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The big issue of the Niger Delta

02 April 2014, 10:11

The idea of hearing daily the activities of the so called militants of the Niger Delta could be nauseating for so many reasons. I do agree that it is only patriotic for anybody or group to clamour for improvement of their lot, for improvement of their educational, physical, economic and social well being. I also do agree that to demand for a better environment especially when the activities of certain organization in your area did not only degrade the soil but render it unusable for any economic purposes.

However, when the clamour begins to take the shape of criminality and outright disregard for laid down principles of justifiable action one needs to review the actions and activities of these freedom fighters.

Let us do a bit of review of what led us to this precipice of an oil war. Every community is blessed with one natural resource or the other. Every nation exploits these resources either exclusively or concurrently with its states or communities. The economy of the nation is thus connected to how these resources are being utilized by its leaders.

In this case, Nigeria developed the oil wells located in the Niger Delta area and we abandon our natural economy of agriculture for oil economy. Since 1951 and thereafter the environment of these areas became polluted and depleted because of the inefficient and ineffective methods used in the exploration, drilling, distribution and transportation of these crude oil within our  shores and away from our lands. Also bothering the people was the way the wealth of their land was used by the nation to develop other areas of the country like Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu and most recently Abuja. So the people of the land decided that it is high time they take control of these resources and the economy behind it. Hence we are at this crossroad and sliding fast into an abyss of hade.

But the questions we should ask ourselves before we proceed further are:
Were there people of these areas in the oil producing companies and at what levels
Were there people of these areas in the Regional governments during the initial exploration for oils in these regions
Subsequent to finding oil, was there any royalty given to any soul from this area or in another form were some people given anything for the use of their land. If some people got something who are they.
Had the area in question ever produced a State Governor to determine the affairs of the area
Had the area in question ever produced any Federal Minister in charge of Oil, Education, Social development and or Information?
What were the roles of the so called Traditional rulers/ leaders from these areas while all these anomalies were going on?
Can the area ever boast of leaders of thought in the Military, Banks, Universities, Civil Service and other spheres of life?
Could we have a great gang up of the leaders just to shoot Nigeria in the leg of greatness?

I am not going to answer these questions myself because the answers are quite obvious to every blind man who can only see with their ears that there was a great compromise by the leaders of this area and we are led to the gutter of hell because it is very convenient to blame another person for ones failure in life. So the scape goat is the federal government that is so inept in keeping records of property rights and royalties just because it did not affect them negatively whether things are done rightly or wrongly, so long as the federal account is huge and spilling over.

Let me state categorically that the clamour for resource control is being orchestrated at the highest level of Niger Delta leadership and what the militants are doing on the side is the price we all have to pay for using the wrong method for an activity. In military parlance what the small boys get into during a crisis is of no consequence so long as the Generals are not bothered comes into view. Remember the price we paid when the leadership of OPC of Yorubaland was all locked up by our warlord. Also remember what the Bakassi boys turned the streets of Igboland into at a stage in our life. Remember also the exploit of the Yandabas and Almajaris in Arewaland during any crisis. The simple truth of the matter has always been and shall ever be that some leaders’ use these small fry’s to achieve a lifelong ambition whether personal or group. So we pay and shall continue to pay the price.

Nevertheless my assertion above, it is my view and strong belief that the leaders of these area should immediately recall their troops from the ravines and creeks. Enough is enough. The federal government is making another mistake in creating a federal ministry to oversee Niger Delta development for the simple reasons that in all the agitation nobody has ever asked for a federal ministry. They had OMPADEC, they have NNDC.  And you don’t give people what they don’t want. What they want is schools, hospitals, roads, employments, water to drink and good food to eat. Tell me how the federal ministry of Niger Delta will provide these except create another bottleneck and bureaucracy for sweeping resources down the drains. It is a waste of time, a duplication of efforts and a distractive strategy which seems to be working already because they are already fighting and jostling for ministerial appointment into the ministry. I am not aware if any Lagosian was appointed the federal minister for Lagos affairs or if any indigene of Abuja has ever become minister of the federal capital development authority. There might have been one but like I said I am not aware of any.

Frankly, what we need to do is to make concerted efforts at developing the roads and construct new ones through the federal and state ministry of works, build new schools through the ministries of education, create employment by locating many government parastatals in the environment, build and equip hospitals through the health ministries and generally redefine the area through massive re-injections of resources by the oil companies directly rather than to some chiefs and elders.

Also all the state governors and local government chairmen past and present should be held responsible for the development of the area. I strongly oppose the deployment of soldiers (JTF) into this area because it creates a violent atmosphere which is repulsive to democracy and the military establishments and its leadership is partly to be blamed for this crisis. They ruled and looted the resources of this country as spoils of war. This is one of the causes of the problem.

I also oppose the increment of the share of the national cake to the area for a singular reason. Let the state governments of the area accounts for the little they are being given right now and if we discover that it was grossly inadequate we shall move to increase the allocation but as for now when a governor can pack ONE million British pounds and get away with few years suspended sentence of jail term and there is no social party that he is not the chairman or special guest of honour of is repulsive to right thinking people of Nigeria. Even the incumbent Vice president is to be held accountable for so much until he can justify how much he got as governor and what he used the monies and resources on while he held sway. I am not casting any aspersions on him but we want to know his management prowess.

Permit me to compare Bayelsa state with Lagos state in eight years under His Lord and Master General Chief Balogun Olusegun Obasanjo. Bayelsa as a PDP state got all her federal allocations plus thirteen percent oil money while Lagos state an AC state was starved of over fourteen billion. Yet the level of development in Lagos was massive and visible even to the blinds but can we say the same for a state that in size and population may not be equal to Alimosho local government area of Lagos state. Or is Bayelsa state bigger than Ibadan town.  To whom much is given much must be expected is the saying of our elders, so we expect much more from these state governors who are collecting the oil allocations and distributing them.

EFCC must actually review the finances of these so called oil producing and bunkering states and their past leaders with immediate effects so that for once we can know whether they need more money for actual developments or for profligacy.

Let me conclude this piece with a short comment on the memoranda from the leaders’ summit of South-South region. They should have better things to contribute to the development of this country. They should be ashamed of themselves as individuals and collectively. What did they do for their people when they were in good positions in government at both the Federal and State levels? I accuse no one but they know what they enjoyed and what they did to improve the lot of their regions and their people. History will judge.

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