15 A pril 2014, Abuja – Twenty-one traditional rulers of oil producing communities on Tuesday insisted on the payment of about N484.4bn, which they said the Federal Government withheld from the Niger Delta Development Commission between 2001 and 2009.
The traditional rulers, under the aegis of Traditional Rulers of the Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, had dragged the Federal Government before the court in a bid to facilitate the release of the fund.
Addressing journalists after a scheduled hearing in the suit by an Abuja Federal High Court failed to hold on Tuesday, the National Executive Chairman of the group, Eze Raphael Ikegwuruka, frowned on the delay in the release of the money.
Ikegwuruka insisted that the Federal Government had violated constitutional provisions on the funding of the NDDC.
He said, “It has become public knowledge that since the establishment of the commission in 2001 to date, there has been violations of the funding provisions of the Act by the various contributors to the fund.
“Not all the oil and gas producing and processing companies have complied with the provisions of the Act.”
The monarch explained that the decision of the traditional rulers to approach the court was informed by concerns over the development.
He added, “Of greatest worry to us as the custodians of the social and cultural values of our people is the failure of the Federal Government to comply with the funding provisions as stipulated in the Act.
“We cannot be under democratic rule and the rule of law is jettisoned overboard.
“Since 2011 we have been in court to compel compliance by the Federal Government with the funding provisions of the Act.”
In the suit filed by their lawyer, Alex Izinyon, SAN, the traditional rulers asked the court to order the Federal Government to pay the NDDC the sum of N484, 450, 551, 137.91 from the Federation Account, being part of the statutory funding contribution to the commission between 2001 and 2009.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance, the Finance Ministry and the NDDC were listed as the defendants in the suit.
They also want an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government from further withholding the said amount of N484.4bn and any other statutory allocation due for disbursement to the NDDC.
In their statement of claims, the traditional rulers averred that “between 2001 and 2009, the 2nd and 3rd defendants (Finance Minister and Finance Ministry) released the sum of N202, 202, 568, 107.00 only as funds contribution from the Federation Account to the NDDC out of a total of N686, 653, 441, 244.92 being the actual 15 per cent statutory allocation which ought to have been paid from the Federation Accounts to the 4th defendant (NDDC).”
– The Punch