Hon. Farah Dagogo represents Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency of Rivers State in the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on the mismanagement of 13 per cent derivation fund by some governors and corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), among other issues
How will you assess the utilisation of the 13 per cent derivation fund for the development of the Niger Delta by governors of the states in the region?
It is a very sad commentary as it relates to the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta.
The 13 per cent derivation fund is set aside to assist oil-producing communities tackle infrastructural decay and degradation, emphasis on the oil producing communities. What it means basically is that in sharing the federation account revenue, 13 per cent should be set aside to assist the development of these oil-producing communities.
About two decades down the line, what is there to show for the humongous monies that have come in? The governors, past and present, view it as free money. Between 2000 and 2018, over N10 trillion from the 13 per cent derivation principle have been shared to the Niger Delta governors, on behalf of the oil producing communities, yet the deplorable living conditions of the people from these oil-producing communities have remained nauseating and deplorable with the people battling and still reeking with the worst and highest form of poverty.
For instance, in Rivers State where I come from, oil producing communities that are in the riverine areas have been begging for the Trans-Kalabari Ring Road to connect the riverine communities, where the oil producing communities are located, with the uplands areas and fasten development.
This ring road alone will connect the oil producing communities with other areas of the state and ease that problem of mobility. If you are very versed with the Niger Delta region or with Rivers State, you understand the economic value that comes with this road.
Regrettably, it has become fashionable to use it as campaign promises and abandon it on assumption of power. This project will cost less than N30billion and could signify proof that the 13 per cent derivation fund is actually being utilised for the oil producing communities as it was spelt out.
Unfortunately, the governors are rather more interested in superfluous and white elephant projects that could be used to embezzle funds. Conduct an investigation to these oil producing communities and you will weep when you gauge their abject living conditions with what had been allocated for them.
No electricity, no drinking water, no roads, total lack of basic amenities. For instance, oil producing communities, through their state governors, received N602.37 billion as their 13 per cent derivation fund from the Federal Government between January 2017 and April 2018.
Imagine the positive effects a whopping N602. 37billion would have on the lives of the people and its communities if a fraction of these monies were channeled towards the development of these communities? And there is this grand conspiracy of silence from the Federal Government. Why are the right questions not being asked?
What is the true state of the suspicious financial hanky-panky in the actual production and cost as it relates to the figures the International Oil Companies reel out? Why are the IOCs allowed to do their costing in dollars with appalling disregard for the currency of the country they operate especially when the 13 per cent are derived through them?
How could the people from these communities be left in such sorry state and the Federal Government is not doing anything about it, especially as the governors, who receive these fund on behalf of them, have been indifferent to their plight and have established a line that they would rather fill their pockets with the funds and continue to live large than commit such to the development of the communities.
I challenge any governor from the Niger Delta oil producing communities to explain, with irrefutable facts, how they have actually used the derivation funds to better the lives of the people and their oil producing communities. Their explanations could only be imagined as it would only amount to looking for a needle in a haystack, it will not produce anything concrete. However, I strongly believe it is never too late to correct the wrongs of the past. I have a positive conviction that this set of governors will side on the right side of history and do justice to the revenues they are getting on behalf of the oil producing communities.
What is the way forward on the rot in the NDDC?
The way to go is for Mr. President to overhaul the NDDC in such a manner that will eradicate to the barest minimum some of the notable problems militating against the ability of the NDDC to deliver on its mandate.
Rejig the NDDC and ensure it religiously adhere to the core mandate for setting it up, especially in the areas of meaningful intervention. Money credited to the NDDC in the last decade is not near commensurate with what is on ground in the Niger Delta.
It bears similarity to how the governors have mismanaged the 13 per cent derivation fund. I would like to see reputable recruitment agencies contracted to administer a recruitment drive open to qualified and competent local and Diaspora Nigerian indigenes from the NDDC member states for recruitment into the board and management cadre.
