By Egufe Yafugborhi, Warri
RIGHTS group, Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep) has accused some Niger Delta leaders of allegedly “commercialising the Niger Delta struggle” following the division among splinter groups involved in the struggle.
Centrep in a statement yesterday by Oghenejabor Ikimi, Executive Director and Austin Nyekigbe, Secretary, particularly condemned the festering feud between the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clark and breakaway Pan Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress (PNDPC) headed by Paramount Ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom, His Majesty Charles Ayemi–Botu.
The group stated that, “The conflict of interests between both groups speaks volume of the extent to which the Niger Delta Struggle have been commercialized and hijacked by persons we refer to as Niger Delta Merchants.
“It is sad to note that none of the members of the above bodies and their ex-militant apologists live in any part of the creeks of the Niger Delta Region but in big cities of Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Yenogoa, Warri to mention but a few.
We are not oblivious that life in the creeks of the Niger Delta is unbearable for inhabitants who have no pipe borne water, electricity, motorable roads, hospitals, schools e.t.c. whereas these creeks which are the sea beds from where Nigeria earns foreign exchange from crude oil are neglected and abandoned.
Inhabitants of these creeks live on piteous shelters erected on water, defecate and wash on same water they drink. The entire environment is polluted, degraded and unfit for human habitation owing to oil activities without meaningful development by the oil companies and host government.
“The 13 percent monthly derivation fund to the region are mismanaged, looted and siphoned by state governments with the tacit support of these so called Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders through interventionist bodies set up by them.
Centrep cited recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which put the 13 percent derivation received by Niger Delta States since June, 1999 till December, 2016 at over 7 Trillion Naira without any meaningful development to justify the whopping sum.
According to the group, “the Federal Government should make the difference by dealing squarely and directly with inhabitants of the creeks by bringing modernity to the people through the Chinese approach. In developing slums in China, the government acquired large hectares of lands close to these slums, and brought modernity to same by building motorable roads linking the cities.
“The Chinese government built modern houses, hospitals, educational facilities, e.t.c. there. The Federal Government can replicate same in the Niger Delta or any part of the country without interfacing with any group or body of persons.
“Government must beware of merchants in the region masquerading as leaders and stakeholders of the people while the conveners of these numerous groups with tongue twisting acronyms purporting to champion the cause of the people of the Region must discipline their stomachs”, the body stressed.