STAKEHOLDERS in Niger Delta have voiced out their worries at the failure of the Federal Government to tackle the problem of development in the oil-rich but underdeveloped zone.
They point to the Land Use Act, which has turned the natives to tenants on their ancestral land; Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, an interventionist agency set up by the central government to drive development in the zone being starved of funds, as well as the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, for repentant agitators, which they alleged is controlled by the north.
While some stakeholders noted with regret that instead of the zone enjoying dividends of democracy, it has more than ever been militarised by the Nigerian state to have unfettered access to its vast crude oil and gas resources, not minding the environmental hazard confronting the locals.
Others blamed corruption on the part of some Niger Deltans saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of the intervention agencies as the bane of the region.
FG only interested in N-Delta oil and gas
Speaking on the state of the zone, former president, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, and a past Chairman of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Mr Ledum Mitee, lamented what he described as the insensitivity of the Federal Government to the development of the zone.
Mitee said: “I believe that the Federal Government has not shown any commitment to the development of Niger Delta. Its overwhelming interest in the zone is for oil to continuously flow and not the welfare of the people of the zone.
“The NDDC has been chronically mismanaged and in the face of the sordid revelations of mismanagement of funds in the commission of late, no accountability has been attempted, instead a sole administrator has been appointed to superintendent it.
“This administration is the first to shun setting up of a board for NDDC. Instead it has been run by one ad-hoc interim management outfit to the other and even now the supervising minister and the sole administrator are from the same state for an organisation catering for nine diverse states. Never before has our collective intelligence been so assaulted.”
Tele-guiding NDDC not new — NDRA
Also, Darlington Nwauju, spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, said: “The claim that the NDDC is not adequately funded is far-fetched. I am aware that since inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, direct injection of funds belonging to the NDDC has become more regular and unhindered.
“In fact, more cash flow has been recorded in the NDDC since 2015 till date than the administrations before now.
“However, the issue of people tele-guiding the NDDC from the north is not a new story to those interested in the well-being of this zone. It is an embarrassing situation to say the least, so something needs to be done to end the rubbish and one of the solutions is within us and that is to end the mindless corruption rocking that agency.
“As for the sole management of the agencies working for the zone by people from the zone, this is another area that we must find our collective voices to condemn. The NDDC Act should be amended to expunge external membership of the board by people from outside the zone. That amendment, therefore, requires the active support of lawmakers from the zone.”
FG preoccupied with militarising N-Delta— IYC leaders
The immediate past president of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC,worldwide, Eric Omare, slammed the Federal Government’s lukewarm attitude to the zone, saying: “It is true that the major preoccupation of the present Federal Government is to militarise Niger Delta because it is only interested in the free flow of oil as against addressing the developmental challenges and other concerns of people of the region.
“All claims towards developing the zone are mere talk meant to cajole the people. The evidence of the Buhari government’s lack of interest in the development of Niger Delta is legion. From the East-West Road, not even a kilometre has been added since this government came on board in 2015 till date; to the moribund sea ports and the almost total collapse of all federal roads in the zone, it is obvious that the Buhari administration is not interested in the development of the region but only the oil.”
“As per the NDDC, it is not only the funding that is the problem. Everything is wrong with the way and manner the Buhari administration has managed the NDDC. In fairness, funding has been a problem with the NDDC even when Jonathan was president. But the thing that is peculiar to the Buhari administration is that those in charge of Aso Rock have refused to allow the NDDC operate according to the law.
“Under this administration, the NDDC management is now synonymous with illegality and impunity. NDDC under Buhari is corruption personified and this is unfortunate considering the administration’s claim to be fighting corruption.
“What is happening in practice with the NDDC and even the Presidential Amnesty Programme is that the corrupt cabal around Buhari has hijacked these agencies in collaboration with their allies from Niger Delta. They from time to time appoint someone in acting or interim basis and share the allocations to these agencies to themselves without any benefit to the people of Niger Delta who ought to be the beneficiaries.
“These have been the practice. Everything that is happening in NDDC and amnesty programme is being teleguided by the Buhari cabal with the support of some unpatriotic Niger Deltans. But with respect to the North East Development Commission, it is allowed to discharge its mandate without any interference. The impression this gives to us is that Buhari does not like the Niger Delta people and a leader ought not to display this level of bias against a particular region in running the affairs of the nation.”
N-Delta leaders inability to lobby, bane of zone
However, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr Anny Asikpo, has blamed the problems of Niger Delta on the inability of its leaders, especially at the national level, to lobby policy makers.
Asikpo regretted that the zone has people in the corridors of power, but none of them has taken the bull by the horns to push for policies that would benefit their people.
He said: “Policies are made by people. And in a democracy, there is what is known as lobbying, whereby the people that are in power from a zone should be able to lobby policymakers to make decisions and policies that would favour people of their own.
“Unfortunately, they always look for what will benefit them only. And another problem we have in the whole South is that we always go as beggars to lobby for positions.”
He backed the claim that what the Federal Government has done for the Niger Delta was to militarise the zone and playing politics with its development.
He stressed that if the appointment of people into the board of the NDDC were based on merit, the appointees would be accountable to the people and not to the cohorts who facilitated their appointment.
“You will agree with me that the answer to that question should be answered in the affirmative. Any reasonable Nigerian, not only a Niger Deltan, who wishes this country well, and the existence of one Nigeria should answer that question in the affirmative.
“But I will not totally agree that the NDDC is not properly funded. Before we talk of the commission being properly funded, has the improper funds been utilised well by those that have been charged with the responsibility to run the affairs of the NDDC?
“So, for me the answer is in the negative. I am saying and I will continue to say that the problem of Niger Delta as far as the NDDC is concerned is caused by Niger Deltans who are privileged to be in charge of the administration of the funds allocated to it.
“If the monies that have so far been released were used properly and on physical development of the Niger Delta, at least one quarter of our problems would have been addressed.”