As a follow up to my last advocacy on the marginalisation and exploration of the resources of Ndokwa/Ukwani land, I wish to complete same today for the records. In as much as the Federal Government cannot be completely insulated for being the remote cause of the underdevelopment of the South-South in general and Ndokwa/Ukwani land in particular, it is time to look inward.
The Niger Delta Development Commission is a Federal Government agency established by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the year 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region. In September 2008, late President Umaru Yar’Adua announced the formation of a Niger Delta Ministry, with the Niger Delta Development Commission to become a parastatal under the ministry.
One of the core mandates of the commission is to train and educate the youths of the oil rich Niger Delta regions to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity. While this was a commendable idea the South-South leaders, the commission and the ministry have failed to manage the affairs of their states even with huge resources at their disposal.
In Delta State, the Board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) was set up in July, 2007 to execute a clear and critical mandate; to rehabilitate, rejuvenate and resuscitate the peoples and communities of the oil producing areas of Delta State. This mandate is stated unequivocally in Section 13 (i) of the enabling law which set up DESOPADEC and states that the commission shall “receive and administer exclusively the fifty percent (50%) of the thirteen percent (13%) Oil Derivation Fund accruing to the Delta State Government for:
(a) The rehabilitation and development of oil-producing areas in the state, and
(b) Other development projects as may be determined from time to time by the commission.
The law establishing the commission in Section 14 empowers it to:
(i) Manage and supervise the affairs of the commission;
(ii) Enter into contract as may be necessary or expedient for the discharge of its functions and ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the commission in accordance with government financial regulations;
(iii) Establish and maintain such number of departments as it may deem fit for the effective discharge of its functions;
(iv) Pay the staff of the commission such remunerations and allowances as appropriate;
((vi) Do other such things as are necessary and expedient for the efficient performance of the functions of the commission.
Dear Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, as we speak, these laws are observed in breach as the commission is failing in her responsibilities to develop their immediate communities as their primary function.
The new DESOPADEC law signed by Okowa seeks to restructure the management of the commission for better results.
Under the amendment, the role of part-time commissioners representing the various ethnic nationalities is to propose projects and ensure their execution.
Recall that in the commission’s budget for 2013 and 2014 were N37 billion and N39 billion naira, respectively. Statistics show that if N30 billion went to DESOPADEC annually for the development of oil bearing communities; it means that in 13 years, at least N390 billion naira may have passed through the commission since inception.
Despite all these funds, the people of Delta State and Ndokwa/Ukwani land in particular still live under high tension poverty whilst those in the helm of affairs live in outlandish opulence. Their water is polluted,
land degraded and sources of livelihood ruptured
I will therefore advocate that the Delta State Government and her leaders in Ndokwa/Ukwani land must turn a new leaf and focus on the people. Let the people’s resources get to them. Enough is enough! The security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. This is still the law.
I shall go to Rabbi again.
Evans Ufeli Esq is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and Executive Director, Cadrell Advocacy