Written by Pemii Ben
Once the issue of militancy, kidnapping and their attendant vices are mentioned in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, accusing fingers are pointed at abstract figures and shadows. Nobody takes responsibility for the sponsorship of this menace and its effects. More often than not, militancy and other forms of unrest in the Niger Delta are blamed on lack of job opportunities, underdevelopment, and the large scale squandering of public funds by the governments of the Niger Delta states. In as much as these are highly contributing factors and undeniable realities, one must call public attention to another source of militancy, criminality and the general state of unrest in the Niger Delta region: the corporate bodies operating in this region.
The popular claim from most oil servicing companies in the Niger Delta is that youths from the region are not employable because they lack of qualification. This is not always the truth. More importantly, how would these youths be able to fund their education when the drilling activities of these same oil companies have ruined their parents’ farmlands and destroyed aquatic life, that both served as veritable sources of income in most communities?
Furthermore, most of these oil firms do not announce available vacancies. They simply recycle such opportunities among themselves and their cronies. Thus, a visit to some of these oil firms in the region will find people from selected ethnic groups in an unconquerable majority. Once in a long while, when some of these companies announce vacancies, over ten thousand applicants fight over about twenty job openings and they are often made to pass through despicable rigors in the name of “selecting the best hand.”
If the oil firms were to be the only sector responsible for this oddity, the problem would be easier to tackle. There is the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, an interventionist agency established by Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime in 2003. From its inception several billions of naira have been expended, with no results other than fictitious projects and mass forgeries of the most disheartening caliber.
By way of concrete example, in the city of Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria, there is a primary school building in front of the popular St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. This school was built in the days of the missionaries, but the NDDC, in its treacherous maneuvers did substandard renovation work on this school and pasted this inscription on the school building “Built by NDDC”. The funniest thing is that the said NDDC is run by indigenes of the Niger Delta who should know the plights and predicaments of their own people.
By dint of political gimmicks, there are nine’s Niger Delta states covered by the NDDC. Abia and Imo states, going by the strict yardsticks used in the assessment of the true composition of a Niger Delta, should not qualify for this inclusion. But since the Commission’s inaugural chairman, Ugochukwu Onyeman, was from Abia State, and a loyal crony of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, the state was included. Worse still, the inclusion of Abia, Imo and Ondo states in the Commission’s list was further informed by the usual pacification strategy that was aimed at pleasing the Igbo and Yoruba speaking parts of the country.
NDDC’s greatest achievement, since its inception, has been the execution of non-existent projects and poor quality renovations with a smattering of other failures spanning the length and breadth of the Niger Delta. Those who head the Commission always ask Niger Deltans to tighten their belts and be ready for action, while NDDC’s funds go into their and others’ private pockets. To perfect this fraud so as to look and sound genuine in the global market, the Commission seeks partnership with “credible” agencies which, in most cases, are owned by some of the helmsmen of the Commission. The youths who know about these pranks, of course, get restive.
But sometimes, some of these youths are “settled” and sing the praises of the Commission’s non-achievement and those of the helmsmen, which they deceptively present in the media as inviolable milestones. Should you follow legitimate procedure to push through a proposal at the Commission, you, surely, will be wasting your precious time unless you have secured the services of the most dreaded fetish priests who often disguise themselves as “Men of God” and sometimes come to the Commission for “prayer sessions.”
Once in a while, the Commission organizes what they usually call “Skill Acquisition Programmes,” which, when properly examined, are another avenue to siphon funds. After all, most of the so-called skills the youths are forced to acquire are archaic and unproductive, which is as good as having done anything. The Commission does not offer scholarship schemes of any sort. They leave the youths to ferment academically and thus become viable tools for mayhem of the most regrettable sort.