These recruited personnel are to run the NDDC in a very professional semi corporate manner, a complete departure from the unnecessarily bureaucratic manner being presently operated.
This pattern of recruitment substantially curtails political interference and pandering to the whims and caprices of politicians and influential Nigerians who are in the habit of planting Board and Management staff in proxy for themselves.
A forensic audit should be conducted by a credible firm, other than those being engaged by the IMC to recover stolen funds including monies carted away by non/underperforming contractors as well as identify priority and failed projects.
What is your take on the hike in petrol and electricity prices?
The Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC), came into power in 2015, because there was a general misconception that the PDP government as it were then had taken the country to a cliff, that we were, as a nation, on the precipice.
A lot of falsehood was spread and most Nigerians keyed into it, especially as the APC out of sheer desperation to grab power equally cashed on the gullibility of majority of the populace to also make promises they know they couldn’t keep.
Today, we are all paying for the misadventures of 2015.
The pathetic aspect is the government of the day is still justifying the unbearable hardships it has foisted on Nigerians. Nigerians expected the APC to better the gains and improve on the failings or the shortcomings of the PDP.
Nigerians expected that stable foods such as 50kg bag of rice, which was sold at N9, 000, Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as fuel, which was N87 per litre, electricity, which obviously required improvement, but was available and affordable then, would now have the midas touch of the APC and the Change slogan of 2015 would actually have a positive bearings on the lives of Nigerians, but all those have turned out to be ruse.
Nigerians, apart from the few that are benefiting from the pains of millions, believe that the Nigeria of 2015 and before sure needed development but it was better than the ‘Changed Nigeria’ of 2015 to date.
These unfortunate and untimely hike in prices of electricity and petrol have furthered challenged the spirits of many Nigerians, who have zeroed their minds to survive the remaining years of the APC led government.
The truth is, Nigerians are just surviving under this government and the various anti people policies only confirmed this sad reality.
Is the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives mobilising against the Water Resources Bill?
I don’t want to talk about the PDP caucus for now because as a House, we are divided against ourselves. Even at this stage where a supposedly serious opposition party in the mold of the PDP, should be facing its role squarely and giving the ruling party superior alternatives to the APC inhuman policies, the party is nowhere to be found and instead mired itself in internal politics.
The position of the House of Representatives minority leader has been resolved one way or the other, why don’t all feuding parties let go of their grouse and focus on the goal of making lives better for Nigerians by putting the APC on its toes and propelling them (APC) towards the right path, since misdirection has become a norm for them.
When disunity is allowed to grow within a fold as a result of the selfish pursuits of few individuals, the result is the temerity that the APC would push for a bill and insist on its passage even when generality of the populace it claimed to care for are against it.
Very simple, as a member of the PDP caucus, which also heads the minority seats in the House of Representatives, it is high time we got our acts together. This kind of divisiveness among our ranks is affecting Nigerians but playing in favour of the APC.
Until the APC-led federal government showed superior proof, with incontrovertible enlightenment that would assuage the fears of Nigerians that the Water Resources Bill was actually meant to better the lives of Nigerians, I believe we in the PDP in the House of Representatives will be forced to toe that path, which the people are yearning and clamouring for.
Some socio-political organisations have kicked against the move by National Assembly to further alter the constitution, describing it as wasteful and needless. What do you think of such position?
I beg to disagree with that line of reasoning. Our constitution is not cast in stone, every now and then, it will require some form of amendments to align with current realities. I think, this is an avenue for people to make their inputs through their various representatives at the national and state Assemblies.
Those clamouring for state creations, those that want another local government area, those that felt the earlier constitution short changed them, those that have recommendations that would strengthen our constitution and our government, this is an opportunity.
The people need to follow it up religiously so their voices, agitations, areas of concern and what have you, can be properly addressed and taken care off. I believe all constitution amendments are in the right direction, and my view on that is still the same with this as well.