• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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Saro-Wiwa and Niger Delta governors (2)

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Last week, we traced the activist career of Ken Saro-Wiwa and examined how he became a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian state. But then, the state and its agents countered by silencing him for all times. Not quite, however. Though the damage had been done, Ken had successfully dredged up the relevant issues before Nigerians and the world. Therefore, the expectation was that the managers of the various states in the Niger Delta would be sensitive to what can be called the sociological implications of human phenomenon. But this has not been the case, if newspaper reports, as revealed by a concerned NGO, are anything to go by.

Rather than live up to the clear-headed ideals of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the governors in the Niger Delta region have gone on a spending spree. It is binge which would even leave an Arab Sheik gasping. At a point in time, the sick joke that was making the rounds was that an Ibori was in fact a black Arab Sheikh. But even then, since the exit of Ibori, the successive governors have conducted themselves in the same mindless way.

The immediate foregoing has been confirmed by a news item in this newspaper – Monday, July 27. Among other things, it was reported that “Niger Delta governors short-change citizens in petrol-dollar siphongate”. Meanwhile, there are also numbing riders like: “Not much to show after years of 13% derivation”; “Bogus budget headings mask corrupt practices”. There are also sobering and sad details like the phantom Aviary fish farm in Isoko South of Delta State, whose cost was N56.5 million. The report goes on to state that when an NGO, the Niger Delta Citizens Budget Platform (NDCBP), visited the site of the project, it reported that the farm had no fishes and was desolate and enmeshed in a bush. There are also reports to the effect that residents of the Niger Delta are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation as state governors in the area fail to impact on most of the communities despite having huge budgets.

Again, there are searing revelations that the combined budget of the five states was equivalent to the 2014 federal budget of Ghana, which spent 36 billion Cedis ($11.61bn) in that fiscal year.

Meanwhile, what could well take the cake, a perverse one at that, were the equally numbing revelations that the expenditures by the governors are usually crafted to be siphoned off through corrupt practices.

But at the moment, the bottom has dropped out of the bag. Oil prices have fallen from over $100 a barrel to around $54. A classic instance here is Delta State which is said to be in debt to the tune of N773 billion described as outstanding liabilities from the previous administration.

Along with monthly expenditures, the dismal report states further that the state is currently grappling with perpetual deficits. The sad narrative also reveals that when state and local governments’ irrevocable bonds are stripped out, net receipts from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee and internally generated revenue fall to an average of N7.2 billion per month. This can be contrasted with the state’s total expenditure of N16.3 billion. The upshot is that currently, the state runs a monthly deficit of N9.1 billion. There are also revelations to the effect that during the lifetime of the previous administration, Delta State earned a total of N1.7 trillion while total expenditure was N1.96 trillion, leaving a deficit of N210 billion. As if to indicate that much of this money was frittered away or looted, it was discovered that on the average, the level of performance as regards recurrent expenditure was 93 percent, while that of capital expenditure was 56 percent. In qualitative terms, what is being said is that a good number of the capital projects for which a lot of money was earmarked did not really get off the ground.

Predictably, the inhabitants of the area feeling abandoned, have resorted to counter-cultural methods like siphoning oil from pipelines and selling same to illegal traders and refineries.

What can we make of all these betrayals, especially in light of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s principled resistance to the oil companies and the Federal Government? This much is clear: the enemy has changed. The enemy is not just the central government or the oil companies. The enemy is also within. And they are the irresponsible kleptocrats who, in the name of governance, have brutalized the long-suffering peoples of the Niger Delta in 2015, some 20 years after the murder of Saro-Wiwa.

Dear reader, please note that the governors do not have a monopoly of this banditry. Very much the same thing can be said for the other politicians in the region. An eloquent testimony to this assertion can be found in the salvo column of the Punch newspaper of August 6, 2105. The column quoted the Niger Delta Youth Vanguard along the following lines: “The Niger Delta Development Commission has become the oil well for some senators and Reps members where the highest looting occurs daily, without recourse to development in the region. It has become even worse than the NNPC…” Sad!

Kayode Soremekun