A major step towards solving the problems of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region may have been made with leading agitating leader, Chief Edwin Clark, looking inward and opening up on the fact that governors of the oil producing region are responsible for the problems.
It would be recalled that Igwe Alex Nwokedi, the Uthoko Na Eze Achalla, recently in a national newspaper interview told the Niger Delta agitators to stop blaming President Muhammadu Buhari or North for their problems. The former General Manager, Public Affairs of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said they should rather look inward as, according to him, there was no proof that the Federal Government had shortchanged their region in providing what was needed to develop the area and cater for the people.
Governors of the South-South geopolitical zone came under fire, when during the weekend, leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, said that the time had come for the people to hold them accountable for underdevelopment of the region, mismanagement of funds and acts of intimidation.
Speaking at the third general assembly of PANDEF in Asaba, Clark, who berated some of the governors for spending the 13 per cent derivation funds as if they were not accountable to the people, said the behaviour of the governors was unacceptable to the people.
He alleged that some of them were intimidating citizens in their states, citing a case in Bayelsa State, where he had to intervene after the then governor arrested some persons, including a woman and her little baby.
The elder statesman said: “Another worrisome issue is the manner the six governors of the oil producing states are spending the 13% derivation funds under Section 162 (95) of the 1999 Constitution, without adequate regard to the oil producing communities, nor are they accountable to anyone. Out of the six oil producing states, only three have constituted a commission or body to manage the funds. They are Delta, Edo and Ondo. I understand that 50 percent of the amount paid by the Federal Government is released to these commissions, while the remaining 50 percent is retained by the governors for their own expenditure at will. This money is also not budgeted for in the state coffers.
“Unfortunately, the governments of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers in particular, have refused to set up such commissions to manage the 13 percent derivation monies collected under the guise that every local government in the states produces oil and gas. This reason is unacceptable. We will no longer accept a situation where governors will intimidate and harass people who they swore to protect and care for. They behave as if all is well in the region. It is not enough for them to be present during our visit to Mr. President because they had no discussions with us before the visit.”
He recalled that about 18 oil producing communities along the Atlantic Ocean, spread across two oil producing states, producing about 63 barrels of oil a day, petitioned the Federal Government in 2013 over their abandonment by the affected governors, threatening to shut down the flow stations in their areas.