The Nddc: An Endless Circle Of Deceptions And Woes
The woes of the people of the oil bearing enclaves of Nigeria in the pasts few days again dominated national discourse. This was occasioned by revelations and discoveries during the probe of NDDC by both chambers of NASS of humongous sleezes and outright theft of funds meant for development in the region. While growing up as a young secondary school pupil, I read a book titled ‘’Divide And Rule’’ authored by Cyprian Ekwensi and in the days of the Ogoni struggle,it became very evidential that the Federal Government and the International Oils Companies favourably employed the tactics of divide and rule and double standard as instrument aimed at frustrating the struggle and curbing its acceptance by the people.
From the very first day when oil was struck in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in the present day Bayelsa State till today, we have paid and still paying the price for having oil in the bowel of our lands, creeks, swamps and the adjoining seas and oceans The 12 days war over the declaration of the Niger Delta Republic was as a result of the need for unfettered access to oil The Umuechem massacre and the Nigeria state orchestrated civil disturbances in Ogoniland which resulted in the killing of four prominent Ogoni son which led to the brutal murdered of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others, including the invasion of Odi and the Jesse fire. Some of the other sad reminder of the scars and misery of oil to our people, also includes but not limited to the following- the invasion and desecration of the traditional stool of Gbaramatu kingdom, acidic and corrosive rains across the region, emission of black soots over our towns, indiscriminate gas flaring, pollution of surface and underground water source, depletion of our soils textures, environmental degradation, , reduction of life expectancy of our people etc. So many blood have been spilled, many more incarcerated, others driven into exile, our flora and fauna destroyed, our land degraded and thereby living us with a huge environmental crisis comparable only to Chernobyl. Up until in the 80s, oil workers were leaving in the oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta and freely sharing and exchanging things with their hosts but it all changed when the people started asking the government questions, upon realization of the wealth being generated from the black gold beneath them. Rather than providing answers to the question asked, the answers sought by the people birthed the beginning of an era of intimidation, harassment, abuses of our mothers and daughters by army of occupation and militarization of our communities, including highways, creeks and waterways which is still ongoing as you read this piece No genuine attempt has been made at assuaging the people till date for all the anguish and pains done to our lives, livelihoods and survival, rather, the militarization increases and that brought about heighten tension in the region which invariably makes the people view the military and Federal government as enemy The highhandedness of the military on the people has not yet abated, even when peace pervade the region.
We are presently worried, because arising from the NASS probe, the people of Nigeria including those that are supposed to provide oversight and supervise the NDDC have armed themselves with all the revelationsand made a 360 degree turn around to blame the peopleof the region for their woes and under-development.How sadden because, its further exposed the insensitivity and absence of seriousness on the part of the Federal government, the National Assembly and the Nigeria people in seeing a crises free Niger Delta.
In all of these, where are the anti-corruption agencies or is there anything that forbids them from rounding up all those already named as culpable and complicit in the monumental corruption. They are needed to thoroughly investigate all the claims and counter claims as against the charade that took place in the House hearing that was aired on television across the globe with a view to portray the people of the region as bunch of thieves, bad managers of resources which further lend credence to the endless deception. They want to be seen as those with the intention of helping the helpless people of the region and for the World to see the people of the region as its own enemies Moreover, the pandemic-like environmental degradation of our land was unleashed upon the unsuspecting region by the deceitful IOCs and the Nigeria state which we all belong. The suffering of our people over the years is a direct and disastrous consequences of the political-elites self-interested myopia. The burden of the underdevelopment of our land, considering its contribution to the development of Nigeria is rather so great to bear but blaming us for the woes is more or less a pretentious attempt to taunt and compound our situation. Frankly, we definitely do not deserve the scorn being heaped upon our head. We do have an entangle history that is replete with gale of injustice and militarization and will be surprise to see if Nigeria is now systematically segregated. The most alarming thing which became part of our history is that an entire generation of our children and young adults have unwittingly viewed the militarization of our region as normal way of life which has pushed many of them into violent paths and virulent ways, and most unfortunately, they are left in the web of a destructive paths foisted on them owing to lack of opportunities.
