Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Volunteers Force (NDVF), is not shy to stir up controversies, especially when the core interests of the region that lays the country’s golden egg, has been terribly affected by environmental pollution caused by oil exploration activities.
On the same day that a new interim management team was inaugurated to manage the affairs of the NDDC, Asari Dokubo spoke with some journalists on recent developments in the region and expressed discontent that the interim management team was appointed when the nominees for NDDC board had been screened by the Senate and awaiting confirmation.
As a stakeholder in the Niger Delta, how do you feel about the decision to appoint another acting Managing Director for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) just 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari sent a list of nominees for the NDDC board to the Senate?
From the very beginning, I knew that things would play out the way they are now, and not in the interest of the people. NDDC was created as an interventionist agency to remedy years of deprivation of the people of the Niger Delta from the resources beneath their land. I am talking about the enormous environmental damage caused by oil production activities in the region. In fact, we cannot quantify it. Now NDDC came to ameliorate this problem, to try to find small palliatives and you now find that some people have been playing politics with it. The NDDC was established by law, which is to guide its operations. Therefore, we must go by the law, but there is manifest disregard for due process; that is a major problem. You find out that everybody has a million knives, and they are all trying to stab the other person and they say we are in control. You are in control where? How can the president transmit a letter to the Senate, submit names for people to be screened and a minister under him, whose role, even the law that established the NDDC does not recognize the powers of the Minister of the Niger Delta in that agency. The agency is under the president, not under the Ministry of the Niger Delta. These are the illegalities that have come up over time. Why did the minister appoint another interim management committee? President Buhari should put his house in order. He is supposed to be president of the country, and should have the power of control over all those working under him and making sure that he abides by the laws setting up all the agencies, because what is happening in NDDC is very, very regrettable. So many people fought to make this thing to come to reality and right before their eyes, these things are being destroyed. So for me, appointing another interim management committee when another one was already in place and the president had sent a list of board nominees to the Senate is very big insult. That’s how I see it; it is so shocking.
So, if you were to meet the Minister of the Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio right now, what will you tell him?
I will look at him in the eye and tell him that there is no legal provision for what he has done. He’s a lawyer and we were all in University of Calabar together. He should know that it is illegal, but today the law does not mean anything any longer, so anybody can do whatever he likes, yet it is still illegal. The president has transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, nominating people to be screened and confirmed. So, what’s the big deal about setting up another interim management committee?
There was a protest at the commission’s headquarters. Everybody is agitated; there is confusion everywhere, people are beginning to wonder how the current team will be able to deliver on the expectations from the NDDC?
I think the confusion is just too much, people are tired. Pass through the East-West road and see what is happening. Since Goodluck Jonathan left, four years plus, nothing has happened. This is supposed to be government of the Niger Delta. So there is confusion everywhere. Go to the Presidential Amnesty office, it’s the same level of confusion. People have taken it over; they are now conduit pipes, big conduit pipes to service their insatiable appetite. So, that is what is happening, everybody is struggling to grab and everybody is seeing it, so where is this anti-corruption hullabaloo they’ve been talking about? Where is it? You are seeing corruption walking like this, with two legs, korokoro dey waka dey come; this thing at NDDC is corruption now. Everybody wants to grab and put in his pocket. The feeling is something like, ‘so and so person used to have NDDC, now we have taken it, it’s in our pocket, this is our time to chop.’ That’s what the Niger Delta has been reduced to. At least when Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan were there, they were pretending. This time around, there is no pretence, korokoro, they are saying, ‘our time don reach make we chop.’ That is what is happening.
People are already calling for the resignation or the sack of Akpabio?
Akpabio is my very good friend, I know him, he knows me, we have been good, but we might disagree, I’m not a PDP member, I am not APC member. As far as I’m concerned, when any one of our people, strays into the wrong ideological camp, the person becomes somebody and it will be difficult to associate with.
So, as it is now, what’s the way forward in the NDDC?
The way forward is that people should have conscience. If there is a new board that represents all the states, then that should take precedence over selection of some handpicked people. Yes, I know the people that are there (I mean those they just appointed into acting capacity), maybe I will benefit. But I should not put my benefit over and above the interest of the generality of the people. Since 2015, I have not gone to NDDC. Anything that is associated with these people, I do Ben Johnson (run away very fast), I don’t want to be involved. If hunger catch me, make I die, my belly big, by the time my belly go small, eh go tey. Ulcer no go come now. You know goat, if him dey sleep self, him dey chop. So the one wey I don chop before, na him I still dey chop. Since 2015, I dey, we never die, so another one enter now, we no go still die. So that is it, that’s how I see it. The way forward is that they should allow the right thing to be done. There is a new board that represents all and the nominees have been screened by the Senate.
What would you say worries you so most about the Niger Delta?
My problem is that the Niger Delta has been abandoned for Ijaw people and that’s the truth of the matter. Ijaw people will fight, take the risk and others then come up when it’s time to enjoy. Previously, when we were fighting for our rights, they said terrible things about us. They called us kidnappers, pipeline vandalisers, bad people, this one, that one. But when our efforts started to yield result, they turned around to position for the benefits; they tried to undercut us and misrepresent us by saying terrible things about us. The Niger Delta people should come together and fight their battle holistically. Every one of us must be involved and all hands must be on deck. From the time of Goodluck Jonathan till now, the Niger Delta has gone back 80 per cent. We are not in the programme. Travel through East-West road, it took three hours from Benin to get to Warri; three long hours to get to Warri. That road was good when Goodluck Jonathan was there; it used to take less than 45 minutes from Benin. Now you are coming into Port Harcourt. As you are entering Rumuokoro, that place where they put ‘monkey’ bridge on the road, you have to pass that monkey bridge, nobody cares, and people are talking, all over the Niger Delta, in Port Harcourt, Sapele and Warri. Inside the townships, the roads are not good. What of the roads outside?
So, how can the NDDC be redeemed?
The redemption of the NDDC is very simple I have said it. The law is not perfect, but follow the law; when you follow the law, all these things will fall into place. People’s names have been sent to the Senate and they have been screened. They are qualified, the people are from the various states, they have the right to be (in the commission as members of the board). Don’t take NDDC and put in the pocket of Amaechi or put it in the pocket of Akpabio. People fought for it, the totality of the people fought for these things, and it belongs to the people.