Opinion

WHAT DO THE NIGER DELTANS WANT?

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By Fenny Fwa

This Niger Delta people are impossible. With due respect to the good ones amongst them, I don’t think the people are interested in development. They believe that their God given natural resources -oil and gas are not for development; it is to be shared amongst their people. Once this is not done, they will take up arms against the state. Permit to be specific. This generalization of anti development and the sharing of the common wealth is more pronounced amongst the Ijaws in Delta and Bayelsa states.  These are my factual reasons.

Since the inception of democracy in 1999, successive governments have religiously implemented the 13% derivation thereby making most of these Niger Delta states stupendously rich, especially Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom, collecting an average of N20b monthly until recently when the prices of oil went down. That is not all, the OBj regime established the Niger Delta Development commission(NDDC) where 10% of accrued revenue in federation is Channelled to the commission to develop the region . On top of that, Late President Umar Musa YarAdua created ministry of Niger Delta for the purpose of addressing the developmental needs of these people. There was also an adviser on Niger Delta Affairs. Furthermore, the then president Obasanjo ensured that a Niger Deltan in person of Goodluck Jonathan was elected the Vice President. When Late YarAdua fell ill and a katsina cabal wanted to prevent him from being the acting president, the country rose In unison and not only ensured that he acted as president, but was elevated to substantive president after the death of YarAdua . He was elected the president in 2011 and for the first time in the history of this nation a minority was elected as president.  For 6 years an Ijaw man presided over the affairs of this nation and also for 3 years, an Ijaw man was a Vice President of this country. The icing of the cake was the total control  of  the goose that lays the golden eggs. For 6 years, an Ijaw Iron Lady Mrs Dezieni  held the petroleum ministry, dispensing favours to her people.

With these enormous powers and wealth what is  the benefit of an average Niger Delta man apart from poverty, misery and want. The rapacious elites used the resources acquired to purchase choice properties in Abuja and abroad, displaying the wealth with arrogance and insolence. I saw a video of a party held in the US by Niger Deltans where Dollar was being sprayed  to the bewilderment and chagrin of their Americans Guests.

NDDC is a pot of sleaze. In its 16 years of existence, there is little to show for the enormous resources plough in the commission, except few fat cows milked  the commission dry. Orubebe who nearly turned the country upside down with his belligerent attitude at the collation centre of the presidential election, presided  over the affairs of the Niger Delta ministry and with the enormous resources at his disposal, he failed to make appreciable progress on East west road that when completed it will link virtually all the Niger Delta states. When Rotimi Amaechi, the then Governor of Rivers who utilized the enormous resources available to his state complained on the failure to execute the project, he was lampooned and accused of being anti Goodluck. The iron and untouchable lady that presided over the affairs of the petroleum industry was something else. Several Billions of dollars  were brazenly embezzled. If in doubt, please take your time and read the audit, Ribadu, NEIT reports on NNPC. With all these she had nothing to show in her backward state of Bayelsa. The list of the raping of Niger Delta by its people is endless. Is it the Governor General of Niger Delta, the late Alams who used the revenue of Bayelsa as if it was his personal resources. Well nemesis caught up with him having been arrested by police in London, but illegally left London to Nigeria unashamedly as a woman until he was forcefully impeached by OBJ using unorthodox processes. Another impossible character was Ibori the then Governor of Delta who plundered the resources of Delta state allegedly to the tune of N30b. Since our judiciary is so corrupt he was discharged by Asaba court on numerous charges for lack of diligent prosecution. While in London the U.K. Police and judiciary came to our rescue as he was found guilty of money laundering and other corruptive acts.

The disturbing aspect of these mind boggling looting by the Niger Deltans , the region has nothing to show for these enormous wealth. With exception of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Edo states, the other states of Delta and Bayelsa where most of the so called Ijaw freedom fighters are domiciled, the development strides of these states leave much to be desired. The people are living in abject poverty and penury. The Bayelsa case is the most disturbing. Having produced the Vice President, president, minister of petroleum for more than 6 years and in addition to collecting monthly fat cheques for close to 16 years with only 8 local governments with a population of about 1.9m , yet the state remains one of the most backward with a frightening debt profile that peaked at N330b. There was also a report that the present Governor Dickson had an accumulated  sum of N600b within his tenure as revenue with little to show in terms of development. Now compare Bayelsa with Gombe created at the same year. At the peak of increased revenue, Gombe could only boast of monthly allocation of N3b, while Bayelsa was having  an average of 25b, almost 8 times that of Gombe. Gombe has moved a head with unprecedented  development. The successive Governors of Gombe state have completely transformed Gombe in a modern city, while Yenagoa remains a glorified village, lacking in basic infrastructure and social amenities

One of the sore point of the total negligence of the people of Niger Delta was the cleaning up of Ogoni land. Based on United Nations Environmental programe( UNEP)  report commissioned by the federal government, the extraction of oil in Ogoni land had significantly destroyed the Ecosystem and would take $1b to clean up. The report was submitted  in 2011 when the son  of the soil of Niger extraction was in power. Nothing was done until the desert man from Daura commissioned the cleaning up exercise having put in place the legislative and financial structures in place.

The only grievance of the Niger Deltans that has some merit is the marginalization in terms of appointment in PMB government. Even the few available namely the powerful minister of Transport,the MDs of the all important NIMASA and NDDC have been cornered by Ameachi and his clique in Rivers state to the detriment of Ijaws, the urobos, the Ishekeris, the ibibos and others. This needs to be reviewed. Even at that it doesn’t necessitate the taking up arms against the state and engaging in economic sabotage .

This brings us to the title of this piece what do the Niger Deltans want? Definitely is not necessitated by patriotism, neither is it necessitated by improving the abject poverty pervading Niger Delta, neither is it a concern for environmental degradation of the land. It is not because the region lack basic infrastructure and social  amenities. The truth is that there is no longer free money they are used to,throwing dollar denominated parties and purchase of choice properties.The outgone regime was used to dishing out phantom contract like protection oil pipelines, security surveillance of water ways to prevent pirates from stealing crude oil. Stealing of our crude oil which was the vogue during GEJ has been blocked. The Money flowing from the biggest ATM in the world- NNPC has been permanently locked and the key taken to heaven.

I don’t subscribe to negotiating with this selfish economic saboteurs. They must be routed at all cost. This people are not driven by any deeply rooted ideology like Boko Haram who believe in their cause and will die for it since they believe they will make heaven. They are driven by material gain. Once a Marshall military plan is put in place, the government should ask them to lay their arms unconditionally or face decisive action. YarAdua did it by bombing their strong holds and they came on their knees embracing amnesty programme. Negotiating with these militants will encourage other rebellious groups to take up arms against the State.

Let us fight to finish. If they are so powerful and succeeded let them take absolute control of the oil since that is the ultimate goal. Nobody is going to die because oil revenues are not available.

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