Members of NASS from the NDDC states and the political elites should be ashamed of themselves. There is absolutely no attempt by these political elites to ensure that the commission works and fulfil the mandate of its establishment. Those in NASS could not muster the courage to prevail on their colleagues to ensure the passage of NDDC budget on time. The Governors becomes over-comfortable with the 13% derivation that they stayed aloof while NDDC degenerate into a cesspool of corruption. The other stakeholders such as the youths, traditional leaders etc., that have unfettered access to the commission see it as their turn and share of the national cake Contractors are paid for poorly or job not done at all as long as the vested interest along the chain, from the political circle in Abuja to the commission headquarters in the black-soot envelops city of Port Harcourt to the communitylevel are taking care of. Consequent upon all these, arethe abandoned projects that dotted the region. Meanwhile, all of these are not without the influence of Abuja. Over the years, the conspiracy of silence by everyone becomes loud and the circle of deceptions continue. Our failed and recycle self-centered politicians and elites in NASS since 1999 has further deprived the region of robust and quality representation. They are a bunch of people that think only of themselves and family members. They hardly attract constituency projects to the region. They watch while the region is short-changed in all ramification. Little or no efforts made at proposing an amendment to the several laws skewed against us or should one talk about the singular reason why the PIG-B was balkanized into four and is yet to passed after many years of its introduction.
The 2019 budget of NDDC was only passed in February, 2020, transmitted to the commission in April for implementation, while the life span of the budget expired on May 31, 2020, which the house committee equally alluded to during the hearing. How would one describe this scenario, it is either the Abuja influence do not intend to see that the budget work or that they intentionally sabotage the development of the region.
We are not unmindful of the fact that the only interest of the Federal government and the people of Nigeria in our land is the flow of oil and as long as oil flows, we can continually pass around the blames of the woes and underdevelopment of the area while the people endlessly suffer. In our opinion, NDDC was established as a measure to assuage the people and guarantee unhindered access to oil and the abundant gas resources while the political elites with the backing of the state continually feasts on NDDC, the big decision about oil and gas are taken in mega corporations in Abuja without any impute from the environmental impacted region.
The vast majority of our people in the oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta abhor corruption and would rather prefer that all those found to have stolen the funds meant for development be punished. Meanwhile, the under-development of the oil bearing communities did not only became known to us in the year 2020. We still hold the Nigeria state for the under-development of our region and our high poverty rate, because, till this moment, what is still of utmost important to the Nigeria state is the continuous flows of oil and unhindered access to gas resources but not the development of the producing communities. Laws that excludes the people from having a say in the resources of our land were deliberately put in place while industry-policy-decisions are taking and formulated in faraway Lagos and Abuja.
The oil and gas bearing communities and by extension the Niger Delta will develop if the Nigeria state and her people wants it to develop. The NDDC is an agency of government and the government should deal with the corruption in NDDC as the already deprived people will not partake in this blame game. Our people will not accept excuses and shall resist any attempt to intimidate, coerce or even blackmail us into believing that our woes and under-development are as a result of the stolen funds in NDDC. Come to think of it, the Nigeria state have in the pasts 60 years plus, drilled and sold oil from the region, only for the ungratefulnation and her citizens to turn around to blame the people for the failure of her very agency in accomplishment of a set mandate. We have repeatedly refused to accept this narrative because the Nigeria state is not doing us any favour by bringing development to the region neither is it an entitlement but our right, considering our contribution to the growth and development of the Nigeria state over the years, infrastructure – wise.
The Nigeria state must start doing the right thing which is not just ensuring peace but to serve justice. How do we achieve that as a nation, we must recognize that robust and sustainable development of a place, aren’t the product of random luck or trial by error, they’re the result of deliberate government policies and incentives? It is better for the state to learn that lesson and plan accordingly or be continually hunted by the under-development of the oil bearing communities of the Delta region. Hence, now more than ever, the Nigeria state must have to prove to our people that her interest in the region goes beyond the flow of oil and the vast gas resources. This is particularly against the backdrop of the outcome of FEC meeting, every Wednesday, contracts are usually awarded and announced but you hardly hear anyone cited in the Niger Delta region, except we are being told that NDDC is solely responsible for every anticipated Federal government projects in the region.
It is our considered opinion that this circle of deception should end and the right things done. The Niger Delta people must equally make the political elites pay for the harm they have wrought on the people. The dearth of genuine activists should not deter us from saving our land. We must save the Niger Delta from the unscrupulous elites parading themselves as representatives of the region that has sold the region to crooks from outside.
We must defend our land and preserve her heritage. We must not allow pressure and deceptions to cowed us, for we are not a conquered people, therefore, now more than ever is the time for us to tell our story-the truth by using enlighten principle and truth. As a people, we must refuse to dwell in anger and anguish but see ourselves as a part of the wider society and demand for what is rightfully ours.
Com. Msigekii Nwi-aera Nacy Resides In Abuja, Nigeria