The Convener of Niger Delta Young Professionals NDYP, a leading advocate for the development of the Niger Delta Region and Chairman of Nigerian Young Professionals Forum NYPF, Moses Siloko Siasia has once again raised concerns over what he describes as “continued lack of visible evidence to suggest that there are serious efforts, by key stakeholders in government towards ensuring that the Niger Delta Region attains meaningful economic and infrastructural development” saying that there is an urgent need for all stakeholders, regardless of political affiliations, to work together toward ending the ugly trend in the region which is marked by alarming rates of poverty, pollution, environmental degradation, youth unemployment, and crimes.
In a statement made available to the press, Siasia noted that the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic has once again exposed the lack of preparedness and undisciplined nature of governance and abuse of state resources by some of the state governments in the Region. He noted that the Niger Delta Region has enough resources and goodwill to remain self-sufficient were it not for the lavishness and careless abuse of collective wealth of the people by those who are entrusted with power and charged with promoting the welfare of the ordinary people of Niger Delta Region.
Following a sudden but expected collapse of the price of crude oil in the international market and the lowering demands of crude as a result of shutdowns forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the exchange rates fluctuations, Siasia says “I weep for the Niger Delta because if this global economic decline and expected recession continues, our region will be the most affected seeing that for over three to four decades our region has received trillions in federal allocations to the states and to various bodies like the Nigeria Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Ministry of Niger Delta, and other agencies established to promote Niger Delta development. It is very sad to note that as of today, there are no meaningful investments in infrastructure toward preparing our region for such a time as this”
“With 13% derivation and all the billions allocated to the region, there is nothing to show for it because it has not been properly utilized or accounted for. Instead, these monies have been channeled out to fund the lavish lifestyle and expensive taste of our government officials. The Niger Delta will face worse conditions if these current economic woes continue, and young people and women and our children will suffer more” Siasia lamented.
It would be recalled that in the last couple of decades, several efforts have been made by the federal government and some oil companies to develop the Niger Delta region with several billion disbursed to the region under various names and agencies like the NDDC, the Presidential Amnesty Program, the 13% derivations funds, Ecological fund, and many of such interventions. Siasia says these efforts have only resulted in corruption and waste where some privileged people in the region have succeeded in diverting these monies for personal luxury while the region remains impoverished.
With an infrastructure deficit, next to nothing in terms of medical facilities or any form of reliable investments in the communities, the Niger delta remains very volatile with the highest number of teenage pregnancies in the country, the highest levels of cult groups and cult-related violence and deaths, life expectancy has fallen below 50 years, rampaging effects of environmental degradation which has destroyed agriculture, and aquatic lives meaning no reliable source of livelihood for the vast majority of people of the region, Siasia says the Niger Delta is in a distress now more than ever before in history.
He lamented that the NDDC has remained a cesspit of corruption where cronies and crooks are awarded fraudulent contracts with heavy kickbacks to be paid, a situation where people are appointed to the board of NDDC and are mandated to send billions in bribery to their paymasters, where the senate and House of Representatives’ committees feed fact off the corruption in the region and use their proxies to secure contracts which are never advertised or executed or accounted for, saying these trends are dangerous if the Niger Delta must survive and thrive.
Siasia blamed all stakeholders for being complicit saying that even the supposed freedom fighters have abandoned the struggle without recourse to their earlier sworn claim to defend the region and pursue its development, further noting that the amnesty office has not done better with its previous leaderships accused or involved with serious corruption allegations, while the youths sent for training and rehabilitation are back to the streets of the Niger Delta region without jobs or any plans for them. This, he says, poses another possible threat to the entire peace project in the region.
Calling on the Interim Management Committee set up to audit the NDDC to do a thorough job, Siasia insisted that there should never be sacred cows in an effort to unravel massive corruption in the commission. He noted that the culprits and their accomplices should be exposed and made to return stolen monies and assets belonging to the region since they have proven to be enemies of the region and that of the entire nation.
Siasia, who was a former governorship candidate in Bayelsa State remains hopeful that the Niger Delta can still see progress, but only if and when the right steps are taken by concerned regional actors and citizens, and also when the elites stop staying aloof or conspiring with politicians to underdeveloped the region. He called for a 30-year development plan for the Niger Delta which will see the maximization of the great assets and potentials which the region possesses, noting that “there must be strategic decision to revamp the Niger Delta economy by stakeholders who have genuine interests and commitment. It is on record that our gas reserve is sufficient and sustainable”.
“Today, some communities in the Niger Delta have 24hr power supply, and this is an ingredient for industrialization and development of our production and manufacturing capacity so that when manufacturing jobs are leaving some parts of the world, these production centers can be located in the Niger Delta. In addition, Niger Delta states must have deliberate policies to create employment for our teeming youth population, and these policies must be backed by law. We must have a region-based effort to fight poverty seeing that the Niger Delta contributes to the pool of poor people in Nigeria making Nigeria the poverty capital of the world, this should never have been so”
Siasia advocated for the utilization of the gas reserve in the Niger Delta saying that it is the last hope for the development of the region while urging for collective efforts to promote agriculture, tourism, the blue-sea economy, manufacturing, and allied industries in the region, “we have 24hr power supply in Escravos, Gbaraintoru, Alaoji, Eket and some other places in Niger Delta and these can guarantee massive industrial development”, Siasia asserted stating “it is high time we started strategizing on how to take full advantage of an emerging New Economic Order which will mean less dependency on China and the movement of production centers to Africa and which Niger Delta stands to gain”.
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