Sylvester Idowu in Warri
As the Federal Government is battling hard to curtail militancy in the Niger Delta, another round of crisis is again brewing in Delta State as a group, Delta Oil and Gas Stakeholders threaten to resort to violence over the non-passage of the N28 billion budget of the state’s oil producing areas development commission (DESOPADEC).
The group warned that the refusal of both the state government and the House of Assembly to pass the budget, four months to the end of the year was an invitation to anarchy.
According to a release issued and signed by the President of the group, Dr. Tagbiretse John and External Affairs Officer, Obakpo Goodluck, “We believe that we must speak out now in view of the precarious security challenges in the Niger Delta region and the need to avoid giving violence-prone elements an opportunity to latch onto the present despondency to unleash further havoc on oil facilities and our communities because of the deliberate decimation of DESOPADEC by the powers that be in the state is an invitation to anarchy”.
It accused both the state government and lawmakers of deliberately denying the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) of 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation funds for the development of the oil bearing communities in the state.
“We have watched with growing exasperation the languor and systematic rot that has currently crept in and overtaken the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) since the present administration took over in 2015.
“We can no longer sit down and do nothing while a colossal conspiracy to cripple the only hope of oil producing communities in the state is unraveling before our eyes”, the group noted.
It recalled that in the run-up to the governorship election in 2015, opponents of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, warned Deltans, particularly those from the oil bearing areas against supporting him over alleged clandestine plan by him to scrap DESOPADEC in favour of policies that would give him power to control the 13% derivation fund and favour his people in the allocation of infrastructure development projects in the state.
“This allegation was waved off as propaganda by the opposition party. Unfortunately those who supported Okowa can now see that the prophesy of doom is becoming a sad reality. The body language of the governor, who vehemently denied that he would scrap DESOPADEC, is now fervently supporting this. How else can one explain the deliberate and systematic grounding of DESOPADEC by this present administration in league with House of Assembly under Chief Monday Igbuya and other conniving appointees?
“True, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa reconstituted the board with some capable and efficient hands, but this has not brought the much-needed development to our impoverished oil producing communities. The board members have become like the myriad of other political appointments made by the governor – appointees with little power to do anything”, it added.
The group decried the “2016 missing budget of DESOPADEC” noting that it is the reason the commission had failed in its responsibilities towards the development of the oil bearing rural communities.
It said emphatically that the 2017 budget of the commission is supposed to be wrapped up by October but wondered how that could be possible when that of 2016 is yet to see the light of the day, four months to the end of the year.
“If the government is organised and sincere and the House of Assembly is effective, the 2017 budget would have been in the final stage of its development. Conversely, it is a shame of colossal magnitude that the 2016 DESOPADEC budget is still ‘lost in transit’. The most painful part of the debacle is that as at today nobody knows what the budget looks like or how much is contained therein.
“Nobody knows if the N28bn budget presented to the House in March remains or if it has been changed and how it has been altered. In this era of ‘budget padding’, there are disturbing reports that the Hon Monday Igbuya-led House is performing abracadabra with the budget, while it is also passing like ping-pong from the Government House to the House of Assembly. Nobody is able to account for its whereabouts today.
“This, no doubt, is a carefully orchestrated plot to deny fund to the commission and the oil producing areas. It is too much of a coincidence that the saga of DESOPADEC ‘Missing Budget’ started after a principal member of the House of Assembly was accused of demanding a whopping one billion naira (N1 billion) to facilitate its passage.
“Since then we have been inundated with reports of how the N28bn budget has been bastardised and balkanised by the various interest groups in the Executive and Legislature.
“Up till this moment, there is no hope that the budget will become operational even by the end of this month or the next, what a shame and disappointment to a government which prides itself as providing “Prosperity for all Deltans”, it added.
The group therefore warned that the present administration’s action towards oil bearing communities was preparing the ground for restiveness and insurgence of a proportion that might become uncontainable.
It stated further “As a group with grassroots members drawn from all oil producing communities, we feel the tempo and temperature of the youths and the prognoses are dire. The long-suffering people of these communities will not sit down, fold their hands and allow there only hope of development to be taken away without a fight.
“The state government must address troubling marginalization and deliberate stagnation of DESOPADEC before an ill wind erupts and consume us all. A word is enough for the wise”.