Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, said, yesterday, that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was broke, and asked that its funding be improved to enhance the infrastructural development of the region.
Akpabio, in his keynote address during the NDDC strategic capacity building workshop in Uyo, said the funding system was poor because budgetary provisions for the commission were staggered and did not come as and when due.
Similarly, the minister called for the amendment of the laws establishing the agency should the need arise, stressing that he was determined to leave the commission better than he met it.
He said, “The commission is broke because the funding system is poor. We must leave the NDDC better than we found it even if it means that the lawmakers have to tinker with the law.
“The current funding patterns and budgeting processes must embrace good governance to achieve the best we can, while asking for more funds to carry out more sustainable projects and programmes,” Akpabio said.
The minister said corruption, weak political and institutional governance, transparency and
lack of proper consultation and engagement with the communities and state governments among others, were challenges confronting the commission.
“Corruption is one of the greatest problems of the Nigerian society and it also finds its ugly and devastating effects in all sectors of the polity, including the NDDC.
“The level of corruption engulfed all the sectors including government, parastatals, ministries, government officials and community leaders even the youth leaders and the NDDC is not left out.
“Weak political and institutional governance in the Niger Delta has led to the misuse of public resources, poor service delivery and poor enforcement of the law.
“The consequence has been the lingering restiveness, breakdown of trust, abuse and misuse of power between officials and the communities, embezzlement and attendant violence,” he said.
In his welcome address, the Interim Administrator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa, said the retreat was in furtherance of consultation with its stakeholders for speedy development of the region.
Akwa said that the NDDC was done with its unsavoury past, stressing that continuous consultation and collaboration for effective development were the focus of the commission.
He urged all stakeholders and the Niger Delta to join hands for the benefit of the people.
“We are here today in furtherance of our ongoing consultations with internal and external stakeholders of the NDDC for speedy development of our beloved Niger Delta region.
“The NDDC is born again. Contrary to its unsavoury pasts, the core of our new personae is continual consultations and collaboration with stakeholders to co-create commonalities for effective development of the Niger Delta.
“I beckon on all stakeholders of the NDDC and the Niger Delta to come and let us reason together. Please come, let us work together to create a common way forward for the benefit of our people,” Akwa said.
In his goodwill message, Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, called for cooperation among the executive and the legislature to enhance development of the region.
Meanwhile, coalition of nine militant groups in the Niger Delta has threatened to dump the ceasefire reached with the Federal Government and resume armed agitation over the alleged refusal by the government to stop paying 13 per cent derivation to the governors of the region.
The coalition, under the aegis of Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), accused the governors of the region of allegedly diverting the money accruing from the 13 per cent derivation to personal pockets without recourse to the infrastructural development of the oil-producing communities.
The RNDA in an electronic statement by its Coordinator, Johnmark Ezonebi, on Friday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to pay the derivation directly to oil producing communities since the governors had allegedly failed the people of the region.
The coalition lamented that despite the series of complaints and petitions against the state governors concerning the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta, the Federal Government had not deemed it necessary to stop paying the derivation to them.
The RNDA threatened that the alleged decision by President Buhari to side with the state governors by refusing to the stop the derivation payment to them would not be tolerated any longer and it might lead to resumption of hostilities in the region.
The coalition said: “We frown at the payment of 13 per cent derivation funds to state governors in the Niger Delta despite protests and suggestions that it be paid to the oil-producing communities in the region in order to improve the direct welfare and infrastructural needs of the oil communities.
“We agreed after our emergency meeting in the creeks of the Niger Delta that we will soon collapse the cease-fire agreement entered with the Federal Government since on the 21st of August 2016, if the payment of 13 per cent derivation fund to the governors continues.
“And that it will be bloody in the creeks if our demands are not met because we will not fold our arms and continue to tolerate the deliberate perpetual injury occasioned by the governors of the oil-producing states to the people who are from the oil-producing communities in the creeks.
“There is serious deliberate neglect by the governors of the region despite receiving such huge amount of money, monthly, while the people in the communities are abandoned and left to suffer.
“The governors live flamboyantly without having any human feelings for their fellow kinsmen who suffer most hazards from the exploitation and exploration activities from crude oil production from the communities.
“Our people are left with no single meaningful development and human empowerment despite the billions and trillions of naira being collected by this governors on behalf of the oil-producing communities.
“The level of deliberate abandonment and neglect by the governors of the Southsouth states who are receiving over N180 billion yearly from the Federation Account as payment of 13 per cent derivation from the Federal Government on behalf of the oil producing communities is nothing to write home about.”
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