- …Demands forensic audit of Niger Delta Ministry
Convener, South-South Reawakening Group, Mr., Joseph Abakederemo, in this interview, speaks on the state of affairs in the Niger Delta region and clamour for regional security outfits among other issues.
What is your position on the creation of regional outfits?
It has generated a lot of controversies. It is something we have to avoid. I don’t want to be a proponent of regional security outfits. Even those the governors are creating have not been helpful. For me, corruption is at the root of all these. We still rely on conventional ways of fighting crime. The police don’t want to think outside the box. Today, the police provide security for politically exposed persons and wealthy Nigerians instead of providing security for Nigerians. Regional security is not the option. When the Amotekun thing came out, a former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Seriake Dickson, said he supported it. He had created five security outfits in Bayelsa. Has it stopped any crime in Bayelsa? Cultists operate everywhere, sea piracy is high, pipelines are still being vandalized, and people are being killed. That explains that this security arrangement is not a solution. That was how they created the Nigerian Civil Defence and Security Corps. What has changed?
The way forward is to restructure the Nigerian Police Force. If the force is structured, we won’t need the army on our roads that are also collecting money. There must be checks. People must face the law for any crime committed. Allowing the law to run its course will bring sanity to the system. They have hunters in the South -West called the Agbekoya. What have they done differently?
In those days we knew what we called CID. If some showed you a CID person, you had goose pimples. They seat in beer palours and motor parks for information. We have to develop, fingerprint technology. They don’t exist because there is no database in the country.
What stops us from creating an industrial zone in the South-South? Let’s embrace agriculture. The South-South has not been able to key into agricultural revolution in the country despite having swamp everywhere. The rice we import to the country is produced in the swamps of Asia.
During the administration of President Shehu Shagari, Bayelsa had the biggest rice farm in West Africa. What is the fate of the farm today?
Developments in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, are not healthy. It is a shame that we have turned an agency that should be beneficial to everybody into something profiting a few persons. The stench coming out from NDDC is too much. Again, we can’t blame any external person, we should blame ourselves. The inauguration of an interim board, even if it is against the NDDC Act is a welcome development. We must look inward. All those that have held leadership positions here must be called to give an account of their stewardship. Some of us are optimistic that the current leaders would succeed. However, there should be a timeline for the new board. NDDC started having problems when Timi Alaibe left. It was a reputable audit firm that was auditing the agency when he was there. It is so bad that anybody who got the position of Managing Director wants to become the governor of his state. All states in the South-South should contribute to what I call a “Sub-Sovereign Future Funds.’’ They should contribute a percentage to the fund that would be domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria. The fund can be used as collateral for loans to fund big projects in the region.
Niger Delta Ministry
The Niger Delta Ministry is as guilty as NDDC. Since the creation of the ministry, what have they done? Senator Godswill Akpabio left other issues in his ministry and be talking about NDDC. Is that not altruistic?
Let him focus on his ministry. Agreed, NDDC is under his ministry, but let him allow the people there to concentrate and do their work. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio, should leave NDDC alone.
If the President wants to leave a good legacy, he must focus on Niger Delta. The Ministry and NDDC must be watched closely by the President
We want to see development in the region whereby virgin forests would be cleared for roads, houses, and bridges. The Minister of Niger Delta should stop shouting about NDDC and do his job.
We are also calling for an audit of the Niger Delta Ministry. What have they done since 2007? We want to know. We want Senator Akpabio to sit down to work.