A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Jackson Lekan Ojo, has said that the leaders of the Niger Delta region must support the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio in his bid to get the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to live up to expectations.
Ojo in this interview said the antagonism against Akpabio by some leaders of the Niger Delta is not in the interest of the region. He stated that there is need for unity of purpose for the region to enjoy the benefits that ought to accrue from the NDDC.
What is your perspective on the recent developments in the Niger Delta, especially as it relates to the NDDC?
We all know that NDDC was created some years back, because of the agitation of the people of Niger Delta for the development of the area as the region that produces the oil that forms almost 80 per cent of our revenue.
But when you look at the region today, it is nothing to write home about. There are so many programmes around that area that have been abandoned; there are contracts awarded about 10years and up till now, some people did their own contract but not paid. Some people collected their own contracts money running into billions without knowing the contract site.
So, based on this, we were very happy when a man like Senator Godswill Akpabio came. I don’t know him and he does not know me. There are some creeks in the Niger Delta that when they want to buy a bottle of kerosene, they have to use N500 to take boat to come to town to do so and some have died as a result.
So, I believe a lot of things need to be done because if there is no peace in the Niger Delta, there won’t be peace in Nigeria and the economy of Nigeria can collapse if nothing is done in the Niger Delta.
Recently the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers said they would not allow NDDC to defend budget for 2021, whereas year 2020 ending soon, NDDC had no budget. This should not be allowed to continue.
If the people listened to them, and there is no budget for year 2021, that will be 24 months of no budget in Niger Delta. And at the end of the day, if the people of that place start agitating, we will have a problem in our hands. Two days of the Avengers coming out in the Niger Delta; Nigeria will feel it more than two months of what we see in Lagos recently during the EndSARS protests.
I am a chieftain of APC. But most of the times when I talk, some people ask me if I am still a member of the party. What is wrong is wrong.
Why would people push for their own budget defence to be put on hold?
In security, as in journalism, there are some information you have, if you divulge it, there will be problems. There are some figures at the federal level that are behind this, pushing these boys to heat up the tension in the Niger Delta. If Niger Delta has lost 12months budget and they are still clamouring for another 12months just because there is somebody somewhere that said it can no longer be business as usual, there is a problem.
NDDC is an interventionist agency. But this is an agency whereby some persons are taking contracts running into billions and they never know the contract site and they will be paid 100 per cent, whereas some people borrowed money from the bank and have completed their contracts for the past 10years and they have not been paid. Why have they not been paid, is it because they don’t belong to the right clique. The powerful ones will collect contracts, they will collect the 100 per cent because they see themselves as untouchable and they will not do the contract.
And Akpabio has come and said no, it cannot be business as usual. Let me replicate what I did in my state for 8years, since the opportunity has been given to me as a minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Akpabio is saying if ten kobo is budgeted for this place, we must spend it judiciously.
This is why they are not happy with him. He pushed for the forensic audit of the place and Mr. President agreed. That is how Akpabio stepped on toes. We must be careful because if oil production stops in the Niger Delta, the economy of this country will be grounded and when it is grounded, it will affect the entire Africa.
Some powerful figures are behind the demand that Akpabio should not be allowed to defend the NDDC 2021 budget until a substantive board of the agency is inaugurated. They are clearly trying to frustrate the Minister but at the end, the Niger Delta as a whole will suffer for it.
What they should have been doing is calling for increment in the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC, not pushing for the budget to be put on hold.
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