Published On: Mon, Mar 13th, 2023

How Gov Okowa And His Men Plunder DESOPADEC

OKOWA AND DESOPADEC

LAGOS MARCH 13TH (URHOBOTODAY)-The establishment of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, by Governor James Ibori in 2006 was widely applauded and commended by all stakeholders but 16 years after, the fortunes of the Commission in terms of delivery on it’s core mandate has nosedived for the worst as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa superintend over its final interment.

With a vision to remain a trully people-based interventionist agency dedicated to ensuring peace, security, abundance, better life and sustainable economic development in the oil producing communities of the state and a mission to put smiles on the faces of the people of the host oil bearing communities through massive infrastructural and human capital development, the scorecard of the commission in the last eight years despite Okowa’s structural reforms leaves much to be desired as successive management boards show gross incompetence and lack of vision to innovate and think out of the box.

Lamenting the parlous state of affairs in DESOPADEC, Elder Staterman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark lampooned Governor Okowa over mismanagement of funds acruing to the Commission and display of ethnic sentiments in the management of the agency.

According to him, “while asking the Governor to account for the money approved by President Muhammadu Buhari to the state government, it may be necessary to reply briefly to the disgraceful explanation being given by the Commissioner of Finance,as if they have power or authority to change the use of this funds as approved by the Constitution and the law establishing DESOPADEC.

“In your usual parochial,nepotic attitude and character, you amended the Constitution of DESOPADEC in order to bring in more oil producing communities in Delta State including your local Government Area,Ika to expand the number of members in the commission to other areas of the state that are not producing oil,”the prominent Ijaw leader noted.

Also adding their voice is the Delta State  People’s Solidarity Movement who stated that ” all projects in DESOPADEC are now grounded and the only activity going on now is the crisis over sharing of money while the mandate areas are deprived of development. We therefore validate and support the statement issued by our most revered elder staterman,Pa Edwin Clark,” the group said.

It is on record that since the establishment of the commission, there has never being any published audited account of its finances. A situation which has given room for the management team to fragrantly flout financial regulations  with no one in control.Just for example, sometimes in 2019, a certain Isoko staff in the Finance Department eloped with over  N100 million and immediately travelled to the United States. The case was covered up and no investigation was carried out. As a matter of fact, the head of the Finance Department has overstayed in that position having amass stupidous wealth with properties in major cities in Nigeria and overseas.

Stakeholders are of the view that the Commission requires urgent overhaul to weed out spent forces that are dragging it backwards as the constant rising of the nominal payroll requires proper interrogation even as staff continue to retire and voluntarily resign in droves on account of poor working  condition. Others have continued to question the ever rising staff figures when there are no recruitment in the agency since Chief Wellington Okrika left the Commission. Who is recruiting and on whose authority?

Sadly, the Commission has one of the highest rate of staff death in any government agency in the state. The average staff is enmershed in debts and when caught up with sickness can hardly afford to finance good medical care as the Commission  pays lip service to staff welfare while board members and their cronies goes home on a monthly basis with hefty allowances and can afford overseas medical  attention. The so-called sick bay shabbily put together  by the commission is merely a glorified village chemist that can hardly provide Panadol is another potent scam to siphon millions of naira from the annual hefty health budget for workers.

Sadly, the appointment process into the board especially in the last eight years leaves a sour taste in the mouth as academically deficient individuals find their way into the board on account of acquiescence from a lamedock House of Assembly headed by an equally academically deficient speaker.

It is interesting to know that dissatisfied with management illegal halt to 13th month salary as contained in the commission’s condition of service,the workers took the management to the Industrial Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state since 2017. The case has continued to drag on due to compromise and corruption while the “strong man of Isoko” brags: ” over my dead body”

It is in DESOPADEC that the elasticity of tribalism, nepotism,cronicism and favoritism knows no bounds. Junior staff are promoted above their seniors and head of department appointments are made on tribal considerations and not on experience and capacity to deliver.

The management also indulge in selective promotion of staff while purnishing those not in their good books.

With lack of budget in the last few years, projects are done whimsically and instead embarking on community based projects their only interest is to embark on endless renovation of the headquarters buildings which has cost several billions of Naira.

The case of contractors not being paid and many dying in the process is well known to all. When a handful are paid, it is most likely they are paying themselves and those Governor Okowa has recommended.

While management always complain of lack of funds to improve staff welfare, the commission has in its payroll over 1000 idle and mostly illiterate Waterway Security staff earning a minimum of N200000 monthly takeaway amounting to several millions of naira. Most of the names in this scheme are fictitious and as such millions are being frittered away just as the commission as a drain pipe, foot the PDP Presidential and Gubernatorial campaigns in the state. The financial heamorhage to the Commission is huge and the time to unbundled the commission is now.

While these rots eat deep into the fabric of the commission, the state House of Assembly,as an extension of the governor’s office, with the Speaker,Hon Sherriff Oboroveori and members of the House of Assembly as glorified footmen and valets to the governor stand aloof as they are hugely compensated with constituency projects and prompt payment of contracts while billions belonging to the oil bearing communities are being frittered away by a gang of mindless politicians who have scant regards for the next generation of Deltans.

The structure that makes a board member appointed for only three years in office a millionaire overnight without significant contribution to development must be dismantled and a   peoples centred administration enthroned to manage their patrimony. The annual cost of servicing the rapacious greed of the management board can fix the most basic needs of oil producing communities.

Stakeholders are therefore of the view that a comprehensive audit of the commission in the last eight years is not only imperative but urgent to save the commission from further slide.

 

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