From Ben Dunno, Warri
A group, Community Development Committees of Niger Delta Oil and Gas Producing Areas, has reiterated the call for the scrapping of the Ministry of Niger Delta Development, describing the establishment as a conduit pipe for politicians to keep enriching themselves while the oil-bearing communities in the region do not have anything to show for its existence.
The body who had been at the forefront of the call for the scrapping of the ministry has therefore urged President Bola Tinubu, not to further waste scarce resources in funding the activities of the ministry as it had nothing to show for its establishment over the years.
Renewing its call for an outright scrapping of the ministry in a statement signed by the Convener South South Reawakening Group (SSRG) Comrade Joseph Ambakederimo, who also doubled as Chairman of the Board of Trustees Community Development Committees of Niger Delta Oil and Gas Producing Areas, the body demanded for verified proof of some projects carried out by the ministry in any part of the region.
The statement reads in part: “We have maintained and will continue to stand firm on our resolve to make representation to President Bola Tinubu for him to better appreciate the merits of our call to the scrapping of the Ministry of Niger Delta Development. The Ministry has not been useful and has not met the aspirations of the people of the oil-producing areas.
“We need the Honourable Minister to bring forth a verifiable list of projects undertaken by his Ministry for the past twelve years that the Ministry has existed either ongoing, completed or abandoned.
“We must verify these projects to corroborate our position that we have held, going further l will challenge the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Development to a debate on National Television so that we can better appreciate the position we have held that the Ministry does not need to exist a day longer than necessary.
“The Ministry then was created to assuage the agitation of a people who were not actually sure or know of what we really want as a people but to bask in the euphoria of seeing a government boxed into a corner to submission.
“So if you ask me what we have gained in the region with all the duplicity of agencies with overlapping functions. My response and many of our people would be Nothing whatsoever.
“We have also identified that the Ministry is a distraction to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The NDDC decline started about three years after the Ministry was created and it became worse when the then Minister Senator Godswill Akpabio, now the President of the Senate took charge. The obsession that was brought to bear on the NDDC was suspect and of course, our fears were confirmed.
“The maiden media interaction the Honourable Minister had was basically all about the NDDC, nothing in the media interaction was said about the Ministry itself. The Minister did not mention one project undertaken by the Ministry or what is his action plan for the development of the region.
“It is disheartening to watch the tour of the Minister on Television without saying anything tangible or the government plan for the entire region that is replete with total collapse of infrastructures.
“Going by the recommendations put forward by the Steve Oronsaye committee that listed the Ministry of Niger Delta Development amongst others to be scrapped was the most ideal recommendations given by that committee.
“We support the position of the Steve Oronsaye committee and we hereby call on the President to do the needful as soon as practicable unless those calling for the retention of the Ministry of Niger Delta Development are beneficiaries of the diversion of the resources to line their pockets. If the Ministry must stay then it is there to line the pockets of a few, this is essentially what the Ministry has been used for.
With all the agencies which are the Ministry, Amnesty office, NDDC, and thirteen per cent derivation, the states in the region are all in a competition to collect loans including the state’s statutory allocation, the region is still crying for infrastructural attention, the resources that are allocated to all of these agencies including the states share of FACC is near one-third of the annual national budget, this should tell us that something is not right.
“It is time to do the right thing and that right thing is streamlining of the MDAs in the region that have anything to do with the development agenda of the oil-producing areas.
“The President must not allow himself to be blackmailed, the appointment of Hon. Abubakar Momoh is in itself an aberration and should be reversed immediately. Here is a man who comes from a very dry land and cannot feel and will never feel what my people from the wetlands feel.
“If we may go further the President should quickly carry out a reshufflement of his cabinet and assign the Ministry to someone who knows how it feels to come from a Chikoko-infested terrain, there should be no sentiment on this matter that is if the Ministry must stay, then someone from the real dungeon of an Oil and Gas Producing Communities must be considered. It is never too late to make amends.
“The President should institute and empanel a forensic audit of the Ministry of Niger Delta Development in order for him to have first hand the issues that have militated against the optimal performance of the Ministry since its creation twelve years ago.
“Budgetary provision for the Ministry should be channelled to the NDDC in order for it to perform like in the past and even better. The NDDC has to its credit roads and bridges that have cut through Virginia forests, electrification of far-flung communities in the creeks, thousands of hectares of land that have been reclaimed, thousands of square kilometres of shore protection, access roads to farming settlements for ease of evacuation of farm produce to urban markets, verifiable wealth creation strategies and empowerment schemes targeted at youths of the oil-producing areas and many others too numerous to mention.
“We have a leadership of the NDDC today that has a clear vision and an action plan to turn the fortunes of the region and its people for good. Therefore what we’re calling for is more money for the NDDC.
“Increase in the Federal government contribution from fifteen per cent to twenty-five per cent, the oil and gas companies statutory contribution of three per cent to fifteen per cent, the share of ecological funds due to States of the region from fifty per cent to seventy per cent.
“This call for the increase of funding for the NDDC is coming on the backdrop of the present economic realities that we face.
“The CDC as stakeholders is desirous of sponsoring a private bill to the National Assembly that will kick start the process of a constitutional amendment going forward.”