Okowa Administration is a Failure as Riverine Communities are Neglected, Says Alaowei E. Cleric Esq

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Alaowei E. Cleric Esq, is a legal practitioner, a public affairs analyst and a human rights activist. He is currently the National President of the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusaders (FOHURAC), a foremost non-governmental organization that is championing human right cause in Nigeria. In this interview with DAILY WATCH, he said that the Federal government has not shown any genuine interest in addressing the issue that instigated the crisis in the Niger Delta; that the core issues of resources control, true federalism and political autonomy are placed on the table of discourse, every other ancillary step only meant to calm frayed nerves in order that the oil can flow at a point in time; that the government’s planned developmental agenda for the Niger Delta is just a mere statement of facts carefully designed to deceive unsuspecting minds.

 

EXCERPTS:

 

What are your views concerning the renewed interest of the federal government in the Niger-Delta? Is it a step in the right direction?

 

Federal Government has not shown any genuine interest in addressing the issues that instigated the crisis in the Niger Delta. What the Government is doing is simply a cosmetic approach which will not last longer. There is no renewed interest as far as I am concerned. Until the core issues of resources control, true federalism and political autonomy are placed on the table of discourse, every other ancillary step only meant to calm frayed nerves in order that the oil can flow at a point in time.

I have not seen any step taken by the Government to conclude that it is in the right cause. Even the promises made on the cosmetic approaches have never yielded any fruit.

 

What would be your reaction to the Acting president’s pronouncement that the federal government is going to work with illegal refiners?

 

Honestly, I would have been very much happy about the pronouncement if the intention is genuine but I am sure the truth behind it is far from what one can think of. It is rather a talk show, an extension of the Government’s usual promises to the people. I believe that it is not that of ‘good action’ but ‘good intention’. I read it in news that the Government has issued licences to fifty companies in the Country to operate modular refineries but to our chagrin, none of the proposed operators are indigenes of Niger Delta states. This is the same Government that promised to engage local refinery operators by converting the local artisenal refineries into modular refineries.

 

With this development, I can safely conclude that Osinbajo’s pronouncement on the modular refineries is just to pull a wool over our eyes. The Federal Government is not engaging any local refinery operator in the Niger Delta. The security operatives in the creeks are still hunting for these local refinery operators. If the Government has any intention of engaging these persons, I don’t think the security agencies in the creeks would still be arresting and destroying their facilities.

I am quite sure that if the Government had made good of its promise, the gesture would have created job opportunities to engage the army of unemployed youths in the region.

 

A coalition of Niger Delta Youth has called on the Federal Government to grant pardon and amnesty to operators of illegal refinery operators. That the relevant federal agencies should adopt the model used in the presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-militants. Do you concur?

 

Yes, I agree with call on the Government to engage the artisanal refineries operators. That was the reason why Niger Delta people applauded the Acting President when declared to engage them in meaningful ventures. These are people who are cloth with modern but yet to be utilised technologies. The Government should be happy seeing these kinds of creative thinkers in the country. What it needs doing is to engage them by converting their business ventures into legal business entities. Criminalizing them by sending troops to the creeks to arrest and destroy the local refining camps can never solve the problem. The Government only end up adding more salt to the injury.

This is an environment that has been grossly degraded and despoliated due to the years of explorations yet security agencies come to worsen the situation by destroying the facilities of these local refinery operators on the environment.

 

President Buhari

 

How do you see to the $20 billion Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP) Project to be sited at Ogidigben in Warri South-West Local Government Area? Would you commend Vice-President – Osinbajo for that?

 

They say honour should be given to whom it is due for. If anybody must be commended, it must be Former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was the one that initiated it. This Government only came to inherit what its predecessor has initiated. However, the present Government must also be commended if it has committed efforts to commence business activities on the project.

The project is such a gigantic one that will benefit the country to a very large extent. It will also reduce the reoccurring issues of militancy, sea piracy, pipeline vandalism and other vices in the creeks to a barest minimum because the project will create ample opportunities for plenty of our idle and unemployed youths to be gainfully engaged.

 

How committed is President Buhari to Niger – Delta development?

 

Buhari has not shown any commitment to develop the Niger Delta. Inspite of the promises made, Niger Delta still represent the 5% voting ratios in the Government. A cursory look at the budget allocation of projects in the six geo-political zones in the 2017 budget, one can easily deduce that Niger Delta is still in the least of Buhari agenda because we are people who gave him 5% votes.

