By Shotonwa Waheed
In 2000, when the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration announced the establishment of a commission that will cater specially for the need of the oil rich Niger Deltan, observers like me concluded that the selfless efforts of the likes of Ken Saro Wiwa and many other activists from the oil well region has definitely hit the success jackpot and put a stop to the banditry in some states in the region. The Niger Delta region cut across 9 states in southern part of the country namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Rivers and the only western state, Ondo, comprising of about 185 local government areas.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established with the core mandate of training and educating the youths to curb hostilities and militancy who developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.
With this in place, perception of many is that the region would be a new emirate and be a place of attraction to many in terms of development across all ramifications. But things seems not to improve.
Again in 2008 during the Late President Umaru Musa Yar’dua’s administration, mighty and independent ministry was established just go the people of this region and by implication, the NDDC would become a parastatal under the ministry. The ministry would have a minister who would be in charge of development and a minister for state whose sole responsibility is youth empowerment.
This in place and many other allocation such as 13% derivative from the ministry of finance and amnesty programme, the state of the region is worst consider developing. The state of the states and the standard of living is not worth the attention they get from the government at the federal level.
A region having an agency of its own and ministers that represent its interest at the Federal Executive Council is as mighty as a Goliath. But what we have is a show of shame by the representatives of these wonderful people. So much allocation could not be physically accounted for and what is seen is the ‘big men’ carting away their share of the allocation.
While the NDDC was established for the region, the north east ravaged by the terrorism of the Boko Haram group got the North East Development Commission (NEDC) in 2017 to strive to restore normalcy to the lives of its people through development and rehabilitation. The impact of the commission is felt by the people inspire the continuous attacks from the terrorist groups. Journey through some north eastern states such as group’s epicenter; Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and others would give a sense of hope in the people. Unlike NDDC, NEDC did not have a ministry to itself.
The shabby and shoddy state of the region in terms of infrastructural development, education, health et al is no where closer to the allocation it gets from the government aside the monthly allocation of the federal government to other levels of government in the region.
Recent limelight shed on the activities of the commission made it obvious and confirmed the saying of the Yorubas that ‘kokoro tin je efo, idi efo lowa’ — the ant destroying a plant, lives with the plant. Allegations and counter allegations of the ministry and a past Managing Director of the commission headed a good direction to expose the high unreported corrupt practices going on in the commission.
In what condition do you see the people, words cannot describe their state and these people think their underdevelopment problem is from the government. Alas! Their people knows best.
A brief view at the Commission’s expenses from January to May 2020 amounting to about 81.5billion. 85.6million on oversea travel, 1.3billion on community relations, condolence and consultancy carted 122.9million and 83million. 13.4billion on COVID-19 among which about 1.5billion was given to management as palliatives. Whopping 1.5billion as palliatives?. This is the height of it. For humanity sake, if these monies are directed at the appropriate quarters, what we have of the region today would not be.
The ‘pondeism’ stage play of the Acting MD, Prof. Daniel Pondei at the public hearing on NDDC before the House Committee is story for another day. Why on Earth would you spend money without knowing how you spent it if there are not shabby activities involved.
What amazes one most is when you see some persons from some of these states make mention of ‘our state is not Lagos’ majorly in aspect of politics. Obviously they are not and can never be Lagos. The stride the state have achieved and sustained all years is no where closer for some states to get closer to. Revenue generation to both it’s and federal coffer has not equal in the whole country. Even when the state and the federal are on opposition, the state kept it head straight to better its people’s lives.
Shotonwa Waheed is a journalist and can be reached via [email protected]