By Sylvester Idowu in Warri
There was palpable tension in Warri, Delta State yesterday as aggrieved Ijaw Oil and Gas producing communities protested against alleged gross marginalisation in this year’s budget of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) recently passed by the State House of Assembly.
The protesters, in a statement made available to THISDAY, accused the leadership of DESOPADEC as well as members of the State House of Assembly of not following the laws establishing the Commission by allocating projects to the different ethnic host communities in line with their quantum production.
They accused the Chairman and the Managing Director of the Commission of avarice and lopsidedness, particularly in the allocations of projects in the Centralized Budget.
In the statement signed by Bishop Dr. Samson Amajene (JP), President, Gbaramatu Kingdom and Comrade Morrison Anuwo, President, Egbema Kingdom, the leaders and stakeholders of Ijaw Oil Producing Communities, said they had earlier raised an alarm against the lopsidedness and injustice perpetrated against the Ijaw Ethnic nationality, which produces 27% of Oil and Gas resources in the state.
“We had raised the alarm, as soon as we got wind of the gross marginalization of the Ijaw ethnic nationality in this budget when we wrote an open letter to the State Governor, Sen Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa.
“In the said open letter, we accused the Chairman and the Managing Director of the Commission of avarice and lopsidedness, particularly in the allocations of projects in the Centralized Budget, in which the Chairman’s Itsekiri ethnic nationality was allocated projects worth over N1.7 billion while the Managing Director’s Urhobo ethnic group got projects worth N572 million.
Sadly, the group lamented that instead of addressing the lopsidedness and injustice perpetrated against the Ijaw Ethnic nationality, which produces 27% of Oil and Gas resources in the state, Governor Okowa kept a disturbing silence, allowing some people in the Commission and House of the Assembly to carry out the nefarious act unhindered.
“It is quite unfortunate, absurd and ridiculous to state that more of such acts have again been perpetrated by the Urhobo and Ndokwa ethnic nationalities, through their privileged officers in Government.
“A painstaking and critical analysis of the 2016 DESOPADEC Budget reveals clear and blatant continuation of this trend and how it is overtly skewed in favour of the Urhobo and Ndokwa ethnic nationalities, who produce mere 21% and 9% respectively of the state’s oil and gas resources.
“This is undoubtedly perpetrated in connivance with elements of these ethnic nationalities in the Delta State House of Assembly and top members of the Governing Council of DESOPADEC”, they said.
The leaders and stakeholders of Ijaw Oil and Gas producing communities wonder why out of 73 new centralized projects in the 2016 DEOPADEC Budget amounting to N4,004,103,844, only two projects were allocated to Ijaw areas, while 41, amounting to N2,141,846,725, were allotted to Urhobo areas and Ndokwa has a total of 18 projects amounting to N620,000,000.
“This is not only against the law that established DESOPADEC, it is completely against the principle of derivation as well as justice and fair play.
“Similarly, in the recurrent budget of the Commission, the Urhobo ethnic Nationality alone was allocated a total of N2.048 billion as personnel cost, whereas the Ijaws (the second largest oil and gas producers in the state) are allocated N577 million as personnel cost.
“It should be noted, that after having a whopping N2.048 billion as recurrent expenditure in the 2016 DESOPADEC Budget, the Urhobo Ethnic nationality still has over N2.354 billion as capital budget for projects. This clearly shows that salaries (Personnel cost) has reverted to first-line charge, as against the payment of staff salaries from the various ethnic nationalities’ accounts”, the lamented.
They maintained that DESOPADEC was a creation of the enabling law that must be abided by and which requires the commission to ensure fairness and equitability in the distribution of development projects to oil and gas producing areas of the state in line with their production quantum.
“We have no doubt that this marginalization of the Ijaw ethnic nationality is perpetrated with implicit support of the state government and its top officials because similar heists are being done on us by the other agencies.
“For instance, it will amaze the general public that out of 32 major projects awarded by the State Tenders Board, only one project is meant for an Ijaw community and that is Construction of Main Axial Road in Okerenkoko.
“Again, out of 21 contracts awarded by the Delta State Ministry of Works, none is in Ijaw area or local government, just as out of 168 contracts awarded by SUBEB to renovate primary schools in Delta State, only 15 schools were renovated in Ijaw areas with none renovated in any of the Ijaw oil producing communities”, they alleged.
The leader and stakeholders of Ijaw Oil and Gas producing communities therefore that they were rejecting the injustices and marginalization of the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the 2016 budget of the Commission and similar acts by the state government.
“This is totally unacceptable to us and we demand that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa swiftly and decisively corrects the overwhelming imbalances and injustices by reviewing the 2016 DESOPADEC Budget as well as correcting the glaring imbalance in the 2016 Delta State Budget to reflect the 27 per cent production quantum of the Ijaw ethnic Nationality”, they added.