 

How can you describe the lopsided allocation of projects to the various zones by Buhari in his 2017? The breakdown of funds appropriated for capital projects in the six geo-political zones in the 2017 budget showed that North Central got N207 billion, North West N73.7 billion, South west N48.97 billion, North East N46.69 billion, South South N35.31 billion and South East, got N28.22 billion. With the figures supplied above, can one still say Buhari is committed to the development of Niger Delta? I don’t think so. The Government’s planned developmental agenda for the Niger Delta is just a mere statement of facts carefully designed to deceive unsuspecting minds.

 

How do you see to the payment of the 13% derivation to the state governors? Is it illegal or unconstitutional? How should it be paid?

 

There is no clear constitutional provisions’ directing who should have been in possession of the funds. Those agitating that the 13% derivation should be paid to the host communities or some other third parties should rather call on the relevant authorities to amend the constitution. For now the state governments are the legal custodian of the funds since they are empowered by the constitution to receive the Federal allocations on behalf of their respective states. I don’t see any illegality or unconstitutionality in the states governments receiving the 13% derivation. Not until the constitution is amended, they are the ones to receive it!

 

How would you advise the federal government – Acting President Osinbajo on transparency on Niger Delta dialogue between the federal government and the Niger – Delta region?

 

My advice to the Federal Government is that it should match its words with action. There are so many things the Government has promised the region. We are patiently waiting for implementations even though most people have lost faith in the Government. The issues of relocation of oil companies’ corporate office to the region and the modular refineries are some of those promises if implemented will arrest militancy in the region.

 

What is your view on the allocation of oil blocks to indigenes of Niger-Delta states?

 

To me, I would rather ask for resource control and true federalism. With resource control, we can get as many oil blocks as we want. It is an insult for the Niger Delta people to be begging for oil blocks. Instead of fighting for peanuts, let us struggle to control what we have. However, in the absence of resource control, it is not bad for our people to demand for it. It is our rights and we should be struggling to get it if outsiders can get it like a family business. It ought to be our birth right and not the other way around.

 

Governor Okowa

 

There are agitations for oil companies operating in the South-South region to relocate their headquarters to Niger-Delta. What does the region stand to benefit from this? And now that a place like Lagos State where we have a large concentration of these oil companies’ headquarters has equally become an oil producing state, what do we now do?

 

We are much on the struggle for the oil companies to relocate their head offices to the region. We are only waiting for the Federal Government to make good with its promise. The argument of the anti-Niger Delta lawmakers in the House of Representatives who voted against the motion for the oil companies’ head offices relocation to the region cannot stand. If we must maintain the existing peace in the region then all hands must be on deck to compel the oil companies to comply with the directives of the Federal Government.

 

There are so many benefits attached to their coming, especially on the area of employment. Granted that Lagos has also joined the league of oil producing states. That in itself should be a yardstick for Lagos not to cheat its sister oil producing states. The simple truth is that let the company exploring oil in Lagos state sites its Head office there, while those in Niger Delta should relocate to their respective states.

Will Lagos people agree for the company exploring oil in that state to site its head office in the Niger Delta? It is high time we put paid to the injustices meted out the Niger Delta people if Nigeria must sustain the peace we are enjoying.

 

It’s like the “New Delta Avengers (NDA)” sounded a battle cry against the Delta Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) and other oil agencies. How do you see to this?

 

I think that is an internal affairs. It all boil down to governance in Delta State. I will rather say Delta State Government should be more proactive and not reactive to arrest the situation. If the militants’ group strikes, definitely it will affect the economy of the country. That is one reason why Delta State Government should not rest on its oars in resolving the problem. I think the militants’ group have genuine claim though they took the wrong approach.

 

Governor Okowa should respond to those weighty allegations raised against his Government in order to keep Deltans abreast of how their money is being used by the trustee. DESOPADEC is not working under Okowa’s Government and I believe Deltans will like to know what could have been the cause.

 

How do you see to the three-month ultimatum issued the South Easterners by the Arewa Youth groups? Don’t you think this placed the country on the edge?

 

The three months quit notice issued by a coalition of northern youths and the corresponding threats to declare Niger Delta Republic, Oduduwa Republic and Biafra Republic only posed a quadrilateral danger to Nigeria. The chances of Nigeria surviving these threats are very slim except urgent step is taken by the Government to nip it in the bud. Even when it becomes glaring that anarchy is looming in the land, especially gleaned from the separatists’ comments from the various quarter of the Country, the Government is regrettably grouping around like a motherless kid.

The threats to declare Niger Delta, Oduduwa and Biafra Republics were only made in response to the provocative quit notice issued against the Igbos in the North even though the Biafra struggle preceded Northern Youths’ vexatious threats of eviction. The various separatists groups in the East were only agitating for their rights. It has nothing to do with the North to warrant such genocidal threat. I think the quit notice issued by the northern coalition has engendered a quadruple flame that flickered on the fuel of disunity. If what the Government can do is to watch helplessly on the air of discord that has permeated the tensed atmosphere then Nigeria may swerve to the cliff.

