Feasting on Niger Delta commonwealth with impunity must stop ― Asari Dokubo
Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, 55, one of the founders and former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC and founder of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, is an unabashed Niger Delta activist with his NDPVF being one of the most prominent armed groups in the region in recent time. In this interview, former Niger Delta militant leader, spoke among others on what he described as open feasting on Niger Delta commonwealth without control under President Muhammadu Buhari, alleged rising wave of graft in the Niger Delta Development of Commission, NDDC and the sack of a sole administrator and replacement with a three-man Interim Board for the NDDC, a day before the Senate screening of Presidential nominees for a new substantive board.
Few weeks ago, we had an Acting MD for the NDDC. On November 30 another caretaker MD was inaugurated barely a day before the Senate screened Presidential nominees for a new substantive board for the commission. What improvement do you think these moves will bring to the NDDC?
From the very beginning, I knew things will play out the way they are now, not in the interest of the people. NDDC is an interventionist agency to remedy years of deprivation of the people of the Niger Delta from the resources beneath their land; and the effects, environmental, moral effect of oil production is so enormous, we cannot quantify it.
The law establishing the NDDC does not recognize the powers of that minister over that agency. The agency is under the president, not under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. These are the illegalities that have come up over time. Now he’s appointing another interim management committee, why?
Let the President put his house in order. He is President of the country, he has control over all working under him and making sure he abides by the laws setting up all the agencies. What is happening in NDDC is very regrettable. So many people fought to make this thing come to reality and right before their eyes, these things are being destroyed. For me, setting up of this acting board is a very big insult on the presidency. It is so shocking.
Senator Godswill Akpabio is at the centre of these dramas, with his Presidential nod to supervise NDDC, what is your assessment of his role so far?
If I meet Akpabio, I will tell him, ‘look, there is no legal provision for what you have done.’ He is a lawyer, we were all in UNICAL together. He should know it is illegal but today the law does not mean anything any longer. Anybody can do whatever he likes. The President transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, nominating people to be screened and confirmed. What’s the big deal about setting up another interim management committee?
People are agitated at the unfolding confusion under the circumstance. While Akpabio is fixated on NDDC, he’s mum on challenges over his core ministerial responsibilities like dealing with the East-West Road. How best could the confusion be resolved?
The confusion is just too much, people are tired. Pass the East-West Road, since Goodluck Jonathan left, four years plus, nothing has happened. Go to Amnesty office, it is the same level of confusion. People have taken over these structures. They are now conduit pipes, big ones at that, to service their insatiable appetite. Everybody is struggling to grab, so where is this anti-corruption hullabaloo they have been talking about?
You are seeing corruption walking on two legs, everybody wanting to grab and put in their pockets. The notion now is we have taken NDDC, it is in our pocket, this is our time to chop, that sort of attitude. That is what the Niger Delta has been reduced to. At least when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua, Dr Goodluck Jonathan were there, they were pretending. This time, no pretence.
So how best could NDDC be redeemed?
Going forward, people should have conscience. If there is a new board that represents all the states, that should take precedence over selection of some hand-picked persons. I know those just appointed into acting capacity. Maybe I will benefit, but I should not put my benefit over and above the interest of the generality of the people. The way forward is let the right thing be done.
Redeeming NDDC is very simple. The law is not perfect but follows the law, and all things will fall in place. Nominees have been sent to the Senate and screened. These persons are from the various states, they are qualified and have the right to be in the commission as members of the board. Don’t take NDDC and put it in the pocket of one man. Don’t take and put in the pocket of Amaechi, or move it into the pocket of Akpabio. People fought for the commission and it belongs to the people.
What is the biggest worry for the Niger Delta?
Niger Delta has been abandoned for Ijaw people, that is the truth of the matter. Ijaw people fight, take the risk, but when it is time to chop, everybody comes with the refrain ‘we are Niger Delta, we are Niger Delta.” They bad mouth us (Ijaws), say we are kidnappers, vandals, bad people, this and that. But when it brings food, we all say we are Niger Delta.
The Niger Delta people should come together and fight their battle holistically. Every one of us, all hands must be on deck. Because we are not fighting from Goodluck era till now, Niger Delta has retrogressed 80 per cent. Travel through East-West Road, it took me three hours from Benin to Warri. That road was good when Goodluck was there; took you less than 45 minutes from Benin. Now, if you are coming into Port Harcourt, as you are entering Rumuokoro, they improvised monkey bridge you would have to pass on the road, nobody cares.