Close to two years after the Federal Government launched the $10b Infrastructure Fund to stimulate development in the Niger Delta, there is no trace of the fund anywhere.In October 2016, the Federal Government launched the $10b Infrastructure Fund to end insurgency and introduce sustainable development in the region.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu alongside President Muhammadu Buhari, who also is the Petroleum Minister during a ceremony to announce the plan, promised that the fund would not be tied to budgeting, and that government was introducing a joint account with oil companies to ensure inflows were clearly understood by all.The fund, which may have originated from the 2012 “Niger Delta Action Plan,” was expected to come from different players to complement other sources of funds going into the oil-rich area.
Findings by The Guardian revealed no trace of such Fund, and efforts to get the ministry to shed light on it proved abortive.When Kachikwu was contacted through his media team, headed by Idang Alibi and Uche Adighibe, via telephone calls on Thursday June 7th (at 3:19 pm) there was no response. By 4:08 same day, an email on the issue was sent to email@example.com, and emmanuel.kachikwu@petroleumresources, and firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as email@example.com were copied, but no reply was received as at the time of filing this report
On Friday, The Guardian followed up with a phone call to Alibi, who confirmed the email, but insisted that he could not view it due to network challenges. He therefore requested for a text message on the issue at stake. That was done at 3:40 pm on Friday June 8, but Alibi was yet to respond to the text message as at press time.However, Founder and Principal Partner, Nextier, Patrick Okigbo III, whose firm participated in planning the fund is unsure if any significant progress has been made to even raise the fund.
According to him, the fund might have suffered from the general economic downturn conditioned by the economic recession.“My firm, Nextier, was part of the team that designed this fund. Some efforts were made in 2013 and 2014 to advance this idea. The current administration found value in the design and indicated its interest to implement the recommendations. To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware that significant progress has been made to raise the fund. I will not be surprised if the fund suffered from the general economic downturn conditioned by the economic recession,” he said.Okigbo, who said significant amount of funds have gone into the region, stressed that the lack of transparency and accountability in the processes remained the primary barrier to the efforts.
He added that there were indications that the current administration is committed to addressing problems in region, especially responding to PANDEF’s 16-point demand of (PANDEF). “My firm is aware of efforts on at least three of these demands: modular refineries, community participation in the surveillance contracts for pipelines and other industry assets, reduction or elimination of gas-flares,” Okigbo said.
But for President, Coalition of South South Chambers of Commerce (FOSSCCIMA), Billy Gillis-Harry, the pronouncements were mere propaganda, reason why they have not translated into concrete development of the region.Gillis-Harry, who lamented the absence of “clear- cut developments in the region to show,” stressed that the government would need to outline what have been achieved through series of funds it claimed have been invested in the region.
According to the President, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Eric Omare, “I have not seen any action towards implementing that policy framework for the development of the Niger Delta. In my view, the idea started and ended with the public presentation.” He added that unless there is restructuring of the current political structure, whereby power is concentrated in the regions to allow the people participate in decision making over their resources, addressing developmental challenges in the area may remain elusive.
Delta State Women Leader, Host Communities of Nigeria (Producing Oil and Gas) Delta State Chapter, Omude Ochonogor-Ochibe, faulted government’s figures on investment in the region, adding that the investments were mere propaganda.Expressing displeasure over the deplorable state of infrastructure in the region, Ochonogor-Ochibe disclosed that the Federal Government has been frustrating project implementation in the region by not releasing funds meant for the projects.
Past President, Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), who is also the Managing Director, Degeconek Nig. Ltd, Abiodun Adesanya, said there must be accountability for funds that the government has expended in the region.
To him, the people in the region, the National Assembly and other anti-graft agencies must demand accountability on the use of fund from the region.Already, Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, has accused the Buhari-led government of using proceeds from resources found in the region to develop other parts of the country, while depriving the area of developmental projects.
Currently, the impression held by the region is that the proposed $10b investment initiative, which was also aimed at shifting developmental emphasis from public sector-led mechanism to private sector, was just a hoax geared at boosting crude oil production, following vicious attacks on oil facilities by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).A chieftain of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, told The Guardian that the people were running out of patience over government’s inability to implement the strategic development agenda it conceived for the region.
He expressed displeasure that the strategic work implementation plan that covers the entire area, which the government recently came up with, after due analysis by PANDEF, only addressed three out of the 16-point agenda presented to the president by elders.According to him, PANDEF’s disenchantment was made known to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, when they met with him afterwards.“Anything you do in deceit can only last for a while. There is a lot of politicking involved in this… and our sons who are in government are also not sincere with us. If our sons who are ministers were sincere, they would have been the ones to drive the process, but they are not sincere; they are all selfish. We are patient, and we will still be talking, with the hope that the government would be sincere with us. We are aware that the country is just coming out of recession. So, we will continue to dialogue and be patient, but there is a limit to patience,” he said.
On his part, former President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Kimse Okoko, described the $10b initiative as a scheme designed to deceive the people of the Niger Delta just like other similar false promises made in the past.“That is what I have been complaining about some of the so-called elders in the Niger Delta, who go to have these barren talks and thereafter think that they have got something from the government, only for them to find out that the government is incapable of keeping its words,” he said.
Okoko, who is also a former President of Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta (CENND), added that the Federal Government only “announced the programme to stem unrest in the region; they wanted the oil; they wanted to get oil production back to a certain level; they were playing with the people of the Niger Delta. For me, the only battle I will continue to fight in Nigeria is for the restructuring of the country. That is the only thing I am interested in; nothing else,” he said. For former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, the reason why the Federal Government continually treats the region with contempt is because it does not seem to matter much in their political calculation.
“That is exactly what it has always been because once the people start any agitation, militancy and all that, the government will swiftly make one promise hoping that that will quell the agitation. As soon as it achieves a measure of peace, then it would abandon whatever it said and wait for another unrest. What this does is that it makes people to believe that the only time they get attention is only when they resort to some form of violence. And the shame is that, increasingly the next generation of agitators are going to be far more vicious than the present ones and so we are only postponing the doomsday,” he warned.
Clark whose speech was read by the former Minister of Police Affairs, Chief Broderick Bozimo, at an emergency meeting to address the alleged deprivation, at Kiagbodo, Delta State, said the federal government had not only turned deaf ears to the 16-point demands made by PANDEF, but also failed to spend on roads, railway, power, agriculture, water resources and solid minerals infrastructures in the region.(guardian.ng)