By Fred Akanni, in Warri
Nigerian oil Industry leaders are reacting to agitations that 3% of Operating Expenses (OPEX) of companies licenced to operate on any hydrocarbon acreage be paid into a Host Community Trust Fund for the communities around the subject acreage, as mandated in the current draft of the Petroleum Industry Bill, is too low.
“I believe there is too much uninformed noise”, says Joseph Nwakwue, retired ExxonMobil Petroleum Engineer, former President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), and former special assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. “This provision is to provide direct benefits to the host community. It needs to be at a level that does not significantly increase the unit OPEX. We had estimated the impact on cost of operations and hence profitability of the upstream. I really believe 2.5% would work”.
The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is close to final passage at both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But whereas the Senate has passed “the conference committee report in which 3% of companies OPEX in the last calendar year is retained for Host Community Trust Fund”, the House of Representatives stepped down the bill after an hour long, rowdy closed-door session assessing the committee report, as lawmakers from Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States, the country’s largest hydrocarbon producers, opposed what they consider a low contribution into Host Community Development.
Elected legislators representing the Niger Delta region at the House of Representatives, are championing 5% of the total operating expenses (OPEX) over 3%. The Niger Delta hosts over 99.9% of all hydrocarbon currently produced. The Dahomey basin, located in the country’s southwest, produces less than 1% of the nation’s output. No other sedimentary basin has contributed to the national production since first oil in 1958.
But those who routinely pay close attention to value creation in oil and gas activity, have a nuanced view.
“3% of OPEX, currently being paid to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the region’s development is estimated at about $500Million annually”, says Taiwo Oyedele, Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PwC, the global firm of consultants. “Unfortunately, this has not had any meaningful impact due to mismanagement. My view is that 3% of OPEX for host community development is a fair percentage given the need to make investment in the sector attractive and viable”, Oyedele explains. “I expect that the governance structure as proposed under the PIB will ensure that the funds deliver concrete results and if this is sustained, the amounts available will increase as more investments are attracted. It may also provide a compelling basis for NDDC to be scrapped and the contributions added to the Host Communities”.
The governance structure for Host Community Fund that Oyedele refers to in the PIB, is fairly rigorous. Unlike the payment to NDDC, the PIB mandates clear guidelines on governance of the funds, which, unlike NDDC, are to be locally applied, not granted “globally” to state governments. The draft of the PIB says that the Board of Trustees of Host Community Trust Fund, to be set up by the oil company/ies “shall in each year allocate from the host communities development trust fund, a sum equivalent -(a) 75% to the capital fund out of which the Board of Trustees shall make disbursements for projects in each of the host community as may be determined by the management committee, provided that any sums not utilised in a given financial year shall be rolled over and utilized in subsequent year; (b) 20% to the reserve fund, which sums shall be invested for the utilisation of the host community development trust whenever there is a cessation in the contribution payable by the oil ompany/ies; and (c) to an amount not exceeding 5% to be utilised solely for administrative cost of running the trust and special projects, which shall be entrusted by the Board of Trustee to the oil company/ies. The law also says that host community development plan shall -(a) specify the community development initiatives required to respond to the findings and strategy identified in the host community needs assessment; (b) determine and specify the projects to implement the specified initiatives; (c) provide a detailed timeline for projects; (d) determine and prepare the budget of the host community development plan; (e) set out the reasons and objectives of each project as supported by the host community needs assessments”.
Oyedele says: “I do not think the agitation (for 5% or even more of the OPEX) is warranted. More focus should be on the judicious utilisation of the 3% for Host Community in addition to 3% for NDDC and 13% Derivation for the oil producing states. All together these funds are capable of transforming the region and providing opportunities for the people”.
Africa Oil+Gas Report asked five Chief Executives of indigenous companies, all of them demanding not to be named. Two did not respond. Two of them nodded in preference of 3% of OPEX for the Host Community Trust Fund. The third said he could live with 5%.
Still, there is one industry leader who supports even higher percentages of OPEX than the two bands that members of the National Assembly are bickering about. “Beyond a 10% OPEX allocation, I would support a 10% equity participation in the lease”, argues Nedo Osanyande, a widely respected geoscientist, former General Manager of Sustainable Development and Community Relations at Shell Nigeria, and fellow of the prestigious Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE). “In the absence of equity participation, I’d support a 10% OPEX allocation”, he says. “Importantly, a sizeable part of this must be spent (at least initially) in community capacity development in managing this fund. Currently, the social organisation capacity is lacking. This is the reason the funds allocation so far – however inadequate – has not been judiciously utilized”.
Mr. Osanyande says that “with the right social organization capacity, financial resources captured by elites, strong men, and the like would be reduced. Thus far, such capture results in the funds not being invested in the communities”. Arguing that everyone one gains if the communities are happy, he concludes that “hydrocarbon production could easily double, and OPEX costs halved if the hydrocarbon producing communities are happy”.
But Mr. Osayande’s figures are not popular among his colleagues.
Says a consultant geoscientist who has worked on virtually every draft of the Petroleum Industry Bill since 2008: “Actually the 3, 5 or 10% would have been unnecessary if prior initiatives (13% Derivation, 3% NDDC, 8% Littoral State Allowance, Amnesty payments as well as Niger Delta Ministry mandates) have worked half as expected. They all have not worked because of implementation failures. Some of them are even now being copied as best practice in other countries where they are well implemented”.