GROUP WRITES OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, SEN DR IFEANYI OKOWA

COASTALNEWS

“Your Excellency, of recent times, some of our elderly statement have written open letters to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expressing their heartfelt worries and concerns as regards to activities of the Government as critical stakeholders that have played prominent roles in shaping the destiny of our people.

Indeed, am inspired by these elderly statement like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former maximum ruler of Nigeria – I call him “maximum ruler” because it was a rare opportunity to have ruled Nigeria both as Military Head of State and Civilian President; Col. Umar Dangiwa (Rtd) and my father in whom am well pleased in Niger Delta matters, Chief Dr. (Sen.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and host of others for being the source of inspiration when it comes to open letter writing.

As an ardent supporter of your political course as evidenced in my series of writings, especially in the social media and who worked tirelessly for your victories in 2015 and 2019 respectively. Therefore, I owed the people some explanation as regards to your policies and programs of the Government as it affects them.

In the beginning, I was very proud of you for the simple reason that you truly have not only intimidating political credentials but has the 3Es – (Education, Experience & Exposure) – one time Secretary and Chairman of Local Government Council, former Commissioner Water Resources and later Agriculture, former Secretary to the State Government and now serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, intends to be the Governor of our dear Delta State. If it is a true saying that experience is the best teacher, then you are more qualified among your equals in the contest. And I have no regret working for you.

And upon your victory and subsequent inauguration as Governor of Delta State, and within 30 days you started very strong and brought your political expertise to bear with the sending of Asaba City Development bill, Vocational Skill bill and others to the State House of Assembly for legislation. Within this period also, you made series of appointments – Political Advisers, Special Assistants and the first batch of 12 Commissioner nominees for confirmation to start the State Executive Council.

Furthermore, in demonstration of your total loyalty and commitment to Delta State, you declared the State financial status that put you in a state of political quagmire. You were seen as trying to fight back the system that produced you. To others, you were part and parcel of the system and could not do anything as you will be called to order. Having made that declaration against all odds, I expected the so-called “Human Right Lawyers” and Civil Rights Activists including myself to take it up from there, but we did nothing about it.

Your Excellency, having said that, I am deeply worried and quite disturbed about your Government in the last five years. Such worries and concerns were further strengthened by your close associates and followers. Your Excellency, one and only fundamental reason why majority of African leaders fail is because people fail to tell them the truth. It will interest Your Excellency to know that no political appointee of yours talks good about you!

They will praise you in the public and condemn you in their private discussions. In fact, they went further to say all sorts of things about you. Their description about your person in our local parlance is that “you lock everywhere”. It is the attestation of these facts by your close associates, which is the fact of this discussion and the reality on ground that informed this subject matter, hence this open letter.

  1. LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION: The idea of Local Government Council was conceived in the early 1950s when the then existing Native Authorities and later District Councils were not meeting the demands, yearnings and aspirations of our people and a more reformed system was needed. Indeed, the Local Government system have undergone several reformations till in 1976 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the present Location Government System with clear cut mandate to develop the grass root.

Therefore, the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended recognised the Local Government System as third tier of Government that the respective States in Nigeria must ensure their existence and survival and went further to state the functions of Local Government.

Your Excellency, I can recall vividly in the past that both the Military and Civilian Governors were coming to commission projects embarked upon my Local Government. But the same is not true under your leadership. I know as a fact that Your Excellency have not commissioned any project executed by any of the twenty five Local Government despite partly supervising two successive Local Government tenures – 2014-2017 and 2018 to date.

I am also aware as a fact that when you took over Government in May, 2015, in an attempt for Local Government Councils to meet their primary obligation, you directed downward review of the monthly take home of Councillors from Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand naira to Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand naira as well as stoppage of impress allowances. But despite that, Councils could not pay workers salaries not to talk of development.

Further findings revealed two things – First, it was alleged that you withheld certain funds due to Councils and second, you directed unified salary payment structure for Local Government teachers in the State. Under this arrangement, the salary of the entire teaching staffs of the twenty five Councils were deducted from the lum sum of the Local Government allocation and the balance the Councils shared. With this policy, Councils like Warri North, Warri South West, Patani, Bomadi and Burutu now bear the cost of other Council’s teachers salaries in the State.

On the issue of withheld funds to Councils, it was discovered that the State Government in the past, use to augment Councils’ fund to enable Councils meet with certain demands and that when you took over as a result of dwindling resources, you stopped the augmentation. It is true that at the time Delta State was not the only State where Councils could not pay salaries, in fact, about six States only or less were able to survive without Federal allocation. The Federal Government later came up with “bail out funds” to address this challenge across the federation.

The Federal Government not too convinced with zero allocation to Councils after the statutory deduction by States, decided to release Councils’ allocation direct to Councils with elected executives. Yet, no Council in Delta State has embarked and completed any tangible project
An experienced politician will be worried about the abysmal performance of Local Government Councils under your direct supervision and you did nothing in this regard, left us with no option but to conclude that the Local Government system of Government in Delta State failed under your supervision. Your Excellency must therefore do the needful to redeem the battered image of Councils.

