From Ben Dunno, Warri
Delta oil communities have indicated their readiness to publicly protest the dismal performance of the Board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) as well as the refusal of the state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, to reconstitute the board whose tenure has long expired.
They said that they would, in coming days and weeks, stage protests at Asaba, the state calital, and in Abuja as the unabating situation has created untold hardship due to neglect of the oil communities because what is due to the communities from the state’s 13% Derivation Fund allocation was not going to the communities in accordance with the law establishing DESOPADEC.
The communities, under the aegis of the Delta Oil Producing Communities Advocacy Group (DOPAG) using DESOPADEC to settle his political loyalists to the detrinent of the oil communities as the beneficiaries of the governor’s political largess were not accountable.
The aim of the protests would be to get the Federal Government to halt the payment of the 13% derivation allocation to the Delta State Government until it does the needful regarding dissolving the overstaying board of DESOPADEC or disbandment of the Commission altogether, so as to allow payment of the derivation revenue to the communities directly.
The statement, which was signed by the group’s Interim Chairman, Aphensus Dibi, its secretary, Claude Oghenekvwe, and the publicity secretary, Collins Layefa.
The statement read in part, “Government should pity the oil producing Communities and reconstitute the Board of DESOPADEC, since the tenure of the current Board has expired. Elongating the tenure of unperforming Board is a disservice to the hapless communities.
“The lack of accountability and transparency of the current Board is largely attributed to political patronage and interest groups. No reasonable people and society can develop with an unaccounted leadership.
“Today, all the Commission does is to pay salaries and receive their emoluments. Even that whose is due to the Communities has been withheld. This is a sad story!
“In the past, the oil companies that were our problem; today, we are the architect of our enslavement.
“Since the coming of this Board, there has been steady increase of oil price in the international market largely due to the Russian versus Ukraine war, and Delta State has been reported as being among states receiving highest due allocations from the Federation Account. These are facts. So, there is no excuse why the oil communities are suffering in the face of oil pollution, environmental degradation and all maladies of diseases currently ravaging the communities.
“A visitor to an average oil producing community in the state today would be shocked to see the level of decay of infrastructure, lack of basic amenities and government neglect, they lamented. There are no roads, not even even potable water. Yet, water is everywhere! We are suffering as people the Holy Bible described as “princes walking on foot”!
“Government is supposed to serve the people but the reverse is now the case. If this continues without the reconstitution of the Board, we will be left no option but to protest publicly and call on the Federal Government to stop further release of the 13% Derivation allocation to Delta State until this anomaly and the fraud associated with DESOPADEC is transparently investigated to instill probity, accountability and inspire confidence of the suffering communities.”
The Delta Oil Producing Communities Advocacy Group called for the dissolution of DESOPADEC and arrangements put in place to pay the 13% Derivation Fund accruing to Delta directly to the oil communities.
“There is a law that made it mandatory to the state to remit 50% of the 13% Derivation Fund to the DESOPADEC board. That’s is the amount thatn is being pillaged and looted by the DESOPADEC Board headed by Bashorun Askia Ogieh, the governor’s helsman”, the group alleged.
Justifying its position, the group observed that the prevailing atmosphere of injustice and inexplicable neglect of the oil communities was bound to undermine the safety of oil facilities or guarantee seamless oil exploitation in these communities despite efforts by the government to beef up security around the facilities particularly in the Niger Delta.
“There is no amount of security network to allow the flow of oil in these communities with current injustice and deprivation of the people unabated.
“We will protest in the days and weeks to come, both in Asaba, the state capital, and in Abuja until the Board of DESOPADEC is reconstituted.
“We must never be silent in the face of yesterday’s poor men looting monies that belong to us all. DESOPADEC has lost its usefulness under the present Delta State Government. A commission that should be transforming and developing host communities has been reduced to a mere ministry for political compensation.”
In his remarks, a lawyer and environmental rights advocate who is also a member of the Delta Oil Producing Communities Advocacy Group,, was however, pessimistic that Governor Okowa would summon the political will to reconstitute a new board of DESOPADEC without basing the process more on political patronage, saying such would be an exercise in futility.