Published On: Wed, Jan 30th, 2013

Ministry Of Niger Delta: Another Look at Amaechi Out Cry

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Orubebe and Amaechi

By Ifeanyi Izeze
Initially, it was more convenient to believe that the plethora of complaints of inactivity and allegations of misappropriation of funds which has now become a daily chant were orchestrated by disgruntled contractors, marginalized communities and disenchanted indigenes but the sophistication of the protests which most times now come with real facts and figures is a pointer that if the federal government does not intervene now, the Niger Delta Ministry as an institution and even the spirit behind the Enabling Act may be completely destroyed not by people from outside region but “sons of the soil.”
In October last year, a meeting of Ijaw leaders and elders commendably initiated by the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson devoted attention to the deterioration in the Niger Delta and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack non-performing members of his cabinet especially those from the South South. This obviously was because the Ijaw leaders were becoming genuinely worried by the failure of political appointees from the President’s South-South region to carry out their responsibilities in accordance with the people’s expectations.
Top Ijaw personalities, who attended the meeting from Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom, argued that people in the region seemed to have a low rating of President Jonathan’s performance because some appointees from the area had not done enough to enhance the image of the President. Niger Delta Ministry was specifically blamed for the very slow pace of development in the region citing the parlous state of the east-west road as benchmark of inaction by responsible authorities.
If the reason for the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was to develop the region, can any of us from there honestly say that under the current dispensation, the area has witnessed any form of meaningful uplift in infrastructure development to match the monies budgeted and as released? Where in the region can anyone attest to a meaningful impact of this Ministry in terms of people-oriented development projects?
How can we throughout these years cry that people from outside the region never took the problems of infrastructural deficit and outright neglect of the area beyond lip service and deceptive political jives and now we have been given a full Ministry with “sons of the soil” in
charge only to worsen the fortunes of the area. If another president comes when Jonathan serves out his tenure, where are we going to derive the moral stand to accuse them again?
Did the Rivers state Governor Chibuike Amaechi suggest the governors of the Niger Delta states be allowed to take over the construction of the East-West Road with each state taking up the segment within their domain? If Amaechi ever said that, he should be commended no matter
what any section of the region thinks or feels. What was wrong in the proposal and in what way does that statement amount to Amaechi arrogating himself powers that did not belong to him? Or how does such comment amount to disrespecting President Jonathan? Sycophancy abi?
The impact of the federal government’s intervention in the region which the perilous state of the entire stretch of the East – West road correctly depicts should be a source of not only genuine concern but of shame to every indigene of the area in the central government especially those running the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Do we need anybody to remind us that this road has obviously become a big reproach not only to Orubebe himself as the Niger Delta Minister but
to President Jonathan? What the Minister does not know is that rather than portray Amaechi as a kibitzer, if the federal government now wakes up to feign seriousness on the road project, the credit will go to him (Amaechi) for being bold to say is as it were. Mark my words!
Since the only reason the Minister had adduced for inactivity of his Ministry has been inadequate funding, any reasonable person would have expected him, to seize the opportunity dangled in the proposal that Niger Delta states execute sections of the road within their various areas and then seek refund from the Federation Account.
As rightly said by the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group in its latest report on the 2013 Budget, captioned, The Niger Delta, Our Land, Our Ministry, Our Budget, Our Suffering: “It is saddening that, at a time Niger Deltans are holding strategic political positions in Nigeria, the region is not doing any better. If our people cannot accelerate the development of the area, would Niger Deltans in future have the moral justification to ask other people to come and develop
the area? And even as the Federal Government continues to experiment with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, so is the Ministry equally making itself look unserious to budget envelopers.” How true!
When Orubebe took over the ministry in 2009, N51 billion was budgeted for the Ministry by the Federal Government. Out of this, Local Travels and Transport was given N122.1 million, while International Travel and Transport was allocated N100 million. In the same year, projected
expenditure for Local Training was N98 million, Security Services and Allied Matters N710 million, Refreshment and Meals N50 million, Security Vote (Including Operations) N35 million, Niger Delta Coastal Road N300 million, Peace and Security Employment Corps N500 million,
amongst others. Importantly, Lot(s) One to Four of the East West Road gulped N28 billion in that fiscal year. Housing Scheme and Mortgage was N500 million.
For the 2010 Federal Appropriation (Amended Act), the Niger Delta Ministry got N86.2 billion, with N205 million budgeted for Travels and Training, N175 million for Maintenance (General), N162.8 million for Training (General), Security and Allied Matters N700 million, Sea Boat
Fuel N34 million, Generator Fuel Cost N25 million, Refreshment and Meals N30 million, including meeting with Youths and Elders N90 million. Further, New Town/Industrial Park Development got N1.9 billion, with the cumulative Lot(s) of East West Road taking about N30
billion in that fiscal year, amongst others.
In the 2011 Appropriation (Amended Act), a total of N55.2 billion was given to the Ministry. From that amount, the Ministry’s overhead for the year was put at N2.4 billion, while Travel and Transport (General) was allocated N250 million. Training (General) was allocated N1
billion, which covered ‘Non-militant Training Sensitization and Mobilization’, Security got N495 million. N41.5 billion (blanket allocation for Construction and Provision for Roads- Chat of account: 23020114). Refreshment and Meals got N12 million, Erosion and Flood
Control (without spot pin) N5.2 billion, Research and Development (on whatever) N100 million, with an allocation of N1 billion as ‘Fund for Economic Empowerment, Training and Post Training (to ghosts and witches in the region). There was also another N975 million as ‘Fund
for Economic Empowerment’ (to astral beings).
In the 2012 Budget of the Federal Government, the Niger Delta Ministry got N59.7 billion. Out of this amount, over N449 million was for Travel and Transport (including International Travels and Training, which is split into two subheads). Overhead expenditure of this Ministry for 2012 was projected at N1.7 billion. Further, Maintenance of Office Furniture for 2012 only was N118.5 million. Expenditure for Security Services was over N371 million, Refreshment and Meals N31.9 million.
Looking at the Ministry in the Federal Government’s 2013 budget, N63.4 billion was projected with cost centres as blurred as they were all very unreasonable. Is it not worrisome that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs should put N305 million in its 2013 budget as security vote? As asked by the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group, “Does the Ministry want to raise an independent army? Or, is the Ministry not utilizing or benefitting from the services of the SSS, the Police, and the Armed forces, etc?” There was over N700 million for this Ministry on security in 2010, N495 million in 2011 and N301 million in 2012. So between 2009 and 2013, Security vote alone will gulp over N1.8 billion an amount that’s more than the annual budgets of three rich local government councils. Haba!
How many can we discuss? Is it the youth related matters that got N2.7 billion in 2009; N8.7 billion in 2010; N2.5 billion in 2011; and N3.4 billion in 2012 with another N3.5 billion projected for this in the 2013 budget? So between 2009 and 2013, about N20.8 billion was set aside for the “Youths.” These budgets were aside the billions of naira being pumped into the amnesty program which implementation the Presidency curiously detached from the Ministry. Then factor-in what the NDDC receives annually, you will agree we have been grossly robbed
by people who should protect the interests of the region.
Meanwhile, the Minister told journalists in Uyo on Thursday 17 January that the federal government after sinking over N134 billion still needs over N200 billion to complete the East- West road by December 2014. This is just a smart excuse for failure because where is the
Federal Government going to get N200 billion in this year and next year’s budget to actualize Orubebe’s dream? What the Minister in effect is saying is that the road would not be completed in the lifetime of Jonathan’s administration except the Hausa/Fulani people will allow him another term. Abeg, make all of una go rest

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