By Tony Osauzo, Benin
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is in the news again. Tension is rising over the delay in constituting its board and general neglect of the region.
The Ovie of Idjerhe in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, Obukowho Monday Whisky, called on the Federal Government to urgently address the situation: “Tension is rising in the Niger Delta and as a royal father, I am concerned. Whatever we can do to stem the tide should be encouraged.
“If you go round the creeks of the Niger Delta you will notice neglect. There is a Marine University in Gbaramutu that is being under-funded deliberately and I think that is an invitation to the crisis. Workers of the institution cannot be paid and those who are being paid are receiving half salaries. I want to call on the Federal Government to pro-actively address issues in the region before they get out of hand.”
The traditional ruler described the on-going Forensic Audit of the NDDC as a scam: “No one from the commission has come to my domain to verify many of the abandoned projects. I am not comfortable with what is currently happening in the commission.
“The NDDC is our general concern. We will not sit down and allow one individual (name withheld), to hijack the commission to the extent that for two years the commission does not have a board. What they have is a self-imposed interim management committee and lately, it has gone worse that they now call it a sole administrator.
“To start with, the NDDC Act 2000 does not recognise the Interim Management Committee (IM), not to talk of Sole Administrator. Of course, we are all witnesses to the fact that under the IMC, N87 billion allegedly grew wings and flew out of the coffers of NDDC. A budget of about N500 billion has been passed for the NDDC for an individual to superintend and we are saying ‘No’ to Sole Administrator in NDDC.
“The Idjerhe clan in Delta State is a major oil-producing community. For two years, NDDC has not done anything here because there is no structure there. What it translates is that for two years the development agenda of this kingdom and several others have been held hostage by an individual.
“As a patriot of this region I will not sit down, no matter the threat or inability of the government to wake up to its social responsibilities, they should know that they have a social contract with the people to ensure that the right thing is done.
“From the happenings we are beginning to think that the Federal Government is collaborating with this influential individual to undo the Niger Delta people. One of these days they will wake up to scrap the commission, we will not take that, we will continue to speak.
“We are saying a categorical no to sole administratorship. A group of Nigerians was nominated, screened, and confirmed by the National Assembly. It behoves on the National Assembly to rise to the occasion by pushing for the inauguration of the committee that they screened and confirmed.
“It is now very clear that the Forensic Audit of the commission is a scam. Nothing is going on there. As a major oil-producing region, nobody has come to my domain, Idjerhe, to say they want to verify the projects of NDDC in the region. With over 50 communities in my domain, there are abandoned NDDC projects. So, if they are carrying out forensic auditing they would have visited some of the projects, but they have not come here.
“I can boldly tell you that the NDDC forensic audit is a scam perpetuated by an individual to hold the whole region hostage. There is no probe of any kind that does not have a life span. The last time, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, said he was going to inaugurate the board in April, this is past mid-April already and nothing seems to be happening. What they refer to as forensic audit is a scam.”
The Ovie recalled that before the advent of the colonial masters, the administrative institution of this country was in the hands of the royal fathers: “I want to re-advocate that we need constitutional responsibilities for royal fathers in this country. They are closer to the people and they have the native authority over their people.
”If you give the traditional rulers constitutional responsibilities, it will smoothen the administration of this country, enhance peace and security. The moment we have peace and security, the development will be rapid.
“When I ascended the throne there were lots of problems but we had to address the challenges and today there is peace in the land. The government will not come down to the level of the royal fathers. The royal fathers can come down to the level of culture and tradition of their people.”
The Ovie, a veteran journalist, sought government support for the media in the face of the crisis in the industry, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic: “I think very strongly that we are facing a crisis in the practice of journalism in Nigeria and we need to go back to the drawing board.
“The journalism practice and the media industry in Nigeria today need a lifeline. That many newspapers can no longer pay their staff and many others can no longer print the number of pages they used to print, while yet others are going off the newsstand, it is an indication of the harsh economic weather. The traditional media need the government’s support.”