stormed the EFCC headquarters in Abuja to present their case against the governor.

The petition obtained by the Guardian was signed by representative of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, Chief Mulade Sheriff; that of
Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality, Mathew Itsekure; Ndokwa Ethnic Nationality,
Patience Ego Afujue; Urhobo Ethnic Nationality, Hon. Mark Ikpuri; and Isoko Ethnic Nationality, Chief John Etenero.

Addressing journalists after submitting the petition at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja on Thursday, representative of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, Chief Mulade Sheriff, who insisted that the former governor illegally and unlawfully diverted the sum of N1,077,450,285,552.17, appealed to the anti-graft agency to conduct comprehensive probe of Okowa’s administration.

He particularly appealed to EFCC to
diligently probe and investigate the allocations and the deployment of 13 per cent oil derivation funds accrued and disbursed to the Delta State Government from the Federation Account from 2015-2023.

But when contacted, immediate past Commissioner for Information, Delta State, Charles Aniagwu, denied the allegations, alleging that those who wrote the petition were sponsored by politicians who lost the last general elections in the state.

Aniagwu stated: “They should go and sit down. This is a wild-goose chase and even EFCC will know that there is no 1trn anywhere. All the money we got from Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), including derivation for the whole period we were in office amounted to 2.1trn. How can one trillion naira be 13 per cent? Do the mathematics. The money that came from Paris Club, Federation Account that they share to every state, all the interventions amount to 2.1trn. And then out of the money we have, we spent over 1.1trn paying salaries that is for recurrent expenditure. With that, how can someone divert one trillion”, he queried

He added”: Those people protesting were sent by people who are still pained that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won election in Delta. That is what is paining them. They should know that it is not only Okowa that voted for Sherrif Oborevwori. 21 out of 25 local government areas endorsed him as their governor. So they should wait for 2027 if they have any better candidate”.

However, the group drew attention to the 50 per cent of the 13 per cent oil derivation fund prescribed by the DESOPADEC law of 2006 (as amended), 2007, 2015 and 2018 respectively.”

The petition read in parts:”We are leaders and representatives of oil and gas producing Communities of Delta State. We wish to draw the attention of the general public, particularly, the EFCC to the illegal diversion of our entitlement from the 13 per cent derivation funds.

“We are indigenes and members of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities in Delta State and it’s on this strength we are drawing the attention of your office in respect of the flagrant and deliberate abuse of Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and section 13 (1) of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Law of 2006 (as amended), 2007, 2015 and 2018 established to cater for the wellbeing of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities in Delta State.

“It is imperative to state that the DESOPADEC Law 2006 (as amended), 2007, 2015 and 2018 respectively was established to expressly execute a clear mandate as stated in Section 13(1) of the DESOPADEC Law.

“From the records available to us upon an application to the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation for a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the 13 per cent oil derivation fund from the Federation Account to the Delta State Government between 2015-2022, the sum of N1,077,450,285,552.17, has been disbursed to the Delta State Government from July 2015 to December 2022, for the Rehabilitation and Development of the oil Producing Communities/Areas in Delta State.

“In fact what Okowa received is far more than N1,077,450,285,552.17 if the 13 per cent monthly allocations of January 2023 to May 2023 are added. See attached CTC”

“It is very disheartening and callous to note that despite the copious and unambiguous provisions of Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 13 (1) of the DESOPADEC Law of 2006 (as amended), 2007, 2015 and 2018 respectively, Okowa has deliberately and flagrantly abused, violated and breached the above provisions of the Law and had continued to misappropriate the said funds for his personal use at the expense of the suffering people of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities in Delta State.

“By section 13(1) of the DESOPADEC Law 2006 (as amended) 2007, 2015 and 2018, the commission is legally and lawfully entitled to 50 per cent from the 13 per cent oil derivation fund from the Federation Account which is calculated at N538,725,142,776.85 from the Delta State Government.

“That from the information obtained, it is obvious that the Delta Government grossly underfunded the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission as it was in the habit of consistently and deliberately disbursing less than the sum of N20,000,000,000only annually for the past Eight Years. This was confirmed by the immediate-past State commissioner for information to the former Governor, Mr Charles Aniagwu that the state remitted only 208bn against 538,725,142,776.85.

“Sir, unfortunately all efforts by our communities’ leaders and other well-meaning personalities in Delta State to have the Delta State Government to obey, observe and comply with the DESOPADEC law and render account for the said misappropriated fund have proved abortive, hence this petition.

“It is very nauseating that despite the stupendous billions of Naira being paid to the Delta State Government from the 13 per cent oil derivation fund from the Federation Account, the Oil Producing Areas/Communities continue to wallow in abject poverty with no commensurate social amenities and infrastructures in place.

Sheriff alleged that the gross and reckless misappropriation of the 13 per cent oil derivation fund meant for the oil producing communities largely account for the incessant restiveness and agitations in the Niger Delta region.

Continuing, he stated:” We are strongly appealing to the Commission saddled with the responsibility to probe and Investigate the Okowa, to recover and return our money of the 50 per cent of the 13 per cent oil derivation fund from the Federation Account to the State Government and render necessary Account for the said illegally and unlawfully misappropriated balance to DESOPADEC coffers, to enable them Development our communities.”

He also alleged that Okowa used 13 per cent derivation funds to build and buy over 80 per cent shares in Premium Trust Bank Plc and acquire numerous properties including Jace Darl Hotels in Asaba, the state capital, Abuja and Lagos for himself and his daughter.

“The Immediate past Governor, Senator, Dr Heanyi Okowa went further to use our 13 per cent derivation funds to develop his village which is not part of oil producing communities in Delta State, with proposed plans to Re-named state institution in his honour particularly (University of Delta, Agbor, Delta State)

“There will be relative peace and development in the Niger Delta Region if the stupendous oil funds which accrue to the oil-producing Areas/Communities from the 13 per cent oil derivation Fund are judiciously used for the rehabilitation and development of the Oil Producing Areas/Communities,” he added.

(Guardian)