File Photo; Militants

 

Is Buhari really winning war against corruption, insurgency?

 

To answer your question, I will rather reply you with another question! I would prefer to ask, is Buhari really fighting corruption? The answer is subjective. In my considered view, Buhari is not fighting corruption. He is only witch hunting and persecuting some perceived enemies. The law has no exception of its application to every individual in the country. The social objectives of our constitution is founded on the ideals of equality, freedom and justice. It seems Buhari is operating with another constitution different from the 1999 constitution which makes his close allies or political associates above the law.

Don’t be surprised if you see majority of Nigerians criticising his anti corruption war. To fight corruption does not mean you must desecrate the citadel of justice. It did not also gives you power to abuse the tenets of democracy by making yourself an autocratic leader. Until Buhari fights the corruption in his Government and those of his close allies who are indicted of corruption by constituted authorities, I will not accept his lopsided anti graft war as a fight against corruption. It is selective! Those loyal to the Government or its party faithful are being shielded, while opposition elements are being hunted with a determined vigour. Such cannot be said of war against corruption but a war of aggression against perceived enemies.

Although I have had course to contend with anybody about Buhari’s resolve to stamp out corruption from our body polity, I still commend him. Bad as it appeared to me, it has instilled fear in some public office holders in the country. At least the anti graft agencies are not dumb or lukewarm to the shenanigans in Governments’ circle unlike the previous Government.

I commend the Government for taken a bold step to fight the high and the mighty in the country. In short, it has set up a standard for fighting corruption in the country even if the fight is not still encompassing.

 

What is your assessment of Niger-Delta Governors administrations two years down the line? With much emphasis on your state governor?

 

Niger Delta states Governors have not done much. Their performances are below expectations. Only some few are excused from blame. Apart from Rivers, Cross River and perhaps Akwa-Ibom States the rest states have not been fared better. Even if the economy is bad, Niger Delta states are not supposed to join the queue of bankrupt states in the country if there is prudent managements of the states’ resources.

In my state, Delta we are one of the worst hit. The state has three piercing arrows to contend with. The complaint of the oil producing communities over the management of DESOPADEC by the Government is still largely unattended. The riverine communities are also complaining of lack of government’s attention. Worst still, the State is owing primary school teachers and local governments workers for several months. Okowa during his campaign was touted as one of the best Governor the state can ever produced but what we are seeing today is rather disappointing. The Governor should give a listening ear to the yearnings of Deltans. Let him submit his Government to performance check to know what Deltans feel for him. He should not be cajoled by some of his sycophantic and favour-seeking aids to celebrate one vain-glory performance.

 

It is true that the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission under the present Government is dead inspite of the statutory 13% derivation coming to the state. There is no or little Government’s attention in the riverine areas of the state. The primary school teachers and their counterparts in the local government’s councils are wallowing in hunger. I am afraid if he fails to attend to these self-imposed maladroit, his second tenure is hanging on the balance.

 

How do you access President Buhari’s two years in office?

 

The two years of democratic journey of the APC led-government of President Mohammadu Buhari is a harvest of hardship, poverty and economic strangulation. The two eventful but fruitless years in governance by the present Government has no policy direction thereby reducing the economically bastardised Nigerians to a beaming end. Indeed, Nigeria under the APC Government is in the abyss of doldrum.

What the Government has succeeded in achieving in the past two years to the best of my knowledge is to feed the beleaguered Nigerians on a daily basis with its satirical lies manufactured from the Kingdom of hell. Every day the Government in a bid to launder it’s bartered image, entertained the pauperised Nigerians with its pernicious lies thereby reducing governance to a comedy night.

No part of the country in the past two years of the Government’s reign is feeling the democratic dividends. Even the Buhari’s sycophantic praise-singers merely chorused their songs of praises for penance and not for pleasure. The odium of anger being poured on the government by Nigerians on a daily basis is an indication that the self-inflicted ailing and recessed economy has gone into phut in the hands of Buhari. The sufferings in the land are as a result of the Government’s ossification to the new trend of policy formulation which goes with the changes of time.

Buhari score card in the past two years is zero. Nigerians have nothing to celebrate democracy under Buhari’s Government as the masses are battling with the high rates of poverty occasioned by the astronomical rise in the inflationary rates.

 

How would you conclude this interview?

 

I want to conclude by appealing to Nigerians to be vigilant. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and the present. This APC Government has taught us a bitter lesson. Nigerians should not be deceived by those carefully crafted manifestoes of political fraudsters. Let us use the weapon of the ballot to kick out the societal cankerworms from the public offices.

 

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