Channels Television’s “Sunrise Daily” programme had a very sound guest on it the other day. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) spoke factually on the responsibilities of the Federal Government to the Niger Delta and the scandalous corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). I found his main points to be eminently worthy of premium amplification in PREMIUM TIMES.
He stated that it is the Federal Government, not the NDDC, that is responsible for the development of the region. That is fact number one in my book.
Next, he argued that the president and, indeed, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has a moral responsibility to develop the Niger Delta because the Federal Government has taken 100 per cent of the oil resources that the region would have used to develop itself. If the government takes away all the resources of the peoples of a region and in the process pollutes and contaminates their farmlands and waters, it is only fair for that government to develop the place, without the distraction or excuse of corruption. That’s fact number two.
Finally, he observed that since the exploitation of Niger Delta’s oil falls under the Exclusive Legislative List in the Constitution of the Federal Republic, thus leaving the Niger Delta with no control over its resources, all the people of Nigeria, led by the president, have a legal duty to develop the Niger Delta. That essential legal obligation to develop the Niger Delta should not be allowed to be derailed by the scandalous corruption in the NDDC, because corruption in the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) did not stop the Federal Government’s development of Abuja. That’s fact number three.
The upshot of all of these is that while the president should continue to ensure that the law deals with anyone implicated in the shocking corruption and waste in the NDDC, he must not let the recent political theatre around corruption in the National Assembly take his eyes off the needful – the moral and legal responsibility to develop the Niger Delta.
There is corruption everywhere in Nigeria. The House of Representatives said, only a few days ago, that it is preparing to investigate the alleged misappropriation of N100 billion at the North East Development Commission (NEDC). Despite this, the government is set to continue its important work in that region.
The Niger Delta is a different situation altogether. To avoid “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs”, the Federal Government should build a city in the Niger Delta with the same resolve and dedication that built the great city of Abuja. As I argued last week, this is highly doable and can be extremely valuable in many ways. But such a project should not be implemented through our own corruption-ridden ministries, departments or agencies of government, such as the ‘Development Commissions’. The contract to build a Federal Delta City should be awarded transparently to foreign companies and supervised directly by the Presidency to show the high level of priority that the government puts on the project.
Many may see this suggestion as another giveaway to the Niger Delta, and they may have a point, albeit a very short-sighted one. Most peoples of the Niger Delta see the many palliative structures, such as the NDDC, as Greek gifts that have caused more harm to the domestic and the international image of the region. In fact, many thinking people in the region want something there that people can proudly see and touch; something more than billions of naira worth of contracts awarded to representatives of Abuja politicians for roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools that never materialised. This is the reason I believe that they are prepared to forfeit all the Trojan horses from the Federal Government, starting with the NDDC, the amnesty programme, and others, for a shining petrochemical city that oil will build in their oil-rich region.
The current revelations of colossal corruption in the NDDC may prove a great moment of opportunity to change course in the Niger Delta. A wise administration would seize that opportunity and give the people of the Niger Delta, young and old, something to show for all they have given Nigeria.
About the Author: Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.