HAS NIGER DELTA MISSED THE BOAT? AKS AS METAPHOR
“We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Oliver H Perry, 1785-1819.
VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 48.
As the Age of Oil fades gradually into the distance, the efforts of Obong Victor Attah would appear to have been in vain. Attah was indisputably the arrow head. His book ATTAH ON RESOURCE CONTROL, first published in 2004 and for which I was honoured to be asked to write the Foreword, is still available for those who must salvage the fortunes of the oil producing areas before the Age of Oil disappears into sunset. Already, knowledge and human resources have for long surpassed any crude commodity, oil included, as a source of a country’s competitive advantage. From all indications, the gap between knowledge-based economies (Japan, Singapore, Israel etc) and raw materials dependent economies (Nigeria) will continue to grow well into the future. In fact, it is inconceivable that a time will come, in the future, when nations relying only on export of raw materials will ever again become dominant. A time might come when researchers will have to Google OPEC to know that once upon a time when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries sneezed, the entire world caught pneumonia. Today, most people in the world are dimly aware of its existence.
The Age of Oil presented us with an opportunity to redraw the economic map of Nigeria. If each of the leaders – President, Governors, Ministers, Group Managing Directors, GMDs of NNPC, Senators, Members Federal House of Representatives, NNDC Board Members and Executive Directors, as well as Members of the State Houses of Assembly – of the Niger Delta had discharged his duties, as he should to the people, very few Niger Deltans should remain in Lagos State or Abuja looking for work.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Chinese proverb.
At the back of the revised edition of ATTAH ON RESOURCE CONTROL, the change in the economic prospects of the Niger Delta expected from the success of Attah’s struggle for 13 per cent derivation paid to the oil producing states – without offshore/onshore dichotomy was rendered in pie charts. That was my way of indicating to Niger Deltans the extremely bright prospects which awaited them – if only they managed the bonanza very well. Huge revenue allocation from Abuja can never by itself result in revolutionary economic transformation. All it would provide are opportunities to make rapid progress possible. I was under no illusion that the zone would experience unusual renaissance just because unprecedented billions dropped into the laps of the leaders. Without responsible, imaginative, courageous and self-less leaders, most of the funds would flow inexorably into various dirty cesspools – called private pockets.
I rejoiced with the people of the Niger Delta when a political solution (see the book please) finally made it possible for oil producing states to collect 13 per cent derivation without any dichotomy. Today, I feel very sad. After almost fifteen years of collecting vastly higher revenue, the people in general remain as poor as when the windfall started. In some respects they are worse off. The obvious question is: why? Before attempting to provide an answer, permit me the indulgence of quickly summarising the situation in the region now.
“2021 dateline for completion of East-West road sacrosanct – Akpabio.”
VANGUARD Monday, 28 September 2020, p 12.
A news report, which ordinarily would make one extremely happy, has only revealed why the trillions of naira which went into the Niger Delta might be regarded almost a complete waste. I felt sorry for Minister Akpabio who made that promise in Ogoniland to a gathering of people which one can only assume does not include anybody over the age of 15. He was even honest enough to remind the deluded people that the dualisation of the road was promised to Niger Deltans by President Obasanjo in 2002 who departed office in 2007 – without fulfilling his promise. Since then, the same promise has been made at least four times by Nigerian Presidents. In fact, it is one of the most often repeated lies told by leaders who no longer deserve our respect.
Yar’Adua succeeded OBJ in 2007 and repeated the same set of promises – still there was no dualised road. Jonathan followed Yar’Adua and served five years. The man even asked Nigerians to “call me bastard if the road is not completed” during his tenure 2011 to 2015. When GOJ left office after five years, the worst part was in Bayelsa state — from Patani to Ahoada. What are we to call him?
OBJ, YAR and GOJ have one thing in common with Akpabio. They were all members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Furthermore, Akpabio was Governor and Senator of Akwa Ibom State when Jonathan was President. There is no record anywhere of Akpabio using his exalted offices to speak out on behalf of the people on the states which were the intended beneficiaries of the road. Instead, they suffered innumerable losses of life, properties and prospects for rapid development. Streams of their blood flowing on account of uncountable preventable accidents, like those of Biblical Abel must be crying to God for justice — the sooner; the better.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Rev (Dr) Martin Luther King, Jr,
Akpabio was close to all the three former Presidents – especially Jonathan. Between the two of them, they could have made the entire length of the East-West road a mission so long accomplished years ago. But, to their everlasting shame they failed to provide the basic infrastructure which would have served all the people.
