*Demands Sack of NDDC MD, Others
Against the backdrop of Nigeria’s dipping crude oil earnings occasioned by dwindling production output and the biting spike in pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, commonly known as Petrol following the removal of fuel subsidy, elders in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have proffered measures to ameliorate the situation.
In an open letter to President Bola Tinubu, the South-South Elders Progressive Forum, SSEPF, blamed the progressive decline in crude oil production output on the withdrawal of support for multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region by locals in oil bearing communities who feel not being carried along by the Federal Government and its agencies and no longer take it as an obligation to protect oil facilities in their areas, including fighting crude oil theft.
The elders cautioned in the letter dated 18th July, 2023 that the short term palliatives offered to cushion the nightmarish situation currently being faced by Nigerians due to the removal of fuel subsidy will not be impactful unless the Federal Government takes immediate measures to shore up crude oil production output and bring on stream one or two of the nation’s refineries for local refining of petrol.
The SSEPF in its letter title, “A Panacea for the Dwindling Crude Oil Production and the Niger Delta Debacle”, also blamed the inability of the international oil companies (OICs) operating in the Niger Delta to perform seamlessly and optimally on the failure of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to provide a conducive atmosphere for the companies to function. The letter was signed by Chief Jolomi Ande and Dr Benedict Akparanta, Chairman and Secretary General respectively.
It reads in part: “Crude oil and natural gas resources will remain pivotal for a long time in Nigeria’s path to economic prosperity and the sooner the nation takes the development and stability of the Niger Delta region seriously, the better for it. The IOCs no longer complain to the Federal Government on the challenges they face due to lack of cooperation by the host oil communities occasion by a huge trust deficit, and are therefore, simply divesting and exiting the Niger Delta as a result of NDDC’s failure to effectively perform its mandate towards maintaining peace and stability in the region.
“As elders in the Niger Delta committed to peace, development and prosperity of the region and Nigeria, we wholeheartedly offer you our support towards actualising your vision of economic revival for the nation using the abundant oil and gas in the Niger Delta as a springboard. But this can only be achieved through well-grounded policy initiatives and holistic implementation of guidelines and presidential directives by those upon whom responsibilities have been delegated.
“It is in this regard that we write you this letter highlighting some recent anomalies that could mar efforts of your administration particularly towards improving the dwindling crude oil production output and to proffer solutions on how to remedy the situation which had adversely affected the nation’s oil earnings. Mr. President, we are discomforted that your recent directive dissolving the Governing Boards of all Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies, Institutions, and Government-owned companies as it relates to the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), was implemented in the breach and the outcome, if allowed to stand, signals a faulty start capable of raising the bar of corruption at the Commission and worsening the lack of cooperation by the host oil communities and the multinational oil companies occasioned by a huge trust deficit as a result of NDDC’s failure to effectively perform its mandate towards maintaining peace and stability in the region, thereby progressively depleting crude oil production output.
“Succinctly put, Your Excellency, the intrigues that played out in the process of implementation of your directive as it concerned the NDDC Board has casted a dent on the image of your barely two-months old government and the high hopes of the Niger Delta who hold the key to ensuring unhindered crude oil and gas production had begun to diminish. We urge you to, in your characteristic manner, take bold steps to take full charge of your Government and energise its machinery towards effective delivery of good governance through the various agencies –in our case, the NDDC. Unfortunately, the Commission had been bedeviled with corrupt elements and tendencies and the outcome of the implementation of your directive on the dissolution of the Governing Board of the NDDC has further reinforced this perception.
“We wish to remind Mr. President of the high public expectation due to the huge trust deficit you inherited from your predecessor’s administration. President Buhari suffered from old age and health challenges which literally made him an absentee leader and created room for a cabal that discharged the functions of the President and Commander-in-Chief. That cabal which was notorious for appointment racketeering as well as perpetration of administrative and procedural abnormalities became an albatross for the immediate past government.
“A repeat of Buhari’s style of overseeing the NDDC will spell further doom for the country and we enjoin Your Excellency to ensure that people in the corridors of power do not to manipulate issues concerning a very sensitive agency such as the NDDC to line their pockets and expect good fortunes from the oil and gas sector for the nation. Mr. President should therefore promptly and decisively address these misgivings at this early stage of your administration and advance the cause of good governance most particularly on the economic front.
“Already, there are allegations that a whopping sum of N6 Billion of the Commission’s funds was disbursed to secure the retention of some members of the NDDC Board following your clear and sweeping dissolution directive. More worrisome is the humongous level of corruption allegedly being perpetrated by some top officials who ironically, had been exposing themselves in the course of internal wrangling. Ms. Lauretta Onochie, immediate past chairman of the Board, said a lot about the managing director and his team during the NDDC 2023 budget defense in the National Assembly, referencing amongst others, the use of multiple accounts in breach of the Single Treasury Account (TSA) Federal Government policy.
“Your Excellency, we also wish to bring to your notice, the concerns of various contractors handling projects for the NDDC, most of which have been stalled due to alleged underhand deals. It is highly disgusting that for any contractor to be paid for a job done, thirty percent (30%) of the value of the payment certificate must be given as kickback and for this reason; no contractor has been able to return to site within the past six months.
“We therefore respectfully urge Mr. President to investigate and verify the payments made at the NDDC within the past six months towards uncovering the 30% kickbacks was paid into private accounts of individuals, which are allegedly changed to foreign currency and delivered in cash to the officials for whom they are fronting and these transactions are openly conducted within the vicinity of the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt.
“It is indeed, painful that a greater percentage of contracts being paid are phony contracts with forged documents backdated to previous administrations. And the proceeds from these payments were shared amongst a new set of corrupt elements in the presidential villa to curry favor and settle a few vocal voices from the Niger Delta. This was the practice during ex-President Buhari’s administration and the negative consequences reverberated not only in the Niger Delta region alone but across the country.
“Therefore, Mr. President should not pretend to be unaware of the looming danger as these are weighty issues that require your swift and decisive action by relieving members of the dissolved NDDC Board still being retained in their positions of their offices and appointing the most senior director in the Commission to oversee its affairs in acting capacity pending the constitution of a new Board.
Your Excellency, to rekindle public confidence, enthrone good governance, peace, stability and development of the nation, we urge you to be wary and promptly take measures to check the manipulative activities of some individuals and top officials of government who parade the corridors of power as was the case during the tenure of ex-president Muhammadu Buhari. We expect a clean break from what happened in the administration of your predecessor where appointments were simply procured. And the danger, if the trend is allowed to persist, is that there will be no meaningful development especially in the Niger Delta region because such persons when appointed only serve the interest of those who assisted them in Abuja and elsewhere to procure the appointments and not the people of the region. Furthermore, such appointees squander the Commission’s resources to feather their nests, using same to lobby and retain their unmerited positions”.
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