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NIGER-DELTA: Buhari does not hate us, our appointees ‘re the problem — HRM Whiskey

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…Don’t scrap NDDC, return it to presidency

…Law establishing NDDC has no space for sole administrator

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

His Royal Majesty, King Monday Obukowho Whiskey is the Udurhe 1, the Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom, Delta State. He made a presentation to the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB during the public hearing, last week and afterwards, spoke to Journalists on the state of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, among other issues.

On calls for scrapping of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and the appointment of a sole administrator by the President

The situation in the Niger Delta is, frankly speaking, giving the government the wrong impression that the security agencies and the few appointees can have their way. One of the first things that the government needs to do is to approach every situation in the Niger Delta practically. Do not depend on a third party. If the government wants to do anything, it should go ahead and do it.

I am very confident that the President Muhamadu Buhari’s government does not have hatred or dislike for the people of the Niger Delta but our political appointees are suddenly becoming the problem. I believe that the president should go back to the drawing board and begin to interface with critical stakeholders of the Niger Delta and not those who have allocated positions to themselves.

Take for instance, only recently, one unknown person came to say scrap NDDC. NDDC for 20 years has done some very remarkable projects in the Niger Delta and now you come to say you don’t see the need after we have laboured so much.

I was fortunate enough to be appointed the senate committee consultant in 2000 and you know how much we went round the nine states to ensure the establishment of NDDC to replace the defunct OMPADEC. We knew how the effort we put in and now one unknown person who is not even a stakeholder in the Niger Delta oil production business, does not have oil in his community, does not even have a pipeline in his community came to make such a sweeping statement.

The NDDC is an agency. If NDDC had any problem in the last four years, an individual is responsible for the problem and the individual that is responsible for the problem is Akpabio and he is an appointee of the government. So, the government ought to know what to do. The agency called the NDDC was originally domiciled in the presidency just like the North-East Development Commission, NEDC. So if you are removing NDDC from the presidency and handing it over to one individual from the South-South to control, of course, you know personal interests would come in.

The NEDC is still in the presidency. We have all come to see the consequences of giving the commonwealth of a region to an individual. The last we heard was that over N87 billion went missing. There was nothing on ground to show that such money was used. As a royal father, I am pained. Do you know what N87 billion would do in that region?

We are leaving that stage of N87 billion to the stage of a sole administrator. The law that established NDDC has no space for sole administratorship, and now we are talking about how an individual would come and manage N500 billion. We say no to sole administrator. We do not need a sole administrator in the NDDC. For the first time in the history of this country, a board was nominated, members were screened, confirmed and waiting for inauguration and one sharp guy pulled off the rug from the feet of everybody.

I am using this opportunity to call on Mr President to inaugurate the already cleared and screened board of the NDDC under the chairmanship of Dr. Pius Odubu and Managing Directorship of Chief Bernard Okumagba. It has not happened in this country that you confirmed a board waiting for swearing in and something funny would happen.

That thing has taken us back 20 years because that gives rise to why people are now saying for whatever reason scrap NDDC. NDDC is not a bad concept if we get it right. When you say an individual should come and manage over N500 billion, so I ask to give account to who?

In specific terms, are you asking President Buhari to reverse himself on the appointment of the sole administrator of NDDC?

There is no crime in retracing your steps when you go the wrong way. That decision to appoint someone as a sole administrator is not just unpopular, it is most unreasonable because there are stakeholders in this project. You have the royal institutions who are the closest people to these communities producing this oil. So, if the president from all available facts now made a mistake, there is nothing wrong to reverse it and inaugurate the already screened NDDC board. That is one.

Two, what Papa E. K Clark said is a statement that gladdens the hearts of many Nigerians. Not until Akpabio took over control of the NDDC, it was not having this barrage of problems. So, the president should sit down and go back to the drawing board, retrace his step and do the right thing.

Are you now saying that Niger Deltans are not in support of the appointment?

Yes. The kingdom where I preside is contributing over 400, 0000 barrels of oil per day to the national production arrangement. We are critical stakeholders. Others who are talking, ask them where they come from. The House of Reps said they are coming to visit some of the kingdoms.

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Some people don’t have any kingdom to visit because they are politicians in Abuja and Asaba. When you want to go to their village they would dodge because they do not even have a pipeline not to talk of an oil well.

Are you advocating that the President should take NDDC back to the Presidency?

One of the best things the presidency would do today is to revert the NDDC to the presidency. To remove the hand of an individual from the control of the NDDC, return NDDC back to the presidency. Do not scrap NDDC.

What would be the consequences if such is not done?

You are already seeing some of the consequences: The lawlessness, the blockage of roads, the vandalism of pipelines. In normal arrangement, even if what you are going to give to the communities is one percent; under the presidency of Alhaji Shegu Shagari of blessed memory, what was coming to the producing community was 1.5 per cent and it was being managed by a presidential derivation committee.

That money became more meaningful than all the money we are getting because the government had almost a regimented system of monitoring. If you are given allocation, they visit you very regularly to ensure that you are doing the right thing.

Away from NDDC, you made a presentation at the House public hearing on the Petroleum industry Bill, PIB. Some people also made and pushed for 10% equity shares for host communities as against the 2.5% proposed by government. What’s your take on that?

There is a saying in our local parlance that if you want to eat a frog, eat a big one. If we generate 100 per cent to the Federation account, and of that 100 percent, you are now giving 10 percent to the producer where these resources come from, that face the environmental challenges, degradation and what have you, 2.5 per cent is too insignificant. For my kingdom that produces 400, 000 barrels now, the 2.5 percent of that amount would barely build water works.

Oil is not sold like bread in the bakery. If we put in place a community development committee, for instance in my kingdom that has an allocation of about N300 million every quarter, that amounts to N1.2 billion in a year. I would not preside over the kingdom as a king and see that of the 1.2 billion that you would come to inspect and not see N1 billion facilities on ground. If you use N200 million to pay scholarships, workers and so on, at least there should be a physical investment of N1 billion on the ground.

In the Niger Delta, we are in a state of quagmire. We produce so much yet have nothing to take home. Some of our people live on the water. They have no access roads to their place. It is the same water they drink that they defecate in. It is as bad as that. But with the sincerity of President Buhari one expected that a lot of things should be happening there.

The House Adhoc committee said they would be paying the communities a visit soon. And the Speaker has also said the PIB will be passed into law in April. With the time left, do you think their tour of the host committees would be feasible?

If the committee wants to do a good job, two months is enough to do a thorough tour. In Urhobo where I am a first class traditional ruler, we have 22 kingdoms. Of the 22 kingdoms, about 18 are producing oil. You can programme four or five kingdoms in a day. What does it take? When we established NDDC, our tour was less than a month. I was a consultant to the senate committee on Niger Delta. We went round the nine states in under a month and got input from everybody and we have the NDDC.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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