A Niger Delta ex-agitators’ leader, Pastor Reuben Wilson, on Monday blamed political leaders and public office holders at the federal level for the under-development of the Niger Delta region.
Wilson, who is also National President of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), regretted that despite the huge sums of money accruing to the region for the past two decades, the region remained neglected.
Reuben, who spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, accused people from the region occupying federal offices of high level conspiracy to deliberately impoverish the region for selfish reasons.
According to him, it is painful that funds meant to develop the region were siphoned and diverted to private use just to exhibit affluent lifestyle at the detriment of the people who elected them.
He lamented the situation where contracts for the development of the area were awarded and monies paid without any visible project on ground, adding that the people of the region are frustrated by the gross under-development.
“The state and federal governments should do something about developing the area. We were agitating so that roads can get to our communities but nothing has been done.
“We need roads in the Niger Delta, but rather people are busy diverting and misappropriating funds meant to develop this region.
“That is the money people have been sharing in NDDC. People will get a contract and will not execute such contracts yet full payment will be made to them.
“My advice would rather go to the government at the centre, our ministers and leaders in the Niger Delta that they should try to bring development to the region and that is what the people need for now.
“Government should come down to our communities to see how the area can be developed.
“Look at my community, Koluama in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa now, there was an oil spill recently and no company has taken responsibility.
“The people’s livelihood has been affected and the people can no longer fish also the government has not done anything to impress on the company to clean up the spill.
“There was this Chevron North Apoi Gas Rig explosion in Koluama on 16th January, 2012 when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was President and until now nothing has been done to bring succour to the people and the affected communities.
“Imagine the environmental effect of that Rig explosion on humans yet neither the oil company that owned the Rig nor the government then did any thing to ameliorate the impact of the explosion.
“I can recall that Dr. Goodluck directed that Mr. Kingsley Kuku, the then Amnesty boss to include the communities impacted by the Koluama gas explosion into the amnesty programme.
“But the present amnesty boss has refused to pay them their stipends and allowances. Some of them are in their final year, others are in their third year.
“It is not a bad idea to bring in more youths into the programme but he should first of all pay those that have already been captured before thinking of implementing another 30 per cent for impacted communities,” Wilson said.
Wilson who is a leader of the ex-agitators in the Niger Delta advised that to curb youths restiveness, the oil companies should as a policy employ at least 20 youths per community.
“It is a very sad situation in terms of employment of our youths by oil multinational companies.
“What we have in the region is oil companies bringing people from outside to take the jobs that are supposed to be for the youths. Our leaders at the front level should also try and provide jobs for the youths.
“The youths in our region need to be empowered and developed in terms of their capacity.
“Everybody in the Niger Delta needs development. The people are suffering and our leaders are turning blind eye to their plight and are expecting support during elections,” Wilson said.
He frowned at the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme , Col Milland Dikio (Rtd) who reportedly returned N26 billion unspent funds for the 2020 fiscal year despite the enormous challenges before the programme.
Wilson also took a swipe at the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col. Milland Dikio for his lack of foresight and focus, noting that the amnesty boss’ incompetence is attributed to his lack of how the amnesty programme works.
“For me I am persuading the National Security Adviser to take action concerning the amnesty boss, because the person he appointed lacks understanding and is not familiar with the business.
“He is not familiar with the people so things cannot work. Salaries have not been paid till date and the youths have not been paid yet N26b was returned to the federal government.
“It was never heard that about N26b naira was returned, because those who were previously appointed as SA on amnesty were doing the right thing by disbursing monies to the amnesty beneficiaries and paying contractors.
“But the current amnesty boss was sitting idle doing nothing until monies were returned to the FG account.
” Let the amnesty boss mention one ex- agitator that is working in the amnesty office, none I tell you. Col. Dikio is not treating the ex-agitators well may be because he is not familiar with the people.
“When the interim administrator held a meeting with ex-agitators, we suggested meeting with the National Security Adviser which he obliged but till now nothing has happened and the people have been calling to know when to meet with the NSA but he had not been picking my calls.
” The youths are not happy about the current happenings in the Niger Delta. So government has to come up with something, the Niger Delta leaders have to come up with something.
“We want the NDDC to make their plans about the development of the region known to the people, the Niger Delta ministry has to unfold its plans to the region. They have to come out with a blueprint for the development of the area,” he said.
However, Dikio had in a statement clarified that the N26 bn unspent funds got to the Amnesty Office two days ahead of the terminal date of December 31, 2020 and could not be utilised when the Treasury Single Account (TSA) shut down.
According to the statement issued by Neotabase Egbe, Special Adviser on Media to Dikio, some verified contractors were settled before the funds was trapped by the automated TSA portal which shut down adding that efforts were underway to retrieve the funds.