By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Ibedaowei of Ekeptiama Kingdom is the chairman Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council in this interview links the injustice in the Niger Delta through the expropriation of its oil and gas resources to the insecurity rocking the country. He also accused the Federal Government of deliberately stifling NDDC’s ability to develop the region among others.
The East-West road in the oil and gas rich Niger Delta has been in deplorable condition over the years, how would you react this?
Is anyone surprised? The East-West road is a major highway but it has been like a death trap for a long time now. The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) especially the MNDA are supposed to have attended to that road. Some persons somewhere do not just care. You must know that the Niger Delta is an area that is so rich having so much of oil and gas. It is the area Nigeria gets almost all of its foreign exchange from the sale of oil and gas. So, if an area that is supplying the country in that regard is completely neglected, it goes to say so much about those who are in charge of this country. It means that the fellows in charge of this country do not care about the plight of the people of the region.
But the NDDC has been stagnant without a substantive board for years
The NDDC is another show of shame. The Act that brought about NDDC is an excellent one. We are supposed to be having a very wonderful place in terms of quality of life. However, it is not so in spite of the huge resources that have accrued the commission in the last 20 years. The forensic audit has been done and I heard there is a long list of failed and fathom projects against names. All kinds of contracting firms from portfolio contractors to folio contractors, all have their names there. Are you still wondering why the list is not public? It is not in public because of the names you know well and those you don’t know well.
FG complicit in NDDC failure
Almost everybody you know that may be in one type of position has his name there. And so, if all of us are in this mess, why should anyone come and expose it? So, the failure of NDDC is a direct responsibility of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
How 1990 coup birthed 1.5 per cent derivation
In 1990 there was a coup in Nigeria. There was a Captain called Perebo Dakolo. He was executed a couple of months after for that coup. But that led to about 1.5 percent derivation which was later increased to 3 per cent. This was during Babangida era. Recall that from 1969 derivation ceased when Decree 51 was promulgated and the entire oil business was taken by the federal government instead of the region. The Babangida regime followed the derivation up with OMPADEC which was to develop the Niger Delta. All of these were aimed at preventing such level of assault against the state on account of saying you are polluting our environment, taking our oil money and not attending to us. So, the objective was to ensure that the place was developed so that nobody like Perebo Dakolo will come again and disorganise the system. But they don’t mean it. It was just a deception to make us relax. However, OMPADEC failed woefully. It didn’t develop anywhere. You remember the initial argument when Obasanjo came, Bonny LNG could not be exported because of the Niger Delta youths, Ijaw youths felt no, this is unfair. Obasanjo had to come down after his inauguration and speak with us before the first shipment went out. So OMPADEC transformed into NDDC. Like I said, the Act is beautiful but the intention is just to pacify us while the stealing of our natural endowment continues unchallenged. I am not surprised, maybe you are. I am not surprised that after 20 years of NDDC not much has happened. It is much like you are given something in the morning and at night it is taken. So, the government does not want it to work.
What is your advice in tackling insecurity in the country?
The insecurity in Nigeria is man-made; it is created by us as a people. The insecurity in the Nigeria is a result of gross mismanagement of oil and gas proceeds. The oil and gas business in the last 70 years has resulted in an estimated 3 trillion dollars of oil being sold out of which about $1 trillion was out rightly stolen. If you punch your calculator $I trillion will amount to so much money in naira. In fact, with the current exchange rate that is humongous. With such money stashed away in foreign banks and others is anyone surprised that we have Boko Haram? Is anyone surprised that we have bandits and unknown gunmen and kidnappers, Niger Delta militants and Pro IPOB, ISWAP and armed robbers? If those monies were used properly there would have been no person so poor as to be distracted to go and commit nonsensical acts.
So, if we want to solve the insecurity problem in the country the short way out is to return to the Niger Delta people their oil and gas right. Give us back our oil wealth. Let us manage our oil money and then there will be peace. It is written in the Holy Book, you cannot keep stealing people’s resources and then you have peace in the night. No! You can’t keep stealing people’s resources and you sleep well at night. It is not because I don’t wish that you sleep, it is because of your act that you just can’t sleep. So Nigeria’s insecurity is because of this. So give us back our oil resources.
Niger Delta kingdoms as other people’s oil bloc
Can you imagine that the Niger Delta kingdoms are other people’s oil bloc? My kingdom is someone else oil block. My kingdom is in OML 28, it is not my oil bloc. I got to know this recently. It has been OML 28 for so long. It is the same thing with Nembe Kingdom, with Bomo Kingdom and same with all the kingdoms around here. So, how will you sleep?
So, if the Nigerian state wants to have peace, they should give us what is rightly ours and then Nigeria will have peace. But so long as they continue in this thievery I can tell you, in a while, perhaps we will not have Nigeria. With restructuring everybody will attempt to compete in areas they have comparative advantage. But because of the way the oil and gas business is being handled, all those who went into agriculture abandoned their farms and came for oil money. Those who have textiles in Kano and Kaduna abandoned them and came for oil money. Those into manufacturing also abandoned this and came for oil money. Everybody has abandoned everything else and paid attention to coming to make my community their oil bloc and in the process giving me unprecedented volumes of pollutants.
Roles for royal fathers in the constitution
I think the Nigerian state in trying to run away from its root and from its history has gotten itself in dire strait that we are in now because before Nigeria was born there were these kingdoms, communities and enclaves that were sovereign. Even though with colonialism and independence we lost our sovereignty as kingdom but the fact remains we are close to the people and we are deep and richly connected with the history of where we come from. So, to want to wish us off or as it is almost done apart from being mentioned is not fair. I can tell you that if the traditional institution was properly captured with major roles clearly spelt out as it ought to be, it would have helped. Perhaps if the traditional governance were a tier of government that was well funded some of the problems will not be there. People have advocated state police. The state police mean let’s have our own people police our environment so that you don’t bring someone who dislike you so much with passion to come and say he is trying to secure you. He won’t do it. He will come and do more damage. More so, he doesn’t quite well understand the environment and the people. So, if people who know themselves are in charge of themselves they have the power. Somehow there is some dislocation. The development that the local communities or kingdoms are supposed to have is not really feasible.