Academics from the Niger Delta region on Wednesday challenged leaders from the area to look inwards to tackle its developmental challenges.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Dons spoke at a Colloquium to begin burial rites of Pst. Ziakede Aginighan, former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The colloquium coincides with the 60th post hummus birthday of the deceased, fondly referred to as P.Z. Aginighan, who died at the age of 59 in an auto crash at the Mbiama section of the East-West Road on Sept.1, 2018.
The former NDDC boss had died in the crash alongside his son and a police orderly.
Prof. Samuel Ibaba, Lead Presenter at the colloquium entitled: “The Niger Delta Development Challenge and Institutional Responsibilities: The Way Forward’’ noted that the region had long experienced neglect.
Ibaba, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Niger Delta University, Amasoma Bayelsa, urged the people to shift their attention from external forces working against the region and look inwards to find solutions.
He said the narrative of deprivation had been over emphasised with the intervention agencies performing below expectations, and urged the people to work in unity for the growth of the region.
“The old narrative of unfairness by the Nigerian government that exonerates us and shifts blame to other quarters has to be reviewed.
“Since the Willings Commission recommended the establishment of a development Commission to focus on Niger Delta, a lot of things have happened; we need to review how we have performed and ask questions.
“There is empirical evidence that we are ethic in our approach, whenever the Managing Director of NDDC shifts to a particular state in the region, it gets the lion share of the projects.
“It is also clear that the oil bearing communities for which the derivation revenue accrues to are often neglected. We should give ourselves the fairness we demand from the Nigerian Federation,” Ibaba said.
In his submission, Prof. Godwin Darah, of the Faculty of Arts, University of Africa, Toru Orua, Bayelsa, urged Niger Delta Governors to join Bayelsa Gov. Seriake Dickson in the advocacy for restructuring.
He said the region should intensify efforts in the struggle for control of the oil resource for the development of the region.
“If we fared this well with 13 per cent derivation, imagine what full resource control of 100 per cent can do, 13 per cent derivation is 87 per cent deprivation,” Darah said.
Similarly, Mr Atei Beredugo, a former employee of NDDC, regretted that in spite of the increase in funding of the NDDC, development in the region was not commensurate with the inflow of funds.
“In the year 2000, total funds to the Niger Delta region stood at about N200 million.
“But as at 2013, it is about N1.8 trn; in spite of the increased income, can we say that development is commensurate with what came in?
“The NDDC annual budget is in excess of N300 bn and the Commission has been there for 18 years, if you compare Delta and Anambra states, there is no difference even though one is an oil state,’’ Beredugo said.
Earlier, Chairman of the burial committee, Chief Ayakeme Whiskey said the colloquium would be held annually to immortalise the late Ijaw leader.
Amb. Godknows Igali, another Ijaw leader, extolled Aginighan saying he epitomised the Niger Delta struggle.
“P.Z. Aginighan was brilliant, a gifted leader from the early stages of his life,” Igali said.