Delta State Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reconstitute the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), saying that instability in the commission’s board has contributed to the systemic institutional failure of the agency.
Okowa, who is the Chairman, South-South Governors’ Forum, made the call in Asaba, on Thursday at the launch of “Resource Dependence, Violent Conflict, and Economic Development in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria”, a book written by Dr. Michael Tidi, Chairman, Warri South Local Government Council.
He said that Buhari should give NDDC a board that would be accountable and eliminates politicization of the interventionist agency, adding that it was time for Niger Delta people to collectively talk about the commission.
“I am not happy when I see the type of projects embarked upon by the NDDC in recent times. They ought to embark on inter-regional projects and also build major roads that connect one part of a state to another and not one kilometer of roads as the case may be,’’ he said.
The governor also stated that aside from the stipends being paid to some ex-militants under the Amnesty Programme, the Federal Government should also empower the people on skill acquisition and set them up as real entrepreneurs.
According to him, the Federal Government ought to find a pathway for those trained, because many of the skill acquisition centres being built have been abandoned.
He deplored the attitude of some persons saddled with the management of agencies and programmes established for the development of the Niger Delta, saying “unfortunately, some of our people when appointed, they go there for the wrong reasons and it is imperative that we must appoint people that can be held accountable for their actions during their tenure.
“There is a need to develop the Amnesty Programme to become sustainable so that the people can benefit from it. We have truly started up by trying to solve the problem at the foundation stage without building them up to become self-reliant.
“Our people must realise that we cannot continue to play politics with what we say or do. Recently in Port Harcourt, we called for resource control and restructuring because the Constitution as it is now, cannot develop the country.
“Give us 100 percent and we can pay you tax of 50 percent, and I hear people asking what the governors had done with the 13 percent derivation?
“The cost elements in construction are different and it’s obvious that when people speak they don’t have an idea of what we are going through in this region. We are not saying that governors should not be accountable but we should be asking for the control of the entire resources and possibly pay tax to the Federal Government.
“We must be ready to work together to speak truth to power, and no reasonable Niger Deltan should criticise what the leaders demanded at Port Harcourt because as has been said by some stakeholders, ’13 percent derivation is 87 percent deprivation’.
Okowa called for an amendment of the Constitution to enable Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to present its review directly to the National Assembly.
“A lot of money is truly required to develop the Niger Delta area and a review of the revenue allocation formula in favour of states and local government is highly imperative at this moment.
“This is because RMAFC was supposed to review the revenue allocation formula every five years,” he stated.
He congratulated the author of the book for putting his knowledge on paper for the benefit of others, adding that the book tended to enrich the political, economic, and community discourse concerning oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta.
The governor pointed out that the quest for restructuring and resource control required greater cooperation and partnership to achieve a common goal for the development of the region.
“The agitation has brought a lot to the fore because when we speak out on the injustice being meted on our people, it is considered as a confrontation but it’s not true so, because there is no fairness, no equity and a lot of exploitation and injustice is being done against the people of the Niger Delta.
“The people of the region didn’t start their agitation with violent conflict but as a result of the years of neglect and exploitation by the Federal Government,’’ he said, and eulogised late President Musa Yar ‘Adua for introducing the Amnesty Programme to end violent conflict in the region.
“The Amnesty payment wasn’t the holistic plan he had for the Niger Delta, but unfortunately when he died it appeared that the plans died with him.’’
Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, who was represented by Prof. Sam Ukala, said in his opening remarks that every book launch was a harvest of creative intellectual diligence, a keen analysis of human problems, and recommendations to the problems.
He said that the book which dwelt on the adverse effects of oil exploitation by multinational companies and its attendant harmful effects was an invaluable gift to the governments and people of the Niger Delta and Nigerians.
The Book Reviewer and Chief Economic Adviser to Oyo State Governor, Dr. Babatunde Adetunji, commended the author for doing justice to the book.
He said institutional framework failures and injustice had led to an increase in income inequality and poverty in the Niger Delta.