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Accountability must drive post amnesty Niger Delta and Nigeria, says Bankole

House of Reps Speaker’s speech at Post Amnesty summit in Kaduna

PROTOCOLS

The Governor of Bayelsa State called me and said I must be here, I said well I will be there but I hope we will still be friends after I speak.

For those who will be offended by what I would say today, I apologise because since you called me Speaker, I must speak.. And remember also that my wife is from the Niger-Delta (Applause). I hope you will clap for me when I finish.

First of all I must congratulate the gentlemen and ladies who are handling the Amnesty Programme. I say congratulations and well done. You have done a great job. And also congratulations President Umar Musa Yar’Adua for the well conceived programme.

Since I didn’t come with a speech, I am going to speak from my mind. I hope I don’t get screaming headlines tomorrow.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, we have not been fair to the Niger-Delta (Applause). Niger-Delta has been producing the funds with which we have been running this country for so many years.

The funds that we used to build Abuja where I came from this morning, those bridges and offices that you see in Abuja came from the funds from Niger-Delta. I have not seen such bridges and roads in the Niger-Delta. Until those roads and infrastructure come to the Niger-Delta, we will continue to put the request on the front burner of Nigerian politics.

However, things have begun to change. In the last ten years there has been tremendous difference in the governance and financing in the Niger-Delta. The last ten years indigenes of the Niger-Delta have been operating at the highest level of government in Nigeria.

Dimeji Bankole House of Reps Speaker
Dimeji Bankole House of Reps Speaker

Today, the Vice President is from the Niger-Delta, the Head of Civil Service that is engine room of government is from the Niger-Delta. The Chief of Defence Staff is from the Niger-Delta. Until few months ago, even the Inspector of Police was from the Niger-Delta. So when it comes to economics, security and politics, Niger-Delta is at the top. Now let’s come to the finances.

To some of you who have been in Lagos in the last one year I am sure you will notice a difference. And I am not shy to appreciate that there is a difference in Lagos. It is good governance.

I will tell you today, Your Excellency, the governor of Bayelsa State collects 9.2 times more money than Lagos State from the Federal Allocation. That’s a recent development. Don’t compare it with 20 years ago. I know that Rivers State collects more money than the entire North-Eastern States of Nigeria today. I know that Akwa Ibom State collects more money than the entire North-Western States of Nigeria. I know that Bayelsa State collects more money than the entire North-Central states of Nigeria (Applause) Hold on! You said I should speak o!

Nigerian Budget this year was around N3 trillion. However, by the time you add the budgets of the Niger-Delta States alone, it is over 1.5 trillion. Those are the facts that ten/twenty years from, people are going to ask me, people are going to ask Governor of Bayelsa, people are going to ask all of us that what did we do when those facts were put on the table. These figures may not be completely accurate but I know it is not far from the truth.

(Applause) wait now, when they start abusing me in the headlines tomorrow, remember what I told you.

Now we have opportunity. With the funds there must be a difference. Because people of the Niger-Delta would begin to ask questions from their leaders on how these monies were spent. We may have excuses in the past that we were unfair to the Niger-Delta, but today those excuses are no longer tenable. Because when they ask me I will say go and ask them, they are the ones. What did they do with the money? Nobody will come from Abeokuta to tell you what to do with your money. You will ask yourselves about how your money was spent.

Which House of Assembly in the Niger-Delta or in the whole country would perform its constitutional responsibility to ask questions on money spent by the Executive?

If they ask questions, we better have answers for them.
The information I have for you today, not only have we been unfair to the Niger-Delta, we have been unfair to the North-East, we have been unfair to the North-Central, we have been unfair to the North-West, we have been unfair to the South-East.

Like I said, there is no difference in what is happening in the Niger-Delta from other parts of Nigeria. It’s just that when the Niger-Delta youth see the effects directly, they react. And they didn’t start today. They have been reacting for so many years. We now find ourselves, facing each other and telling ourselves the truth koro-koro.

Anyway, my own take is this: there is no solution to the Nigerian issue, Niger Delta or otherwise, in oil. Oil will not give us solution. It’s very simple. The technology involved in development of oil cannot employ Nigerians. If you cannot employ, you cannot solve the Nigerian problems.

The only technology that oil production has is common drilling and that is on water. You cannot compare it with any other development strategy.

Therefore our dependence on developing technology in oil sector of the economy will not solve the collective problems of not only the Niger-Delta but Nigeria as a whole. So let’s just forget it. It is not going to work. It has never worked in any country in the world.

There was a Niger-Delta Economic Summit a couple of months ago and they showed leadership. Yes the governors, they showed leadership in economics in Nigeria. However the solution to our problems is the creation of a middle class in Nigeria, creation of jobs, massive employment. And if the North does not take the initiative nobody is going anywhere in this country.

Our dear fathers, Emirs, Governors, Presidents of Northern extraction, 80% of our arable land are not cultivated. If you cannot cultivate, you cannot process. If you cannot process, we are going nowhere. So the solution has to do with performance in governance.

As far as I am concerned Nigeria in the largest African country, most populous country with its major population of northern extraction. It has to be done. It is a long distance race. It is not a one year or two year plan. It is a long one. And you have done it before, you did id fifty years ago, you can advise us on how to do it.

And to the NGOs please support the political class and for those people who have incredible ideas, but stay outside and say politics is a dirty game, well I say good luck to you.


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