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The more things change in Nigeria, the more they remain the same (2)

By Douglas Anele

What further proof of incompetence against the former Co-ordinator of NAPEP does one need if he could not produce contract documents signed before  he assumed office and did not  alert the relevant law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC , when he searched in vain for them?

In another graft related story, an Abuja High Court  presided over by Justice Adebukola Banjoko, has once again affirmed that Ndudi Elumelu, Nicholas Ugbane, Jibo Mohammed and six others must be prosecuted, because a prima facie case of fraud against them has been established by the EFCC.

The nine men were accused of illegally withdrawing the N5.2 billion Rural Electrification Agency fund. Elumelu, it would be recalled, was chairman of the House of Representative committee that investigated how several billions of dollars were spent in the power sector without tangible results during the tenure of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

It is almost unbelievable that shortly after  his group had concluded their assignment, Elumelu would be docked for embezzlement. There are media reports that about N650 million  has been earmarked for work at the jinxed Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill. The Ajaokuta project which was started in 1979 has thus far gulped 6 billion dollars, and still it has not produced the much-expected steel for the industrial take-off of the country. Steel, as everyone knows, is fundamental to the industrial development of any country.

Therefore, one expected that the present federal government would embark on a thorough scientific assessment of the steel company first before investing fresh funds in it. The government could also launch a serious investigation to  determine those responsible for stalling its take-off, deal with them appropriately, and do what it can to complete the project as soon as practicable.

I am not  sure that a rigorous evaluation process was carried out before the government decided to inject  N650  million into  the protracted steel project,  or that it is interested in identifying and punishing  those who  have been sabotaging it. I am not an expert in steel production, but I know that for a  steel project started 31 years ago, perhaps  many of the machines would be obsolete by now. Others might  have been vandalised also.

The financial waste, missed  employment opportunities  and technological spin-offs from the project, if it had been completed as at when due,  are incalculable. Turning our attention now to the Niger Delta problem, one can say justifiably that the more things change the more they remain the same.

Even before President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua  cobbled together the amnesty programme for  militants in the region, several measures had been taken to restore peace and security there. Special intervention funds have been set aside and institutions created to pacify the  militants.

Attempts have also been made towards fruitful discussions involving leaders of the oil- bearing communities, the oil companies and the federal government. But all these efforts have not yielded lasting results due to several factors.In my view, the most important factors include the refusal of successive administrations and the current one to address squarely the issue of fiscal federalism, the neglect of the communities by multinational oil companies, and the diabolicall activities of some prominent sons and daughters of the Niger Delta who collect  huge sums of money from the oil companies and ignore the plight of their own people.

I believe that Yar’Adua’s (now Jonathan’s)  government is still not doing the right thing to address the problem. For instance, it inaugurated  a technical committee to look into the festering crisis and make recommendations. After the committee had  concluded its assignment, the government, as usual, treated its recommendations cavalierly.

It then set up the amnesty strategy which was relatively successful at the initial stage. However, one  of  the major militant groups, the  Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta(MEND), has resumed hostilities. Last  week,it  violently disrupted a stakeholders dialogue organised by Vanguard Newspapers to address the intractable problems of the Niger Delta and articulate viable and sustainable practical solutions to them. Years of neglect and corruption have decimated the area.

Ideas about how to handle the problem are available. But is the federal government willing to take bold initiatives to ensure that Nigerians living in oil-bearing communities are benefiting as they should from the exploitation of the natural endowment in their area? That is the major problem.The same phenomenon of motion without movement is clearly noticeable in the National Assembly.

After over 12 years of legislative experience since 1970, the federal legislators behave as if they have learnt nothing from their predecessors. The Senate and House of Representatives are dominated by agbata ekee mentality.That is why inspite  of the irresponsibly high remuneration packages they approved for themselves, the performance score card of senators and house members is below average.

Greed, truancy, unseriousness, lack of public spiritedness  and absence of intellcetual depth during debates have rendered the National Assembly  almost completely ineffectual in the evolution of democracy in Nigeria.

The only way the senseless and futile game of musical chairs will end is through creative non-violent activities like protests and civil disobedience to press home to the rulers that there is a limit to what  we can endure as a result of incompetent governance. We cannot afford to wait for Godot or a messiah any longer .


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.