Former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN in an interview with Sparkling FM and monitored by some newsman recently, spoke on the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) signed into an Act by President Mohammadu Buhari amid criticism from the people of Niger Delta; Excerpts:
Sir the host Communities are not happy with the President’s assent on Petroleum Industrial Act (PIA), what’s your reaction to this?
For me, the issue is what should be our final destination in our federalism and that is fiscal federalism in which every state should be in position to control her resources. That should be our ultimate decision . But before we get there we are looking at incremental improvement in our situation. Have heard the arguments, some say it should have been three, five or 10 percent may be. I am saying that if the host communities actually wanted a figure higher than three percent, there should have been some stakeholders engagement prior to the passage of the bill between stakeholders of the region and their legislators in the national Assembly. If the stakeholders are dissatisfied with the three percent that has been provided for in the bill, then it is a clear evidence of the failure of politics in the region because for a sensitive issue like that there usually ought to have been a high level stakeholders engagement were the governors, the National Assembly members, the traditional rulers, the major players in the region, the experts from that region on how to proceed. I saw no evidence of that kind of engagement, so it is just the question of the failure of politics. The people of the region are crying after spilled milk. Steps ought have been taken long before now to engage one another to ensure that their interest were protected but I did not see such engagement
People blame the law makers from South South that they did not represent the interests of the region what’s you take on this?
You can’t just make scapegoat of the National Assembly, every leader of the region should share of the blame. In an example during my stay in the senate when the NDDC bill was passed, they then president Olusegun Obasanjo withheld his assent to the bill but the National Assembly overrode the president and passed it into law but that could happen because the lawmakers engaged stakeholders from every part of the country and that is how politics is played. The governors then were involved but I did not see that kind of serious engagement by stakeholders of the region this time around
The governors of the region are saying what has happened is a recipe for disaster in the region, what’s your say?
For me I would have wished the host communities got more but from what I know of the region, it is not just having enough but the mechanism for the transparency and accountability of whatever you get. We have the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta and Amnesty for how many years, have there been any change in the fortune of the Niger Delta region and all these organizations I have mentioned have been run by sons and daughters of the region have there been any change? So you added another five or 10 percent without ensuring that there are mechanism for accountability and transparency in the use of these funds, without a master plan for the region , without serious stakeholders commitment to the implementation of a predetermined master plan for the region ,you will just be getting more money to fritter away . So for me at this point in time it will make more sense to me if we have a mechanism to ensure that the three percent that has been provided for is transparently and judiciously used to develop the region and that is what has been lacking in the region. We had a water tight stakeholders developed master plan for the region but it was abandoned as soon as it was passed . So the issue is not how much money you have but what will come out of that money. We have seen quite a lot but what have we seen to reflect the amount of money we received in the region in the last 20 years? So if you do not have any strategy, methodology, any mechanism for transparency and accountability you will be just be getting more money to waste.
So who is to ensure that this money or strategy put in place is used for what it is meant for?
First let me say that from when the Ministry of Niger Delta was created, all the Ministers have been the indigenes of the region. The Chairmen and Managing Directors of NDDC, operators of the Amnesty programme have been sons and daughters of the region. Between the Minister and the NDDC they could develop a master plan for the region that integrates the economies of the member states of the region and leave these pitiable projects that are done in competitions with local governments or building classroom blocks. I think they can do better than that. By now there should have been coastal roads linking all the NDDC states, by now we could have had an aviation hub in the state, specialists hospitals in the region, develop sports to a level it would have become a major industry to engage our young men and women. By now we would have improved the fibre optic of the region to increase internet penetration and challenge the creativity of our young men and women but what do we see? It is the NDDC building a borehole on one side of the street and the state government raise a borehole on the other side of the street and at the end of the day you have two boreholes that are not working because there is no ownership of the projects. So we ought to develop a master plan by the Ministry and the NDDC that was set up by law with a very clear mandate and specific provisions on how the place should be run. But in the past one and half years the NDDC has been moribund and no board under the flimsy excuse of forensic audit. Under the law establishing the NDDC it is the board of the NDDC that should commission the forensic audit . So we have all sorts of excuses to make sure that the place does not function. My position is that we should not put the cat before the horse. If you have a plot of land you cannot develop first without having a survey plan and then a building plan not to talk of a region. How do you develop a region without having a plan? For me whether it’s three percent or five percent it’s premature. The ultimate goal is we get to a point were we have true federalism that every region, every state controls her resources. That is the ultimate goal. But before we get to that position, we should establish systems that will guarantee transparency and every year we measure where we are in terms of development.
QuestWhy the failure in NDDC and it’s not doing what it should do. Remember you were there at a time.
AnsThere are several reasons and the first is that the master plan was abandoned by the people who should implement it. The master plan was driven by the NDDC and it was the stakeholders master plan which they generated and the government, host communities, development partners made their inputs before that plan was presented to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. Yes I was there for a worthwhile. My letter of appointment said I was going to be there for four years as Chairman but I was Chairman for less than two years. The point is this, not because I am affected, am not aware if there is any board of NDDC that has served out its term.
So if you don’t have a guarantee tenure, how do you plan? It is in your tenure that you say in first, second, third and fourth year I will do this. So the law setting up the NDDC has been observed more in breach than in compliance. Since the law has been observed more in breach than in compliance, you do not have plans. We tried to set up a Niger Development Bank when I was there and the reason was simple, oil is a terminal resource and one day it will finish and the funding of NDDC comes from the federal allocation and the oil companies so there was need to begin to look beyond oil on how to fund development projects and make them survive boards and management of the NDDC. So we thought that if we have a regional development bank that will handle those mega projects, it was not matter who was chairman or Managing Director , the mega projects will go on. We also had plans to ring the region with fibre optic and that took us to Sao Tome since they had surplus to get the excess, had programme to develop sports but since we left I have not heard a word of any of these programmes and all what we hear is forensic audit. You take the East West road which has been on since President Obasanjo and he left many years ago yet we are still on it. For me it is not the amount of money but making sure that every Koko has its value and the people see the value of that Koko in their lives but so long as we still have these basket and we keep pouring water into this basket, it does not matter the quantity of water you pour in, it will lick.
That the executive members of the board may not be the indigenes of the board of trustees of the host communities what’s your take
As I said to you earlier, the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and Amnesty have been run by indigenes, were are we with us? If we need help from outside so be it
The act also says the NNPC will be commercialised in next six months, what does that portend for the economy of Nigeria?
It will help the economy and it will bring positive development because
I have always believe that business is for the private sector and government should restrict itself to government and provide the necessary environment for business to thrive. I have never believe that government has any business in business