In a bizarre move, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has forwarded to the state House of Assembly the list of the recently sacked Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) for approval.
In September, the House controversially dissolved the board through a motion moved by the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Johnson Erijo (Isoko South constituency 11).
According to the lawmakers, who cited Section 12 of the law setting up the body, the dissolution of the board said was due to lack of performance and total inefficiency.
The dissolution attracted public criticism and was also said to have pitched the lawmakers against the governor who was away in Abuja when the board was dissolved.
The lawmakers were alleged to have sought juicy contracts which board members refused to award to them, leading to the dissolution in vengeance, but the speaker, Victor Ochei, denied the charge.
Assembly sources who confided in our reporter yesterday said a deal has been struck between the governor, the lawmakers and the dissolved board members on award of the coveted contracts to the lawmakers. In return, the governor would be allowed to use his own discretion to handle the 50% of the 13% derivation funds.
Our sources gave the names of the board sacked by the house, now returned to it for approval as including:
• Oritsua Kpogho (Chairman)
• Michael Diden
• Kingsley Otuaro,
• Dr. Henry Ofa
• Joseph Ogeh
• Chukwudi Eke
• Kenny Ekenechukwu Okolugbo
• Festus Utuama, and
• Chief Christopher Obiuwevbi.
A cross section of Deltans interviewed described the situation as going back to eat your vomit, questioning why the House and Governor Uduaghan dissolved the board in the first instance.
“The House gave reasons that the board did not perform and lack of efficiency and one would have expected that another new set of persons should be sent by the governor to the House not the other way round of ‘Business as usual” they lamented. “Delta is a state where anything goes.”
As the list sent to the house by the governor continues to generate controversy, the Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, (FJHD) has called on the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the finances of the board.
In a statement by the group’s National coordinator, Barrister Oghenejabo Ikimi, which was made available to our reporter, there is nothing on ground in terms of infrastructural and human capital development in the oil-bearing communities to justify the billions of Naira allocated yearly to the commission by the state government.
“I am calling on the EFCC to immediately investigate the finances of the commission with a view to bringing persons found culpable to book in the interest of the poverty stricken and traumatized people of the oil bearing communities of the state," the statement said.
Calling for outright scrapping, FJHD stressed that as an interventionist body, DESOPADEC has not only outlived its usefulness in the face of the unacceptable rate of public infrastructural decay, worsening level of unemployment and hunger in oil bearing communities of the state, but that it is being used as a drain pipe by politicians to drain the commonwealth of the people.
“I am challenging both the Delta State Government and the commission to publish its audited statement of account and a list of verified projects it had embarked upon since its inception.”
Meanwhile, Delta State Oil and Gas Producing Communities, comprising the Ijaw, Isoko, Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ndokwa ethnic nationalities has also warned against the fraudulent way the state government is handling the 13% derivation funds, stating that social unrest might arise if they continue to be mismanaged by state governments.
The group stated that the state government has mismanaged the funds in the past stressing that the 13 percent derivation funds should be given to the Host Oil and Gas Communities to manage.
In its memorandum to the Senate Committee on the review of the constitution, the group said “Even the 50 percent of the 13 percent do not get to DESOPADEC when needed to carry out the developmental projects needed by the oil and gas producing communities. The result has been severe under-development and a frustrated citizenry in the oil and gas producing communities. The generality of our people feel that they do not belong to Nigeria when they see the development that oil producing countries in the Middle East and other parts of Africa are enjoying. We recommend therefore that an Oil and Gas Derivation Board be established to manage the 13 percent derivation fund forthwith.”
A petition addressed to the state House of Assembly obtained by our reporter, signed by Chief Wellington Okrika, Chief Emmanuel Ebimami, Chief William Igere, Apostle Clement Tonfawei and Comrade Moris Anuwo, for the Ijaw nationality; Chief P.E. Asagba, Prince Sam Kohwo, Chief F.O. Okitikpi, Chief Ejiro Bodjor and Sir Philip Ejabefio, for the Urhobo nationality; Pa J.O.S. Ayomike, Chief I.O. Jemide, Mr. A.A Mene, Vincent Jemide, and Prof. J.N. Omatseye, for the Itsekiri nationality; Chief Francis Okpozo, Chief Lucky .J. Esigie, Col. S.A. Odede (Rtd), Deacon Patrick Emerhana and Mr. Anthony Osauzo for the Isoko nationalit; as well as Mr. K.O. Nwachukwu, Chief Albert Nwose, Ikukaiwe Lucky, Chief P.O.I. Abanum and Osita.I. Jomah for the Ndokwa nationality, said, “The 13 percent derivation fund should forthwith be paid direct to the Oil and Gas Producing Communities, and not to the government of Delta state.”
According to the group, “We are not unmindful of the fact that the Delta state government established the Delta state oil producing areas development commission whose functions include the infrastructural development of oil and gas producing commission. Our position, however, is that the 50 percent of the 13 percent of the derivation fund allocated DESOPADEC as well as the remaining 50 percent which the state government has appropriated for its use is amounting to an aberration and improper user. In the premise, the reconstitution of the board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) should be put in abeyance, and the entire 13 percent derivation fund paid until escrow account pending the resolution of the weighty issues in this petition.”