Pro, Anti-Sylva groups at war in Bayelsa
SIGNS of things to come have started to play out in Bayelsa State, one of the key oil and
gas producing states in Nigeria's Niger Delta, reports AkanimoReports. Already,
opposing civil society groups are locked in a seeming pro and anti-Governor Timipre
An obviously pro-Sylva group, the Patriotic Front of Bayelsa State (PFBS), which claims
to be concern with promoting good governance in the predominantly Ijaw state, has
taken on the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch (NIDDEMCOW)
which has been vociferous in accusing the Sylva administration of inefficiency, lack of
transparency and accountabilkity.
The NIDDEMCOW which has Mr. Nengi James as its Executive Director, has persistently
demanded accountability from Governor Sylva and has been calling on the
Commissioner of Finance and Budget, Opuala-Charles Silva, to make public the financial
position of the state.
According to the Nengi James-led group, ''the people of Bayelsa are being kept in the
dark on the allocations and revenues accruing to the state government vis-à-vis loans
and government expenditure. This scenario has bred suspicion and contempt by a cross
section of the people''.
Other issues thrown up by the group include the indebtedness of the state, the
monetization of the Opolo Housing Estate and the use of consultants by the Ministry of
Finance and Budget, the Capital City Development among others parastatals.
Leaders of the pro-Sylva group Messrs James Ofoni and Oweifa Thaddaeus on
Thursday, returned fire to the Nengi group starting by saying, ''we are delighted that one
of the ingredients of democracy is the freedom of expression and the press. However, it
amounts to naivety on the part of the NIDDEMCOW to display ignorance on some of the
issues raised. Some of these misconceptions need to be clarified, in order that
government's intention may not be misconstrued.''
According to them, ''on the issue of calling on Governor Sylva to deliver on his promises,
the governor has since created a Forum known as “Relax with Governor Sylva”. This
forum provides a platform for concerned people of Bayelsa state to interact with the
governor on a huge range of issues.
''Besides, there is an official website, which serves as a means of communication
between the people and government functionaries. This avenue can be exploited.
Beyond this, any reasonable organization could engage the leadership of the state in a
pro-active manner for purposes of curiosity and clarification of public policies''.
They are not yet done: ''With respect to the financial allocations to states, every Nigerian
knows that the Federal Executive Council publishes such financial allocations are
published on monthly basis. To put the records straight, because of the drastic reduction
in the quota of oil production occasioned by militant activities, and the low Internally
Generated Revenue profile of the state, the state was in deep financial distress, as
monthly allocations in some months could not cover even the recurrent component of
expenditure. These were the circumstances that made the state to resort to taking loans
and this was approved by the state House of Assembly.
On whether the Finance and Budget Commissioner should make public the present
financial position of the state, the pro-Sylva group said, ''we believe that this has already
been accomplished. The Bond Committee not also examined the financial position of the
State but also recommended that the N50 Billion Bond was necessary to re-position the
economy of Bayelsa State. These facts are on the Bayelsa official website for everybody
to see. No patriotic Bayelsan would feign ignorance of the Bond Committee Report, which
was made available to the public. Anyone who claims ignorance of the aforementioned
facts can only be a paid agent to malign the personalities involved or blackmail the
Government of Bayelsa state''.
''It is cheer ignorance'', they went on, ''for any the person or group of persons to assert
that the Opolo Housing Estate was privatized or commercialized. It is a conventional
practice for top government functionaries, including commissioners to live in official
residences. However, as a matter of official policy, government decided to monetize the
houses to the Commissioners at a very high market value.
''This is also the practice at the national level. The essence was for government to use
the monies to build other housing estates in line with the housing policy of government
and to spread the dividends of democracy. It is therefore a misnomer for anyone to say
the Opolo Housing Estate was privatized or commercialized; the Houses were only
monetized in the interest of the state. The on-going privatization and commercialization
Bill being debated in the Bayelsa state House of Assembly has no relationship
whatsoever and howsoever with the monetization policy of government.''
Adding, they said the allegation that ministries like Finance and Budget, Capital City
Development Authority (CCDA) and others are allegedly engaging the services of private
consultants in carrying out their activities is uncalled for. In international best practice,
consultants are believed to be more efficient in matters that require expertise, where the
Ministry, Department or Agency in question cannot provide the requisite in-house
manpower to execute a job.
'For example, the CCDA is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the Yenagoa
City Development Master Plan and that involves the development of Geographical
Information System Infrastructure – which only expert consultants can provide outside of
the Authority or the Ministry of Transport and Urban Development. Even transnational
corporations and the Federal Government of Nigeria hire consultants to carry out highly
They claimed that it was most unpatriotic for the executive director of the anti-Sylva
group, to claim that nothing like privatization and commercialization was taking place in
the oil and gas rich state, ''when we all know that the existing legal regime such as the
Land Use Act and the Petroleum Act forbids states from managing their oil and gas
resources. This is the crux of the struggle for equitable fiscal federalism or resource
We of the Patriotic Front of Bayelsa State believe that, in the present circumstances,
government needs encouragement to cope with the expanding responsibilities amidst
dwindling resources. Even when criticism are made, people expect responsible civil
society organizations to proffer solutions to the development challenges facing the state.
Already, government is coming up with a stimulus package to address some of the
problems created by the biometric exercises that precipitated job loses in the state'', they
Adding, they said, ''the Sylva administration places premium on transparency and
accountability as pre-requisites of good governance. This was why the institutional
mechanisms such as the Bayelsa Expenditure Income and Transparency Initiative (BEITI)
and the Due Process Bureau were established. We therefore, enjoin NIDDEMCOW, their
sponsorsand other well-meaning pressure groups to embrace the people-oriented
policies and programmes of the Sylva administration and lay more emphasis on what
they can contribute to good governance. The Sylva administration is determined to fast-
track the development of Bayelsa state, and government cannot afford the luxury of any