by Oluseun Onigbinde
“The entire country of Ghana has a budget with revenue of $6.3bn and the funds into the South-South accounts for close to $6.6bn. So why haven’t they been able to sit down to properly fix their power infrastructure for years?”
Elder Clark mostly brushes his speech with a pro-regional paintbrush unearthed from Nigeria’s swamp of riches. You shouldn’t expect anything less from the Niger Delta lord whose voice rings loud both to the militants and men in power.
In a recent visit by his clansmen, he was reminded that in the last 13 years, the Niger Delta has received N7.82tn as 13% derivation fund. As you know, for any oil revenue shared by the 3 tiers of government either in monthly bazaar, excess crude account or SURE-P, 13% must be set aside for the oil producing states.
Now it’s difficult to put N7.82tn in a context which all of us can grasp unless you find yourself in a CBN vault room or it is bagged in Ghana-Must Go bags, then driven down in a trailer to your garage. But the mind-boggling sum was surely enough to make the Elder speak against his men wondering why with all that money, oil producing communities still live in despair.
But the funds didn’t disappear like the batch of crispy notes in the Security and Minting Company, you can actually trace it into state capitals wearing a face-lift, houses in posh London neighbourhood, hospital bills piling up in Germany or moneybags crossing the borders. You can see it when you peer at the leaders of Niger-Delta and how they hanker after fleeting things. Their share of the national cake has been well buttered, so they munch more than they can handle.
Timipreye Sylva is the pride of the recent renegade. Despite the huge funds available to the small state with a population less than Mushin Local Government of Lagos state, he engaged in obtaining a frivolous bond, putting the state into further debt of N50bn. Now the EFCC has allegedly confiscated 48 houses acquired by him during his stay in office, what a shame!
James Ibori is a poster child who got his lawyer to be the country’s Attorney General and after games of hide and seek, himself, his mistress, wife, sister and yet another lawyer are cooling off in a British gaol.
Look at Alamieyeseigha (a benefactor of Mr President), Lucky Igbinedion, Peter Odili and many others fingered to have stolen the bounty appropriated to that region. If you think these people have found repentance, Uduaghan the remaining stock still pays pension to James Ibori, his cousin.
Out of the total funds appropriated to states in January to September 2012, N607bn was shared among the South-South States. This does not include FG projects in the region, a budget of N61.46bn for the Ministry of Niger Delta and also another approved N250bn budget for Niger Delta Development Commission in 2012.
With all these figures flying around like kites, that region, in project intervention and appropriated funds, receives nothing less than N1tn in a year. This creates a puzzle: Is money really the problem of the Niger Delta?
If a derivation fund of N7.28tn can’t fix the oil producing region, where its politicians with bad roads shuttle in private jets, will another 10% deducted from oil funds coming to the oil producing community solve it? Would increasing the derivation fund to 50% ever fix it? The entire country of Ghana has a budget with revenue of $6.3bn and the funds into the South-South accounts for close to $6.6bn. So why haven’t they been able to sit down to properly fix their power infrastructure for years?
The South South States had a total budget of N1.6tn (See Datasheet) in 2012 mostly financed by oil receipts shared from the center and if the people do not still see improvements in the area, then perhaps it’s time to make a U-turn like Elder Clark and beam the torchlight on their leaders.
Because for our nation that’s 42% of the total output. The fact that almost a trillion naira has directly or indirectly flowed into the region within one year with little to show for it should signal that this is the time not to whine on the much more which they deserve but on the little effort which might be missing. If they fail to see it that way, we should start expecting that one day the hungry will grab a gun and run to creeks or get in power and it will be his/her turn to eat.