  1. DELTA STATE OIL PRODUCING AREAS DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (DESOPADEC): The Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), is an interventionist agency set up by the State Government to address special needs of oil producing areas with the responsibility to administer the 50% of the 13% oil derivation from the Federal Government to the State.

Upon assumption of office as Governor in 2015, you send a bill to the House of Assembly to amend the principal law of DESOPADEC 2007 wherein you seek to amend the following among others
i You seek to replace “Oil Producing Areas” with Oil Producing Local Government”
ii You seek to replace “Secretary to the Commission with Office of Managing Director MD”
iii You seek to introduce Executive Directors ED etc

This, the Oil Producing Communities protested and your claim was for more efficient management of resources. Some of us had doubt about that because the over head cost was almost doubled by virtue of the introduction of Executive Directors. After the amendment, the situation became bad in terms of new projects as the first Board you inaugurated could hardly prepare budget as most of the projects were carried over to the proceeding years.

In fact, very few new projects were awarded by the immediate past Board. Towards the end of 2019, the DESOPADEC law was amended twice – second amendment gave your Excellency powers to extend existing Board by six months or not exceeding one year and third amendment you brought in Ika ethnic nationality and made the Commission’s mandate area to twenty one local Governments. In all these amendments, the known tradition and process of legislation was grossly abused as the House of Assembly made the amendment less than 30 minutes in the House against its own rules. Because at the time there was no natural disaster or war that warrant such urgent amendment without notice to the public to make input.

As an experienced politician, we thought that you meant well for the people, but unfortunately, the Commission is now shadow of itself under your direct supervision. Projects awarded and executed some six to five years ago could not be paid and in most of these jobs, contractors took loan from Sterling Bank as the only bank that is still willing to sponsor DESOPADEC jobs as other banks have since abandoned the Commission due to bad loans. Your Excellency, for the records, more than 90% of Government projects in the Commission’s mandate area were sponsored by DESOPADEC as the State Government hardly remember these areas.

The Commission have experienced too many rolling over of budget. For instance, the last Board awarded less than 10% projects of yearly budget in the almost four years they stayed and the new Board is yet to prepare its own budget since inauguration last year. Just like the complaints from Local Government, we learnt that funds are not released to the Commission as at when due and even when such funds are released, it is not complete as the Commission after paying salaries can’t pay contractors.

Further findings revealed that your Excellency since 2015 to date directed DESOPADEC to bear the running cost and salaries of the over 200 Delta Waterways/Land Security Committee. This to say the least is very shocking and unfortunate that Government security bodies that used to be financed with Governor’s security vote is now shifted to the Commission to bear where about Three Billion Six Hundred Million naira is being yearly spent to maintain the State owned Security outfit. Furthermore, another Four Billion is budgeted for another security expenses, bringing the total amount of Security expenditure in the Commission to over Seven Billion yearly. This has never happened in the Commission since its creation in 2007.

  1. OGBE-IJOH & ALADJA BOUNDARY DISPUTE
    In one of your consultative meetings to the political leadership of Ogbe-Ijoh, you expressed your displeasure over the lingering boundary dispute between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja and promised to resolve the conflict once elected as Governor. And in fairness to your Excellency, the zeal and enthusiasm you displayed left no one in doubt but after five years, the boundary dispute is now from bad to worst under your leadership.

You constituted Panel of inquiry which happens to be the longest Committee ever constituted by any Government to investigate the cause of the conflict with a view of implementing findings of the Committee. As a sitting Governor, all the facts of the matter were made known to you for your Government to make an informed decision to bring about peace, yet your Government did little or nothing in this regard.

For the first time in the history of Delta State, a community held the Government of Delta State to ransom by preventing free movement of persons, goods and services to a local Government headquarters for more than four years and you see nothing wrong in that to say the least is not only disheartening and worrisome but is capable of eroding the confidence the people have in you. We have held several meetings, countless numbers of peace accords agreements, expanded Security Council meeting, Security reports of likely Ijaw and Urhobo crisis etc without you taking any definite stand despite given your Government all that is required to solve the problem.

Your Government under the pretense of the conflict completely abandoned Ogbe-Ijoh, the headquarters of Warri South West, while you focused developing Aladja road networks spanning over 10 kilometres, repair of potholes in the Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh access road at the Aladja axis without extending it to Ogbe-Ijoh axis, complete renovation of Aladja Secondary School, reconnection of Aladja to the national grid and leaving Ogbe-Ijoh and Isaba communities in darkness for more than four years. The only dividend Ogbe-Ijoh people got from your Government was renovation of some block of classrooms in Ogbe-Ijoh Grammar School that was renovated about three years to the crisis.

Your Excellency, how will you feel if you were to be from Ogbe-Ijoh. We will not go into the nitty-gritty of the conflict as our press unit have documented all that the public needs to know about the boundary dispute in a book titled “Civil Diary of Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh Boundary Dispute.

Finally and most importantly, Your Excellency still have three years to make amend so that history will be kind to you, when the book of remembrance will be open”.

Press Unit,
Niger Delta Scholars,
E-mail: keme_son@yahoo.co.uk
Tel: 08023865232

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