The word ‘Ettu’ is a Latin quotation ascribed to Julius Caesar which means; “and you (too), Brutus!” — with exclamation on seeing his friend Brutus among his assassins.
Since oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa state in 1956, the entire region has not remained the same.
The impact of oil exploration has left a huge devastation on the landscape with severe environmental degradation effects such as oil spill, gas flaring and the release of other hazardous chemicals used in the exploration and refining activities. All of these, have limited the main commercial activities of the rural people of the area which is fishing and farming.
Without mincing words, the people of the Niger delta area have been at the receiving end of the sufferings that comes with oil production despite that their land produces the mineral resource that is the major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria as 90% of it comes from oil, 25% of it accounts for Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product while it also accounts for 80% of the total earnings of the country from all sectors.
This anomaly was the driving force of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration which led to the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with a deliberate and conscious attempt at remedying the injustice and infrastructural deficit in the Niger Delta at the time that the commission was formed.
The general believe was that the ingenuity and motive for the establishment was to bring equity to the region especially with the increase in oil derivation fund to oil producing states jerked up from 3% to 13%.
Furthermore, it was believed that NDDC will accelerate development of the area, but what do we have today?
The revelations from the NDDC probe at the National Assembly has been quite revealing and embarrassing.
On Arise TV’s; ‘This Morning Show’, Dr Cairo Ojougboh; the embattled Executive Director, projects at NDDC said between 2016 and 2019, emergency contracts of over 2 trillion Naira were awarded.
He said: “Normally, once you have won a contract in NDDC, it is like you have won a lottery. A contract that they will award to you in NDDC for N700 million, you can use 10 or 20 million to do it”.
Listening to that revelation was a hard pill for me to swallow on behalf of Niger-Deltans.
Who then do we blame?
I think it is partly the absence of quality leadership. No checks and balance.
It does look like that there is laxity on the part of the President on supervision of his ministers, otherwise the large scale corruption would have been put under check.
If the President was in charge, the situation will not arise whereby the President appoints people who have been screened by parliament as the management of the commission and the minister willthen decide to overrideit byappointingan Interim Management Committee (IMC) without recourse to the President for approval. A move which Frank Nweke Jnr, a former minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Duties under the Obasanjo administrationand whom NNDC was under his ministry said was illegal and not included in the Act which established the NDDC.
Speaking further, Nweke said he felt embarrassed to see what is going on at NDDC and reflected on his time as minister saying that there was no high official of government who could have contemplated the type of impunity going on at NNDC which is openly and explicitly stated with reckless abandon at the NDDC probe.
He gave reasons that government ministries, agencies and parastatals were mandated to embrace the due process initiative or the Obasanjo administration agenda which was accountability and probity.
He also stated that there was a Presidential Monitoring Committee (PMC) which reviewed and provided quarterly reports to the President and that as a minister he also got quarterly reports from the NNDC.
At present, all that is noticeable is a departure from the norm, the purpose of the commission has been defeated and eroded by charlatans who sees the commission as an avenue for personal aggrandisement and playground of politics of prebendalism.
The former Managing Director of NDDC, Dr Joy Nunieh in her testimony before the House of Representatives committee on Niger Delta blamed the problems in the NDDC on three groups while shedding lights on the activities at the commission.
“This story that we are all calling embarrassing stories cannot be complete without saying that the people of the Niger Delta region are responsible for what has happened – the frauds and corruption that have taken place in the NDDC. I’m speaking from personal experience”.
In absolving herself of the malfeasance going on within the NDDC she said; “The money of the people of Niger Delta is blood money; I refused to touch it”.
She goes further to say: “As soon as an MD is appointed, people begin to rejoice and celebrate, not because they want you to do the right thing; not because they are interested in the development of the Niger Delta; but because they believe that it is now their turn to eat of the national cake”.
On those who should be held responsible;
“One group is the management, which is the IMC, and everybody is against the IMC. The second group is the staff of NDDC. And the third group, which I will start with, is the people of Niger Delta”.
“The second class is the staff. The staff of NDDC are from the Niger Delta region. The contracts that have been awarded are for their communities.
“When I was appointed, I went from office to office; I sat in their offices and I told them, ‘You people are responsible for what has gone wrong in the zone.’
“All the staff have in their wards or local government areas projects. If every staff of NDDC takes up a project in their local government area and ensures that they are well done, we will not have these issues”.
“Thirdly, the IMC. For the first time in the history of NDDC, no palliatives were given. I did not give out Christmas palliatives. I was under pressure to bring N10bn – N1bn per state – but I refused. The youths were complaining that things were difficult and I said ‘the day I give you this money, you know I have started collecting your money”.
So far the names that has been linked to the corruption raging within the commission and its activities include Senator Godswill Akpabio (the minister), Dr Joy Nunieh (former MD OF NNDC), Dr.Cairo Ojuogboh(Executive Director; Projects), Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Senator representing Delta North senatorial district),Prof.Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei (Acting MD of NDDC), Senator James Manager (Senator representing Delta South senatorial district) and the Chairman house committee on NDDC; Hon Olubunmi Tunji- Ojo(Honourable representing Akoko North East/ West Federal Constituency of Ondo state and chairman House of Reprentatives committee on NDDC) who was accused of corruption and made to step down as the chairman of the probe committee. All these people are from the oil producing states.Should we then say they are all enemies from within?
There is a saying that play your part and play it judiciously. How well have they played their part regarding the plight of oil producing states?
I do not know how these people and their active collaborators especially contractors (most contractors are from the Niger Delta) feel when they go back to the oil producing communities where they hail from to build mansions that does not align with the impoverished background of the Niger Delta that highlights squalor. We see their houses immersed in water whenever there is heavy downpour due to lack of proper drainage and in some cases neglect of the existing drainage. Their expensive cars ride on the roads they refuse to tar and make motor-able. Yet they have the opportunity to fix these problems but choose to betray their own people.
The late Afrobeat maestro; Fela Anikulapo Kuti once said;
“No man forever allows his mother which is his land of origin; to be constantly subjected to all forms of vilification, oppression, exploitation and degradation without rising up against it even if it means his eventual annihilation. For that that has been man’s historical path”.
Nothing can be farther from the truth with the above assertion as that has been the historical path of men of honour who over time understands and identifies with the Niger Delta struggle. It is that path that the likes of King Jaja Opobo took in his time. It is same path that others who came after him like late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, late Kennule saro-Wiwa, Ledum Mitee also towed. It is what motivated the likes of Asari Dokubo and the legion of Niger Delta youths and militants to take to the creeks to fight for the collective plight of oil producing areas. It is the driving force which led Hon. Boma Goodhead to lose her cool and ask probing questions on the brazen display of callousness on her people by the political class at the recent NNDC probe.
The entire Niger Delta has to look inwards and rein in their gluttons or the Ijaws who are the largest nationalities in the area should as a matter of urgency invoke the wrath of Egbesu on the sons and daughters of the land setting the region back through their involvement in corrupt practices at the NDDC.