In 2000, when the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration announced the establishment of a commission that will cater specially for the need of the oil-rich Niger Deltans, observers like me concluded that the selfless efforts of the likes of Ken Saro Wiwa and many other activists from the oil -bearing region are not in vain. It will end the banditry and criminal activities in some states in the region. The oil producing region cuts across nine states in southern part of the country namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Rivers and the only western state, Ondo, comprising of about 185 local government areas.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established with the core mandate of training and educating the youths to curb hostilities and militancy while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.
With this in place, the perception of many is that the region would be a new emirate and be a place of attraction to many in terms of development across all ramifications. But things seem not to improve.
Again in 2008 during the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration, an independent ministry was established for the region and by implication, the NDDC would become a parastatal under the ministry. The ministry would have a minister who would be in charge of development and a minister of state whose sole responsibility is youth empowerment.
These and many other allocations such as 13% derivation from the ministry of finance and amnesty programme, the region is primed for development.
But what we have seen is a show of shame by the representatives of these wonderful people. So much money could not be accounted for as the big men in charge are stealing the place blind.
While the NDDC was established for the region, the north-east ravaged by the terrorism of the Boko Haram group got the North East Development Commission (NEDC) in 2017 to strive to restore normalcy to the lives of its people through development and rehabilitation. The impact of the commission is gradually being felt by the people. Journeying through some north eastern states such as Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and you see a sense of hope in the people. Unlike NDDC, NEDC did not have a ministry to itself.
The Niger Delta region, in terms of infrastructural development, education, health, etc., is nowhere close to the allocation it gets from the government.
A brief review at the commission’s expenses from January to May 2020 came to about N81.5billion. Some N85.6million on overseas travel, N1.3billion on community relations; condolence and consultancy took N122.9million and 83million and about N1.3billion was given to management as palliatives. A whopping N1.3billion as palliatives? This is the height of it. For humanity sake, if these monies are directed at the appropriate quarters, what we have of the region today would not be.
Shotonwa Waheed, email@example.com