By Engr. Leonard Obibi —————–
The All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta State is seriously concerned about a recent report by SaharaReporters which alleged in principle that Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa has been deviously misappropriating a mind-boggling sum of N48.6billion which represents the funds that had legally accrued to and ought to have been assigned to Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) for the immediate development of the oil-producing communities of the State.
According to this report, the N48.6billion is the legal entitlement of the Commission and is equivalent to 50% of the total accrued sum of N97.2billion, which represents 13% derivation funds paid to Delta State covering the period from May 2015 to November 2016. Also, the details of the monies received by the State Government from the Federal Government were meticulously matched on a month-by- month basis.
This misappropriation as alleged is a clear act of discrimination, injustice and an exploitation of the various peoples of the oil-producing areas of Delta State. It is acts like this that reflect the perceived negligence and seeming insensitivity of government which has been the principal cause of crisis and commotion in the Niger Delta region for decades. It is therefore horrendous and unspeakable for a Governor of an oil-producing state that ought to encourage peace and development within the Niger Delta to receive funds in favour of and for the development of oil-producing communities, to act in such an illegal, deceitful and fraudulent manner.
This form of invasive action takes a rather dangerous dimension when one imagines that Governor Okowa is doing this with impunity. It speaks volumes of his mind-set towards the development of the oil-producing communities of the state. How can he, in honesty, stand up to tell Nigerians, and especially Deltans, that he is not by such actions instigating tension that can aggravate crisis within the oil-producing communities? It could also mean that he is intentionally manipulating and exploiting these communities of their God-given resources. Okowa needs to be told that derivation fund is a constitutional right of the people and it cannot be taken away by him or anybody, no matter how highly placed.
The level of discontent and frustration being expressed by the entire peoples of the oil-bearing belt is building up to a crescendo. It is hard to fathom why Governor Okowa would hold back funds for developing these communities. Perhaps, it may be that he has never lived in such a brackish, difficult and problematic environment for an extended period of time he does not fully appreciate the struggles, the challenges and the excruciating pains that these communities whose farmlands, rivers and creeks have become of little economic value are burdened with; or simply put, it maybe. We, APC Delta, are totally appalled by such despicable acts of suppression.
It is instructive and quite striking that at the onset of this Okowa administration, the law setting up DESOPADEC was very swiftly amended, and it may have been “customized” in a manner that has rendered the Commission comatose. As indicated by SaharaReporters, this could probably be the beginning of a wider strategy to scrap the Commission. According to the report, these fears gave rise to a recent mass protest by the staff against Governor Okowa and the Commission over what they called “embezzlement” of the 13% derivation funds and “non-payment” of staff bonuses. We, APC Delta, are telling Okowa unequivocally that we stand against such provocative and antagonistic intent.
It is not surprising that Okowa appears to have tactfully manipulated and conditioned the Executive and Management team of DESOPADEC to become a mere rubber-stamp; just as this leadership team who are supposedly the representatives of the people now go cap-in-hand pleading for his approval of even the tiniest undertaking, with him serving as the only “paymaster”. Since Okowa’s swearing-in, the Commission has not undertaken any significant infrastructure works. As far as Deltans can see and feel, Okowa has not taken a keen interest in stimulating critical productivity within the areas served by the commission, nor indeed the state as a whole.
Given the unique and distinctive challenges that many of the people in these areas are exposed to, the content and execution of the so-called SMART agenda of “job creation, infrastructural renewal and agricultural reforms” that Okowa is touting and hyping everywhere are so routine, unimaginative and uninspiring that even a mere secondary school certificate holder can readily figure that out. Governor Okowa who has been in almost every government of Delta State since 1999 knows that you cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
If Okowa wants a bit of advice from APC Delta, what the State needs is a bolder, strategic and integrated vision that will alter the economic landscape of the state. He should stop hoodwinking innocent but hardworking Deltans with these pedestrian vocations that have kept a majority of the people trapped in this same vicious circle for ages. It is sad that the only key activity in the Commission today is payment of staff salaries. A once vibrant and strategic agency that held hope and promise for the citizens of the famished oil-producing areas is now been crushed and strangulated, probably preparatory to its demise and eventual interment.
The allegation that Okowa has not remitted 50% of the derivation funds to DESOPADEC remains valid; as long as he has not demonstrated satisfactorily to the people how their funds have been expended. We have also not witnessed ongoing projects being executed and completed in the zone by DESOPADEC. So we must question the real intent of the Governor who continues to hype the word “prosperity”, but is now starving DESOPADEC of its legitimate funds?
APC Delta stands in support of the indisputable rights of the oil-producing people that are been short-changed of their common patrimony by Governor Okowa. It will be most immoral and wicked for oil-producing areas that give the state its huge monthly allocations to continue suffering the brunt of the negative effects of oil production, while been starved of their legitimate development funds and left to wallow in poverty and hopelessness. If Okowa has not seen them, there are numerous link roads within the oil-producing communities that are teeming with crevices and accident-inducing craters that are left unattended, in vivid contrast with Okowa’s so-called “urban renewal program” that are outside this zone.
We advise Okowa to retrace his steps and act fairly and equitably towards every constituency of the state. Nothing instigates unwarranted discord other than this despicable and condemnable sort of treachery and deceit against a segment of the people, which in this case are the oil-producing communities. Okowa must respect the principle of derivation as enshrined in our nation’s constitution. The fact that the Delta State Chapter of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) instituted a legal suit against the state government on the basis of this infringement is a pointer to the disillusionment that attends this misappropriation of the people’s funds.
Members of the Delta State House of Assembly, especially the Speaker and other principal officers, plus other PDP appointees of Okowa who represent the interests of oil-producing communities must stand up in defense of their people; otherwise the essence of their representation is completely nullified.
Okowa, in his typical manner, may choose to remain silent and evasive, but we call on him today to declare to the oil-producing communities the whereabouts of their “missing” N48.6b. The funds must be made available for the development of the oil-producing areas as stipulated by law. He cannot take Deltans for a ride any longer. DESOPADEC has been waiting; the oil-producing communities are insisting on their rights and Deltans are watching.
Engr. Leonard Obibi
State Publicity Secretary (Acting)
All Progressives Congress, Delta State