Oil Mineral Producing Areas Stakeholders Forum, OMPSTAFOR, led by Prince Maikpobi Okareme, in a memorandum submitted to the National Assembly, disclosed that funds meant for the development of the Niger Delta region have always been missing.
His words: “There has been a long history of missing funds meant for the development of the oil producing areas.
“From the perspective of the host communities, the greatest amount of money that can be classified as really missing is the derivation funds that run into several trillions of naira.
“As published in the Vanguard of August 22, 2017, oil producing states received N7.06 trillion for 18 years, from 1999 to 2016, while, from January 2017 to August 2018, the amount disbursed from the federation account was N602.37 billion.
“Although some states have set up Oil Producing Areas Development Commissions to manage a certain percentage of the derivation funds for the benefit of the host communities, we are not even allowed to see the budgets.
“For example, in Delta State, DESOPADEC was established to receive 50 per cent of the derivation funds accruing to the state.
“The state government contemptuously refused to fully implement the law.
“We were able to calculate from the figures released by the Accountant General of the Federation that DESOPADEC was underfunded by more than N230 billion between 2008 and 2013. The matter was taken to Delta State High Court and the five different judges that handled the case were not bold enough to deliver judgment.”
Meanwhile, a factional Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Delta State, Chief Cyril Ogodo, said the war of words between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Joy Nunieh was being fueled by some persons outside, who do not want the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission to do their work.
“As far as I am concerned on this issue, somebody is out there fueling this matter,” he said.
“I can see the hand of Jacob and the voice of Esau. There are some people who think that without them the NDDC will not move forward, that ‘if it is not me, it cannot be anybody else’.
Factional President General, Urhobo Progressive Union, Chief Joe Omene, who said the altercation between Akpabio and Nunieh was unnecessary, said: “If the woman is lying against Akpabio or Akpabio is lying against the woman and they are not satisfied, they should go to the court, only God knows who is speaking the truth.
“The IMC should be left alone to complete the forensic auditing; if the IMC is found to be guilty of the alleged embezzlement, they should be removed, but let total investigation take place.
“The people calling for the IMC’s removal want to put their own persons there, every person is fighting for his pocket.
“If you allege that I stole money and you are asking me to break down how the money was spent, if I do not explain, it means I actually embezzled it. Let them conclude the investigation before anything.”
However, Chairman of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, and prominent Niger Delta leader, Ledum Mitee, who was a former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, has described the ongoing forensic audit in NDDC as a smokescreen to divert attention from the fact that the Commission was a patronage agency of the Presidency.
Mitee said: “The core of the issue lies in the very conception of the NDDC as an agency of the Presidency through which patronages are dispensed.
“Thus, instead of the laudable provisions in the 1998 OMPADEC Decree promulgated by former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, and which charged the agency with the primary responsibility of developing the oil producing communities, according to the priorities set by the communities, (a laudable bottom-up approach), the NDDC Act, which repealed that decree, charged the commission with the responsibility of developing the region according to priorities set by the federal and state governments, and then provides in Section 7 (3) that in carrying out its functions, the Commission shall be subject to the control, direction and supervision of the President.
“The Commission has thus been acting as the patronage agency of the Presidency and it has been progressively been doing a fantastic job at that.
“That explains why the struggle has always been whom should NDDC report to and, for several years, it was located in the Presidency through the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government, SFG, and, in later years, it was now brought under the Niger Delta Ministry.
“Since then, it has become the only preoccupation of that ministry to the extent that its flagship project – the East -West Road – has been abandoned and impassable in some sections.
“The so-called forensic audit is, in my view, a whitewash attempt to divert attention from this fact.
“Any credible audit of the NDDC would amount to auditing the role of the Presidency in developing the Niger Delta.
“Besides, there are in existence sufficient audit and other reports that already tell anyone all you need to know that it’s just a patronage outfit.
“NEITI under me and even currently have churned out impressive audit reports that document this fact and copies of these are by law always sent to the President and the National Assembly.
“So do we need to reinvent the wheels? The sad fact is that the only losers are the communities of the Niger Delta.”