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Published On: Fri, Jun 15th, 2018

Re- Delta Commits N508m To Oil Palm Devt…Who Is Fooling Who?

Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa

By Young Erhuirhoro
LAGOS JUNE 15TH (URHOBOTODAY)-I started hearing the slang, “politics is a dirty game” since the time of the annulment of the 1993 presidential election adjudged to be the freest and fairest election in Nigeria. In fact, since the beginning of this new democratic process that started in 1999 in Nigeria, the true meaning of the slang has come to reality when politics really played itself out as a dirty game in the Nigerian way. In Delta state, since 1999, it has been awful stories and pains among common Deltans and the ordinary voters whose mandate they count on to stain their white robes and garments. Delta state politics has turned to politics of families and friends.
Recently, I was baffled and anguished over the caption: “Delta commits N508m to oil palm devt.” on the front page of the May 30, 2018 edition of the Urhobo Voice (mid-week) newspapers. The report on the caption is really a call for concern especially to those that want the equations of the revenue of the state and the monthly allocations from the National Consolidated Fund and every other fund accruing to the state to be balanced. In a nutshell, the budgetary allocations to both the ministries of education, agriculture and natural resources and the ministry of sports development are usually very high in many states including our Delta state. This is because, those ministries have more programmes, projects and activities to run than other ministries.
However, my major reason for responding to the report of the ministerial press briefing by the Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources of Delta state, Chief Austin Chikezie is not to tag him as an enemy but to make the records straight as it supposed to be under a democratic government. According to the commissioner, in 2016 alone, 220,000 improved oil palm seedlings were raised by the ministry with the whooping sum of N313m and equally distributed to 250 oil palm farmers, which again created over 400 direct and indirect jobs for the people. Also, there is CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme, a federal government loan empowerment programme for only medium farmers to promote agricultural development in the country especially in the areas of fisheries, rice and cassava production. The commissioner clearly stated in his press briefing that CBN had set aside N2 billion to implement the programme in the state and that, 4000 farmers out of the 6000 that registered for the programme had been cleared. Truly, this is a welcome development in the state. If the state financial resources were judiciously utilized like this in the past sixteen years, then the state would have been closer in terms of human and capital development to the state of Detroit in the US.
But the big question is this, how many physical people really benefited from all these agricultural programmes? All these millions and billions of naira being spent every year, do they really have impacts on the people except those who put themselves as political errand boys and girls or praise singers? Apart from those who are close to seat of government, who else can they point as a farmer that owns these oil palm plantations? In all the Urhobo communities, how many peasant farmers do they transform in terms of these agro loans and mechanized implements? In short, the questions are endless. But I still implore the commissioner to answer those questions for Deltans even though we shall comment on them.
To start with, most of these agricultural programmes that supposed to boost agricultural production in the state, only end up in politician’s big pockets. They should stop deceiving us. The PDP usual system of managing the state since 1999 is “share the money” system and the system is beneficial to only influential members of the party in the state. Members that are not politically connected are treated as just onlookers. If you are not a PDP influential member, consider yourself out of the dining table. In states that really know the true meaning of governance or democracy , once you win any elective position either in the legislature or executive in a general election, you becomes the leader of the entire state and not only the leader of your party or some few persons as caucus men. But in Delta state, the reverse is the case. Once you are not a party member, not just a member but an influential member for that matter, you have nothing to benefit from the ruling government. You will not even be allowed to eat the crumbs from their dinning table.
The essence of what I’m saying is that, those inflated figures being quoted by the ministry of agriculture and natural resources and other ministries and agencies in order to have their way must be properly monitored by the anti-graft agencies and also accounted for by the looters. For fairness, justice and sincerity, just tour round the three senatorial districts of the state, you will know that, this government is only fooling us as ignorant people. For instance, in Delta central, which mainly comprises the Urhobo people, over seventy percent of our farmers are peasant farmers. A farming system where cutlass and hoe are the major implements. This peasant farmers mainly comprised old women, few men and youths. The farmers in this group are majorly itinerant in nature. That is, they move from one family land holdings to another in every farming season since they allow period of fallow for a previous farmland they have farmed on. What they share is a small farm holdings which cannot even be enough to produce food for the family, let alone for sale to make money. They only plant food crops all through the farming season.
On the other hand, the Urhobos have large natural oil palm plantations scattered across every arable land or forest in Urhobo land. Many of the Urhobo men especially in the rural areas are into oil palm fruits collection. When the women are into the planting of food crops like cassava and water yam, the men are into oil palm fruits collection. Only few men plant plantain and banana. I therefore begin to wonder, who do they share these 220,000 oil palm seedlings to in the state? Even if they have shared such huge numbers of oil palm seedlings, they only shared them for themselves and their cronies. How do they achieve this? It is just to register a co-operative society with fake names to obtain the loans or whatever incentives. Thereafter, it becomes their personal business properties. The oil palm development scheme initiated by the federal government is for nobody but them and them alone. The various oil palm plantations across the state rightfully belong to them. They only use the names of the common people in their places of operation to enrich themselves.
To be candid, all what I am saying is from my personal experience I had in 2017 over the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme. A particular politician (name withheld) from my community brought the information to us and asked us to register a co-operative society to enable us qualify for the agro loan. We registered three co-operative societies with over twenty members each, strongly believing that, we shall be the beneficiaries. But at the end with the mind that the said politician is a notable and highly respected leader, he told us to give him the certificates of registration so that he can personally summit them to the commissioner. Even before then, we traveled to Asaba several times for training and accreditation. It is usually come today, come tomorrow after our accreditation. At the end of the day, we saw this big politician acquiring large acres of land in my community. Before we knew, he had started digging ponds and building pens and cages everywhere. When we inquired from him, he told us that, the agro business was started from his personal savings and that, the CBN programme later crashed. Can you see? These are the kind of leaders we have in our dear state. How can you continue to fill a water pot that is already spilling all over? They should stop fooling us every time. Deltans are no longer interested in their ministerial press briefing. Show your true identity to Deltans!
Young Erhiurhoro; Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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