PIA: I see bloodbath over host communities’ fund — Ambakederimo

Posted by News Express | 23 August 2021 | 640 times

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Convener of South-South Reawakening Group, SSRG, Joseph Ambakederimo, in this interview, speaks on issues ranging from the Petroleum Industry Act, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, among burning sundry issues. Excerpts:

Delay in inaugurating NDDC board

I do not think the NDDC board is coming up soon even if we saw in the news that the forensic report had been submitted. For us, I do not believe what we saw on television is the true report of what should happen. I say this on the backdrop of a military man presenting a report. 

The President did not give a directive to assess the security situation in the NigerDelta, he gave a clear cut directive for a forensic audit to be carried out on the activities of the NDDC for some time. That is the report we were expecting to see. 

So if anybody came to present a security report of what is supposed to be a component of the forensic audit report, for me, it is just playing to the gallery? 

And the Minister is just playing on the sensibilities of the region. Military personnel presented a report to him, it is not the Navy that carried out the forensic report. What we were told was that four credible companies were assigned the contracts to do a forensic audit of NDDC within a period.

So that is the report I expected to see and not a security report. The military was not engaged to do a forensic on NDDC. It was an audit firm they said they contracted and some agencies at the state level. And what we saw was a military man presenting a report.    

My word to Akpabio

We want to see the lead audit companies coming to present the report to the Minister and then the Minister presenting the same to Mr. President. My advice to the Minister is that he should tell us what is happening, did any forensic audit take place? We should know. 

Even if we are not part of the system, we know what is going on in the region. If the audit is not going on, they should put the board in place, it can still do the audit. 

We read that the report of some states was ready.

Well, it should not be done state by state. If they have finished their work, they should come out. Today, it is not a sweet one in the commission with one man doing the job of the board 

Threats by militants in the region

Threats from these militants have overstayed their usefulness in the system. They are just trying to trade with their threats. I do not say we should go and disrupt activities in the region, for me I don’t subscribe to that. There should be constructive engagement.

We have passed that stage of going to destroy national assets, block any road or go and attack pipelines. All these are outdated systems of engagement. I see the militants now like cohorts with those holding us down in the region. So, if we want to engage the government, we must get the right people.

Niger Delta expectations from Buhari

The Federal government should step up its effort. Development is a process, it is not an end game. It has not met our expectations in the region so far. The federal government had tried on the railway. In Delta state, for instance, the Delta Steel Company, DSC, Ovwian-Aladja to Itakpe was not designed for passengers, but to commute steel from DSC to Ajaokuta. This government has come, done it this way, it should be commended.

The Delta state government should key in to expound train services in the state. The Calabar to Lagos rail proposed in the South-South is a good prospect. My interaction with the Minister, of Transportation, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi, I see his commitment to deliver the project, he should be encouraged. The rail project is very important; the Federal Government should pursue it. The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has not performed commendably under the current Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio. 

East West road can’t be called dual carriageway 

The East-West Road cannot be described as a dual carriageway as it is now. At one point, you travel on the dual carriage and at another point, you see one lane. The stretch of the road from Warri to Calabar where it terminates is not a dual carriageway by any standard. We know what the dual carriageway is like in any country. Again why can’t they construct another road in the region? Why should it be only the East-West Road that is gulping money? 

The problem with Niger Delta

For me, the controversy around the percentage is neither here nor there. We must tell our people the true position of deep oil politics all over the world. Nigeria’s oil is fast going out of fashion. We have many countries in Africa that are now oil-producing. Again Nigeria oil is not that attractive to investors because the cost of producing oil is far way beyond. 

So you see that many firms are divesting.

It is not even the amount of money, how will the percentage accruing to communities be utilized. We know what is happening to NDDC, Niger Delta Amnesty and 13 per cent. If you ask me, you will see that the money that comes to the Niger Delta is almost one-third of the national budget. But do we find anything in the region; it is still the same old story. So it is utilization of the money that we should focus on.

We saw what happened in the National Assembly, just to get who will represent the region, there was a bloodbath at the National Assembly. Now we are coming to sharing. Who are those that will be in the Host Communities Trust Fund, I see a bloodbath coming, I see a lot of problems, issues that will arise from the management of the percentage. For me, it is not even the percentage, but utilization of the fund.

See the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, what has it achieved in Delta? It is the same story in Edo, Ondo. Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom states refused to have similar bodies. They are all spending the money anyhow. 

Talking of host communities, sometimes what is even host communities is another problem. At a time, there was discrimination among host communities in DESOPADEC. This is just from a state. 

There are many issues on the ground. It is not just the percentage we should be talking about. Nigeria crude is no longer attractive to investors because of the high cost of production 

  How to avert a bloodbath in Niger Delta

We have to divest ourselves from corruption. Some people will just go there and begin to marry more wives, set community youths against themselves. Those who have the strength of force will take over. People will run away from their communities. It is the same problem.

If you ask me how we can get out of it, I don’t even know what to say. The focus should be on how to get the funds to transform the communities. How do we manage the funds is what is most important.    

On electronic voting

For me, has INEC ever been independent any day? We are trying to increase the amount of money for vote-buying with electronic voting. The simple truth is that electronic voting will increase the cost price per one vote. If you paid N5000 in the past, it will plummet because of electronic voting. We should drop this electronic voting thing for now.

(Adapted from Vanguard)

Source: News Express

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