Furthermore, he is making the promise on behalf of the fourth Federal Government. That renders it another suspicious politicians’ promise because, this particular FG has so far failed to fulfil any of its promises on infrastructural development and service delivery. Those of us unfortunate to operate on the Lagos-Ibadan axis have now learnt that the last thing we accept as sacrosanct is a promise to finish road or rail line by an announced date. So shamelessly have we been treated to unredeemed pledges by this administration, we now regard them as empty noises signifying nothing.
Nigerians also need to be reminded that all the former Presidents have made the pledge to complete the road each and every time there in tension in the polity. The same announcement is rolled out, in a manner similar to women pacifying small kids by promising toys, ice cream etc, which they have no intention of providing. Invariably, the East-West road is forgotten as soon as the political tension abates. Only an incurable optimist will believe that a government which is broke will undertake a project which Yar’Adua failed to deliver when crude oil was selling for $120 per barrel. Left to me, I stand on the belief that “you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Akpabio might not even be around on December 2021 to explain why the road is still not completed.
The problem is compounded this time by the reputation of the announcer. Akpabio, since becoming Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, had made some bold declarations only to recant later. One simply does not often know when to accept what he utters at face-value. My own approach is to triple my order of salt from the market before reading his submissions. A pinch will most likely not be sufficient to digest the stuff. His carpet-crossing has not altered the profile which emerged since 2007. Readers will have to be patient for more on that next week.
NDDC AND THE OPPORTUNIES LOST TO CORRUPTION.
“Oil producing states got N44tn in 18 years.” PUNCH, June 13, 2020, p 28.
Before you start shedding tears for the people of the region, let us at UniJankara help you to understand better the monumental calamity which had befallen the poor (they are still mostly poor) people of the oil producing states. You might want to shed blood instead of water. They have stolen the future of Niger Delta.
One of our new recruits took one look at the figures – N44tn in 18 years – just quoted and he undertook the following analysis. First, the leaders of the states collectively received on behalf of their people more revenue than the entire debt piled up by the Federal Government in the same period. Remember we are talking of only nine states. Second, the cumulative figure means that on the average N2.4 trillion per annum was collected. Again, that translates to one quarter (25%) of the FG budget this year, 2020, and 105 per cent of the 2000 budget. We are not finished. Approximately, N200bn per day lands in various laps for the benefit of the people. That also means N7bn per day arrives – hot and heavy. The figure is larger than all the Federal Budgets from independence.
The challenge now is this: can anybody point to any part of the oil producing states which now reflects this mammoth financial windfall? Since returning to Nigeria in 1974, I have worked and lived in all the four corners of Nigeria, as well as places in between. From 1994 until 2008, when I voluntarily resigned from the staff of VANGUARD MEDIA, it was my duty to travel to all the states of Nigeria at least three times a year. Although the trips were reduced thereafter, I still averaged travels to 24 states a year – until 2019. So, without any attempt at false modesty, I can claim to know this country as well as anybody – East, West, North and South. I am an eye witness to all the atrocities committed by leaders in the region – with a very few exceptions.
RECENT REVELATIONS AND THE AKWA IBOM CONNECTION
Akwa Ibom State will serve as example for the entire region next week when we embark on the second part of this series. But, permit me to remind readers of some of what has been revealed about the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Then, it is easy to understand why N44tn went down into the swamps of the nine states. These reminders are not arranged in any particular order. Yet, collectively they illustrate a pattern of deliberate massive embezzlement of funds which the most brazen colonialist could not have contemplated sixty years ago.
- CSO Uncovers Fresh N35bn fraud at NDDC – Daily Independent, June 15, 2020.
- Akpabio: NASS members got most NDDC contracts – VANGUARD, July 21, 2020.
- Akpabio, Nunieh in verbal war over NDDC VANGUARD, July 13, 2020.
- Pondei, others spent N5bn as medical allowances – PUNCH, August 4, 2020.
- Controversy as Senate probes NDDC N40bn spending – PUNCH 10, 2020.
- The greatest amount of money that can be classified as missing is the derivation funds that run into several trillions of naira — VANGUARD, July 19, 2020.
- Nigeria’ll break if we release NDDC looters list — OJOUGBOH – VANGUARD, August 31, 2020. Most Nigerians want to have the list of looters of NDDC funds – even if Nigeria breaks.
NEXT WEEK: AKSG WAS THE FIRST STATE GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA TO COLLECT N1TN IN FOUR YEARS – 2007 TO 2011.