From Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
As individuals and groups continue to debate over the future of Nigeria in the context of the myriads of problems the country is facing and how to overcome them, a Benin-based Pastor and Human Rights activist, Pastor Moses Onodua, has joined in advocating a new Constitution and restructuring of the country to allow states control their resources and pay royalty to the Federal Government as practised in other democracies like the United States of America.
In this interview, Pastor Onodua bemoaned the state of want and deprivation in the oil-rich region which accounts for the bulk of revenues that sustains the country.
How do you feel about the state of affairs in Nigeria now?
I can say categorically that we are at abysmal level. It has never been this bad. Nigeria has never got to this level. The one that I can quickly bring to your mind right now is that we have a President who under his watch we have slid into recession twice in quick succession. The first one was 2016 and the second, 2020.
Before then, in 1983 when he came into power as the military head of state, we also entered into recession where we were now looking for essential commodities. If you can remember, people were queuing, soldiers were beating us, just to get milk. We are now in a democratic dispensation, he came in 2015, then we entered into recession in 2016.
Now, five years down the line, in 2020, according to the recent statistics from the Bureau of Statistics, we are now in recession and what they are now saying is that, according to the economic experts, we are now even in a deeper recession than the one that we witnessed in 2016. That means everyone in Nigeria has to belt up. We are in for a rough ride as far as economic development in Nigeria is concerned.
Before you proceed, let me quickly say this, the recession we are in now whether the previous or this immediate one, it may not be necessarily because of Buhari.
Okay now, COVID did not only happen in Nigeria and in fact, the effect of COVID in Nigeria as compared to other countries is very minimal and in terms of the economy aspects of it, how much has the Nigeria government really invested in the COVID era compared to what other nations are doing? Now, we heard of palliatives being given out, we heard of money being given out, being shared to low income earners but up till now, it is still a subject of controversy. How many people were reached? Who were those that were reached? It is still an issue for another debate.
People cannot conclusively identify those that were reached. Now, it was just of recent during the #EndSARS protest that Nigerians started discovering store houses where palliatives meant for the poor people were kept.
From what you have just stated, going forward, what do you want?
To be frank and sincere, I looked through that document of Atiku Abubakar and I picked something from it and I also want to add some of my things. Atiku Abubakar’s own document is in the public domain but what I want to add is that Nigeria’s constitution needs a review if not a total cancellation. It is not working. We need to come up with a new constitution.
Nigeria has no business in running two legislative houses. We have no business, what are they doing? We have no business running the senate and the house of representatives. If it is senate they are going to retain, they should retain Senate, if it is House of representatives they are going to retain, they should retain House of representatives. And secondly, let it be on part-time basis. Let us be sincere, look at those that called themselves full-time legislators, they don’t open plenary on Monday, they resume on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they have closed. They travel and return on Tuesday to open. That means in a week, they are only sitting for three days and yet, you call them full-time. Money is being allocated to them to change their cars every year, accommodation is being renewed every year; this is a waste pipe. Nigerians must sit down and begin to identify this area of wastage and block those loopholes; then, above all, we need to have God-fearing leaders. That is what will bring us out of this recession, that is all. Once we have those who have the interest of the people at heart, then, Nigeria will be on the road to economic recovery.
You come from the Niger Delta, how do you see the situation of the Niger Delta as of today even with the interventions of NDDC and other agencies?
That is a serious issue I must tell you, that is a very serious issue. Now, I come from the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta area, when I was growing up as a kid, we used to produce high level of cassava, tomatoes, pepper, all kinds of cash crops. Our land was very fertile, we never bought anything in the market. In fact, we were exporting farm produce to far places, people were coming from far and near to come and buy even oranges when I was growing up. Is it about fish? The centre of fish production, our rivers were crystal clear, you could drink water from our rivers conveniently without fear of any form of diseases but lo and behold, oil was now discovered and our people rejoiced that oil has been discovered, development is going to come to the area but unfortunately, their expectation was cut short. The most underdeveloped region in the whole of Nigeria is the Niger Delta. And unfortunately, the Niger Delta is accounting for close to 90 percent of the revenue for the entire nation. All the skyscrapers you are seeing in Lagos, seeing in Abuja, seeing in other parts of Nigeria, the funds is coming from the Niger Delta but go to all the major cities in the Niger Delta; it is a sour taste. Go to our communities, it is nothing to write home about. We are in complete deprivation. In our own nation, we have been made to look like second class citizens. Check all the oil companies, there is no Niger Deltan that is in top leadership positions. There is none. Check even the medium cadre of the workforce, you will not find them. The only place you will see them, those who will be taking care of the pipelines, who will clear the grass. Even that one, they are even gradually taking it away from them. So, in other words, we don’t have any input in oil that was discovered in our domain.
Why is it so?
Why have we found ourselves like this? It is the lopsidedness of the Nigerian leadership. The bankruptcy in the Nigerian leadership that they don’t take care of where this golden egg is being laid. Maybe we may do a little analysis. Some people don’t know that the United States of America has the largest oil deposit in the whole world.
America has the largest oil reserves in the world but they are not tapping it. They want to make sure that they consume other country’s own. Now, in a state like Texas, where they have the largest concentration of oil in America, the oil is not controlled by the central government. That is where the problem started from in Nigeria.