Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu yesterday told Niger Delta Coastal State monarchs and stakeholders that there was no infrastructure in the creek to show for the $40 billion released to the Niger Delta in the last 10 years.
He told the monarchs who visited him in Abuja that he (the minister) went round the creeks and found no infrastructure that reflects the money disbursed to the region through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or the 13 per cent derivation from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).
The traditional rulers had in their joint presentation read by Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Wellington O. Okrika, demanded a Federal Government dialogue team. This, they said, will give them confidence in the peace moves in the Niger Delta.
The group demanded the release of the 10 “innocent” school children arrested by the army on May 28 in Oporoza and others on “trumped up charges”.
The monarchs demanded for the return of the Golden Sword, the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu traditional institution, and the three traditional council speed boats in the army’s custody.
They also demanded for cessation of hostilities perpetuated by the military in the Niger Delta.
The traditional rulers requested the government to make a categorical statement about the opening of the Maritime University-Okerenkoko, Delta State for academic activities in the 2016/2017 session.
Kachikwu requested the stakeholders to embark on soul searching on the roles of traditional rulers, indigenes of the region and others in the application of the $40billion in 10 years.
According to him, the Federal Government is interested in releasing money for the development of the Niger Delta, if governance and transparency are addressed.
Kachikwu told his guests that unless the issue of transparency in the management of funds is solved before further release of cash, there will be no result.
His words: “If you look at the amount of money that has been out into the Niger Delta over the last 10 years, in papers it is over $40billion. These have come from NDDC; it has come from derivation, it has come from oil companies’ investments.
“Over $40billion, but as I go to the creek, I see no single infrastructure that you can point to to say this is the result for these investments. So what it means is that we must begin to do some soul searching ourselves: where did all this money go to. Who to them, what where they applied for ? What were the roles of our own people and others no necessary from the Niger Delta and how this money was applied .
“Because unless you solve the governance and transparency issue in terms of spending this money it doesn’t matter how much money put into the place you are going to go back to square one.
“So the first fundamental question we must begin to ask now is how are these institutions run? How are these monies placed and what roles do our traditional rulers play in the decision making process on how these projects are supposed to …
“And how can we put a sense of responsibility on delivering on the infrastructural imperative ? So there is a lot of home truth that must happen.”
Continuing, the minister said having seen the demands of the traditional rulers, there must be a developmental process agreement for the Niger Delta community that could be sustainable and to which the government can release money.
He said : “The second is how do we go forward even if we understand the past ? I have seen the list of demands that you have; they are reasonable but that is just the precursor to the main issue.
“If any issue is there, there must be a developmental process that is agreed, agreed for the Niger Delta community, which is long serving and to which money can be thrown.”
This, according to him, is necessary for the government is interested in putting money in the region to ensure peace, stability and to sanction an organised investment agreement structure.
Kachikwu said: “But that money we will have to find from everybody who is active in the area, whether they be the oil companies, the government, or the international community. There is a lot of interest in trying to put money to the Niger Delta as long as one you can have peace, two you can have stability and three you can have a sanctioned organised investment agreement structure . So that we all know what it is that we are investing in. So that the $40billion that has been spent in the last 10 years, it doesn’t happen again and we find a lot of loss.“
He told the monarchs that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the engagement of the Niger Delta people but he is always looking for data on what happened in the past to know the fundamentals that are necessary for a solution.
The minister said: “I will obviously take you message back to him. I take obvious position in term of this that this is what is required for us to start this engagement and we will make every effort we can with the authority of Mr. President to set up a team to begin to find out the basis upon which this engagement will take place and see what it is we can do.”
The minister noted that the Federal Government lost over 50 per cent of its income owing to the situation, adding that militancy in the Niger Delta has reduced crude oil production from 2.2million barrels per day to 1.3million barrels per day.
Kachikwu said consequently both decrease in volume of production and price, have further led to 60 percent drop in Nigeria.
He, however, posited that the situation has caused governors’ inability to pay salaries and develop infrastructure but the worst loser is the Niger Delta that suffers from pollution and lack of security.
His words: “We are presently passing through very grave circumstances in Nigeria. Oil, that was at least on average of $120 today is down to about $42 with a lot of threats on whether or not that price can even hold as the OPEC meetings are in the few weeks. But there is need for that $42 to continue to be threatens . At the beginning of the year it was $28 , it came to $50 and now it is $42.
“So the price continues to struggle . What it means is that even from the price element alone, the federal government has lost over 50% of its income. And so to the states. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the militancy has brought down production from an average of 2.2million barrels to today about 1.4million barrels. If I discount what I am saying here today it might be 1.3m barrels.
“What it means is that when you take the cumulative effect of both pricing and volume, we are down to more than 60% drop in the income of this country. So, we can’t even fund the 2016 budget. If we don’t fund the budget governors don’t get money, salaries don’t get paid, infrastructure don’t get delivered and governance can happen.
“So I see that those who pay the biggest price for militancy is the Niger Delta itself. The person who pays the biggest price for pollution is the Niger Delta itself. The person who pays the biggest price for security imperative and lack of security is the Niger Delta itself.”