Sep 12, 2008

Ogoni: “We'll Set Targets For Government”

Sample ImageUNPO President of General Assembly Ledum Mitee promises report with clear targets for Niger Delta development.

Below is an article published by The Vanguard :

Chairman of the Technical Committee on the Review of Niger Delta Reports, Mr. Ledum Mitee, has said his committee will come out with a report setting clear, measurable targets for the Federal Government and other stakeholders for accelerated development of the Niger Delta.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Vanguard in Abuja yesterday [10 September 2008], he said there would be a benchmark for each of the three tiers of government, oil companies, donor agencies and host communities in the short, medium and long term.

On the modus operandi of his committee’s work, the chairman said: “It is evolving, but clearly, we have some ideas of where we want to go. We are thinking that, first we would take the views of people. Let people have their inputs into the process.

“There are some people who have expressed their desire to talk, may be with some members, particularly those in the creeks. They want to engage. We think when all these are done then we collate them and have a way of saying, this is what we have gathered over the years, from Willinks to present day— including opinions being expressed now and put those things in a way that can be easily understood by the people.

“We can now say, this is what communities ought to do; this is what civil societies ought to do; this is what local governments ought to do; this is what state governments ought to do; and this is what the Federal Government has to do; this is what the international community ought to do; this is what donor agencies ought to do; this is what oil companies ought to do.

“So, you put these things in a way that you would now know who is showing the necessary commitment to dealing with the problems of the Niger Delta or who is failing so that we would know who to hold responsible.

“We believe all critical stakeholders have where to come in, in trying to solve the problems in the Niger Delta.”

On accusations of corruption of Niger Delta political leaders, the Chairman who is also the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) said the corruption in the area was federally-driven.

He explained that he was not making excuses for corrupt political leaders in the region, as according to him, corruption must be addressed but that people from outside the region were often the main beneficiaries of the corruption in the region through bloated contracts.

His words: “I think it is a serious problem. It is a problem over which we must not pretend. And that is why we think that we must also in the report of a committee like this, place responsibilities on local and state governments of this area. It is also a national problem, if you want to say so.

“Clearly, you would see that, that accusation is not completely unfounded. It exists. But then we must also understand that even that corruption is federally-driven, and must also be federally-confronted.

“If you look at it, who are those who are getting the bloated contracts in the Niger Delta? Are they all Niger Delta people? Look at the leaders of the political parties, don’t they go to the Niger Delta to pick up bloated contracts and all those things? And who has the responsibility to check all those things— EFCC, ICPC? Is it the state governments that control them?

“Because the people have been dis-empowered by the type of election that we have. If you want to recall people, that is the only power that the electorate have but you know, as well as I do, that, that thing called the voter’s register is just a fraud. So, what do you expect the people to do?  ICPC and EFCC exist and are Federal Government organisations. So, people expect them to do something on their behalf.
“If you say the leaders of that place are corrupt, and I am not saying they are not, I am saying it is a problem that we must confront but how do we confront it?  It is federally-driven and so we must also confront it federally,” he said.

Mr. Mitee expressed optimism that with a faithful implementation of the recommendations, the Niger Delta would once again enjoy peace as criminal activities would no longer be attractive.

Asked if those in the creeks who have been making huge money from illegal oil bunkering and kidnappings could forsake them, he said it was unfathomable for anyone to have money which he could not enjoy.

Said he: “What do you make money for?  Do you make money so that you go and sleep in the creeks?  No.  You make money so that you can enjoy.  So if you make money and you don’t get the other side of it, it is like this social licence I talked about earlier.
“If you make money and you cannot come to Abuja, you can’t fly to anywhere you like to enjoy. if I have N 1 billion and I have to be hiding, clearly something is not adding up.  We must know every side needs peace.  But what I understand is that peace can only be got on the basis of justice.  And that is the justice that everybody is crying for.

“I think that once there is that realisation, and don’t forget that we do not pretend any day that we are going to eliminate crime in the society.  No.  What we can do is to isolate it and know that this crime and that this is genuine community demand.
“If the community genuinely demands for something, for Christ’s sake, there are certain things that the community should not even ask for.  People should ask for things like electricity, water and roads.  That is the government’s responsibility. It should be taken for granted and that is not a question anybody should ask.

“Section 14 of our constitution says the primary purpose of government is the welfare and security of the people.  So if a government fails in its primary responsibility then it does not deserve to be called a government, in the first place.”

Two related problems
The Committee Chairman said there were two related problems plaguing the Niger Delta — the problem of the terrain and the problem of oil exploitation.

He said: “The Niger Delta in its classical form, as it is even in the Willinks Commission, the point of agitation is that because of the peculiar terrain of the place it requires some affirmative action to bring us to the level of other parts of the country. And those at the centre don’t understand these are our peculiar problems.

“We need something extra.  What it will take you to make a 1 km road in Nembe or Brass would do a 10 km road in other parts of the country.  So that is the classical Niger Delta problem. Then you have problems associated with the exploitation of oil.

“If oil is found in Abuja tomorrow morning, you will have the same problems associated with oil in Niger Delta. The only difference is that may be the fragile ecosystem in the Niger Delta won’t be there.

“Oil comes with its problems.  The Niger Delta had its own problems even before oil, so you need a two-pronged approach to deal with these issues and most of the measures one have seen target only one problem. 

Its like someone having malaria and typhoid fever then you treat only malaria. The person would continue to be sick,” he said.