OPEN UP BUDGETS OF OIL & GAS COMMISSIONS IN THE NIGER DELTA
Earlier this month, I visited my home town, precisely Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State. For the time, I was at home I suffered from mosquito bites. There was hardly electricity. And as we know, electricity usually powers the machines which pump water for domestic purposes. I also found out that students of the Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe, who were supposed to be in class at the early hours of the day went around with kegs and Jerry cans in search of water to bath before going for lectures. And those among those students whose parents are well to do and who could afford the miniature ‘tiger’ power generating sets were also going about with their jerry cans seeking to buy fuel to power their generators. At night, they turn on these howling monsters, and all through the night I couldn’t sleep. This is not to say that I blame these students – after all, they need light for their studies. For those unable to afford a ‘tiger’ generator, studying at night becomes a big challenge.
You will agree with me that a student who forfeits his night rest just to study will do well in class and in the nearest future. But if there are no amenities in place for them, deficient performance is what we will get ultimately. We all know that a lot of the Niger Delta institutions like the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs, MNDA, DESOPADEC and the NDDC were created to meet the development of our region. But the budgets of these institutions are usually hidden from public scrutiny. If monies allocated are properly expended, why would anyone want to hide a statement of expenditure and accounts of a public institution if not for untoward motives?
The Niger Delta is a populous area inhabited by a diversity of minority ethnic groups. Based on the agitations of the young people in this region over issues of neglect and underdevelopment of a region which lays the Nigeria’s golden eggs, the Federal government created the NDDC in the year 2000 as a response to the demands of the population of the Niger Delta.
But in spite of the creation of the NDDC, the minorities of the Niger Delta continued to agitate and articulate demands for greater autonomy and control of the area’s petroleum resources. They justified their grievances by reference to the extensive environmental degradation and pollution from oil activities that have occurred in the region since the late 1950s. The region is highly underdeveloped and is poor even by Nigeria’s standards for quality of life.
The NDDC came about as a result of the concerns and an attempt to meet the demands for the development and agitations the Niger Delta population. Even though the NDDC is 17yrs today, and has an online and social media presence where their budget can be accessed, the same cannot be said concerning the other Niger Delta oil & gas commissions like the DESOPADEC, OSOPADEC, EDSOGPADEC, IMSOPADEC, ASOPADEC. Projects are uncompleted and abandoned in the region, and if any is completed, it is built with sub-standard materials. Even some schools are built without toilets. If monies for the development of the Niger Delta are properly budgeted and expended, what is wrong if Niger Deltans can have access to these documents for the sake of inclusive and participatory governance?
As we speak, many Niger Deltans have no idea how these monies are spent or on what project they have been spent on because some of the institutions have no functional social media or online presences for interfacing with the public. Access to information is the lifeblood of governance and one of the keys to open the door to transparency in governance. Let the Niger Delta institutions open up their budgets and expenditure for scrutiny.
Assurance Ovie is ICT/Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness Officer with ANEEJ