A recent story by Sahara Reporters on N48.6 billion belonging to Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) that alleged to have been misappropriated is shocking and disheartening. In this report, details of the receipts from the Federal Government are meticulously matched against each month.
And as indicated, the total accrual to Delta State arising from 13% derivation funds effective May 2015 to November 2016, is over N97.2b. Half of this amount, which is N48.6b (as stipulated by the law), is due to DESOPADEC; however, this is the huge amount of money that is yet to be accounted for by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration.
With the advent of the Okowa administration, the law setting up DESOPADEC was amended; and this amendment has now rendered the commission comatose or perhaps, is it a strategy to eventually scrap it? Many other questions that arise are: What is the fate of the colossal amount that had accrued to DESOPADEC since Okowa’s assumption of office which is meant to mitigate the effects of oil production and offer development to the oil-bearing areas of Delta State? What is the real intent of Governor Okowa who promised prosperity for all Deltans, but is now starving a major agency, DESOPADEC, that is assigned with the responsibility of assisting the development of oil-producing areas?
Unlike what used to be in the past, the Executive and Management team of DESOPADEC are now but a mere rubber stamp to Okowa in the running of the affairs of the Commission. Its leadership team goes cap in hand for approval of all expenditure, no matter how little. In fact, the most important activity in the Commission lately has been the payment of salaries that are dished out from Okowa’s office; and even at that, inconsistency in payments compelled the staff of DESOPADEC to stage a protest recently that not only embarrassed the governor’s stooges, but also the Governor who has become the paymaster. A once vibrant agency that held hope and promise for the citizens of the famished oil-producing areas, has now been strangulated, probably preparatory to its demise and eventual interment.
Since Okowa’s advent, the Commission has not been engaged in any serious infrastructural development in the areas that the commission is meant to serve, and the state government has also not remitted the 50% of the derivation funds due to DESOPADEC as required by law; therefore he should be held accountable for these funds.
This is a clarion call on the people of the oil-producing areas who have been robbed of their common patrimony and short-changed by Okowa who does not seem to give a damn about this obvious injustice. It would be sheer wickedness if areas that suffer the brunt of the effects of oil production, and which gives the state its huge monthly allocations, is left to wallow in poverty and underdevelopment.
It is very depressing to see our oil producing communities wallowing in misery; and that many roads with accident-inducing craters within the oil-producing belt of the state are left unattended. Okowa’s urban renewal program thus far seems to have excluded the oil-producing areas. There must be equity in governance such that what the law assigns to a particular area should not be willfully taken away, as though by force. Therefore, Okowa must retrace his steps and be seen to act fairly for and on behalf of the entire people of Delta State.
Okowa should tell Deltans, especially those from the oil producing areas, what has happened to their God-given wealth; and even if he does not feel their pain as shown by his actions, he must totally respect the principle of derivation as enshrined in our nation’s constitution. It is for this infraction that the Delta State Chapter of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) has taken the Delta State Government to court which matter is presently ongoing at the Delta State High Court, Warri Division.
Members of the Delta State House of Assembly, especially the Speaker and other principal offices, plus other appointees of Okowa who represent the interests of oil producing communities must now stand up to be counted. They cannot afford to be silent as their people are watching. They must now demonstrate love and commitment to their people, as well as the laws of our land. By the same token, people of oil producing communities must now hold their representatives in government to account for this massive loss of their patrimony which is God’s gift. They must speak up now!
Okowa has tactfully been silent on this matter; he must now come out clean to Deltans, especially oil producing communities, and account for the “missing” N48.6b. They do not mind whether the money is kept in safe custody in Delta State, anywhere in Nigeria or is held up in a “safe-deposit box” in America. What matters is that the funds must be made available for the development of oil producing areas as stipulated by law. This is the task he signed up to. He has hyped up a slogan of prosperity for all Deltans, irrespective of tribe or tongue, but it is getting clearer by the day, after about 20 months in office, that his promises seem empty and without substance, and is resulting in more poverty in the land.
He cannot take the people for a ride any longer. Is their money missing, misplaced, embezzled or squandered? The oil-producing communities are agitated, HOSTCOM is asking; DESOPADEC has been waiting and Deltans are watching. Governor Okowa must speak up now!
*Obibi is Publicity Secretary (Acting), All Progressives Congress, Delta State.