Niger Delta Suffering From Poor Leadership, Mismanaged Allocations, Say Elders
•Expert seeks end to violent agitation
•Fed Govt urged to dialogue with Avengers
•Rep to militants: sheathe your swords

Some Niger Delta elders have blamed the crisis in the region on years of poor leadership and mismanagement of the resources allocated to the region.

The elders noted that the region’s leaders allegedly misappropriated and squandered the huge revenues that accrued to the Niger Delta from federal sources and interventionist agencies.

They spoke yesterday at an annual birthday lecture, entitled: The Niger Delta Question and Imperative of Visionary Leadership, organised in honour of Chief Mike Loyibo at Tuomo, Bomadi Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

The programme was attended by many Niger Delta leaders and friends of Loyibo, including the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta, Gen. Paul Boro (retd), who was represented by former President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Mr. Chris Ekiyor.

Others are: a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Gordon Bozimo; retired Supreme Court Justice, F. F. Tabai; Secretary of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Dr Bello Orubebe and member representing Amuwon Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the House of Representatives, Mr. Oghene Egoh, among many others.

The guest lecturer, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, of the Delta State University (DELSU), said the Amnesty Programme could not tackle the region’s challenges because it was dead on arrival.

Okaba said the programme, including the establishment of the Niger Delta Ministry, only empowered a few people by making them stupendously rich at the detriment of the region’s development.

The expert noted that although the current agitation for more resources was good, leaders from the Niger Delta should be seen as responsibly utilising the resources that already accrued to the region.

He said: “What have we done with the little we have got? Let us look at the issues of leadership. We have 13 per cent derivation; we have appointees. But what have we done with them? The agitation is okay, but it is not sufficient for the repositioning of the region.

“Our attitude to our people must change. The problems and concerns of the Niger Delta region is a product of our collective negligence. It is a sad reminder of the enthronement of the private over the collective.”

Okaba said instead of rushing to the creeks to destroy oil installations and damage the environment, all parties should embrace dialogue.

The lecturer said revitalising non-oil resources and environmental education in the region required visionary leadership.

He added that by beginning the clean-up of the Niger Delta, President Muhammadu Buhari would be documented in history as a leader under whom the vision of the Kaiama Declaration and the Ogoni Bill of Rights were actualised.

Okaba said: “President Buhari has made zero tolerance of corruption his administration’s cardinal strategy for driving sustainable peace and development in Nigeria.

“Though it might be too early to pass a judgment on how this will impact on the Niger Delta region, we reverse the adage that if the head of a fish is rotten, then the whole body will be useless. There seems to be great promise for all and sundry, including the people and environment of the Niger Delta for a new beginning.

“While we ask for more resources, we should be mindful of what we have. Let us elect people with vision and passion, even at the community level. If people could divert 13 per cent, they will also divert it when it is increased to 50 and 100 per cent. So, we must hold our leaders accountable.

“Don’t be surprised that many of them actually have a lot of personal ambitions to fulfil and nothing for the people they have sworn on oaths to serve. The region’s profile of underdevelopment and indignity is a reflection of the quality of leadership that pilot its affairs.

“These times and situations call for visionary and patriotic leadership to pull the Niger Delta out of the valley of despair, uncertainty, backwardness and retrogression to the mountain top of hope, stability, peace, progress and prosperity.”

Extolling the virtues of Loyibo, the lecturer appealed to other leaders to imitate the selfless service of the celebrant, starting from their community levels.

Loyibo, an activist, community leader and Chairman of Concerned Niger Delta Leaders (CNDL), warned against the current destruction of oil installations in the region.

The celebrant lambasted the region’s leaders, accusing them of selfishness and deliberately refusing to develop Niger Delta.

He said: “We have spoken against the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), economic criminals and those who said they would bring oil production to zero. As far as we are concerned, if you don’t have a genuine intention of agitation, you don’t need to cause trouble for Nigeria.

“Nigeria is one and everybody is a first-class citizen. But the Niger Delta needs to be developed. Without the Niger Delta, Nigeria cannot operate smoothly. The leaders we have been producing in the Niger Delta have been self-centred. They have refused to develop our area.”

Also, a former member of the House of Representatives, Adamu Bala Kuta, has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with militants in Niger Delta, especially members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) who have been bombing oil and gas facilities in the region.

The former lawmaker said genuine discussion with such groups would end attacks on economic facilities and ensure peace in the region.

Kuta, who represented Shiroro, Munya and Rafi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, addressed reporters yesterday in Minna, the Niger State capital, following alleged Federal Government’s threat to use force against the Avengers.

The former lawmaker noted that such tactics would only worsen the already bad situation.

He said: “I strongly disagree with the Federal Government on the use of force. That will not solve the problem but will rather worsen the already bad situation.”

Kuta appealed to Niger Delta militants to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue with the government in order to allow peace to reign in the region.

He said: “I urge the boys to stop the bombing of oil facilities because this will affect every Nigerian, including those involved in the destruction of such installations.”

The former lawmaker said the nation’s unity was not negotiable, adding that Nigerians must be their brothers’ keepers, regardless of tribal, religious and geographical differences.

A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Oghene Egoh has urged militants, especially the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue in the interest of peace and development of the region.

Egoh, who represents Amuwon Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the National Assembly, also urged the Federal Government to use dialogue instead of military option to permanently end economic sabotage in the region.

The lawmaker was at Tuomo, Bomadi in Delta State, attending the annual birthday lecture organised in honour of an activist, Chief Mike Loyibo.

He said the militants were using violence to draw the attention of the government to their problems.

Egoh said: “Let us talk. Violence does not solve the problem. But, of course, Niger Delta is using violence to draw attention to their problems.

“I think what they have done is enough. The country is bleeding right now. The budget is in trouble.

“We can hardly earn enough money to bring imports and other things. I think what needs to be done is to appeal to them and find a lasting negotiation, not one where you dictate to the other party.

“Let me appeal to the Niger Delta people, who are my people, that they should calm down and also appeal to the President that everybody is his child. Let him discuss.”

The lawmaker said the question of Niger Delta was about resource sharing.

According to him, though the region is the goose that lays the golden egg, it does not get enough from the resources.

Egoh said: “There are lots of programmes. I agree that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the 13 per cent derivation, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and similar others belong to the Niger Delta region. But they pale into insignificance when you find out that one man owns oil wells at the backyard of Niger Delta communities.

“If you look at the list of owners of oil wells, but I am not in a position to verify, though nobody has challenged it, we hear that 80 per cent of those who own oil wells in the Niger Delta are from the North. You see, that it is injustice. The result of that is agitation.

“The issue of oil wells is that they are skewed to a particular part of the country. It is not that they have more education or skills. But at the time they were given the oil wells, people of that extraction were in the military, which was then ruling.

“There’s room for readjustment. When the oil well bidding comes up, people of the Niger Delta should be remembered before other people.

“I have no worry if resources from the Niger Delta are used to develop other parts of the country. But the point is that you cannot use the resources from one area to develop other areas and refuse to give back to the area you took the resources from.”

The Nation.

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