Many informed observers of Delta State politics must find the current rumpus over the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill, initiated by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, disturbing. This assertion stems from the fact that plans to restructure DESOPADEC had been in the public domain before now. During his gubernatorial campaign, particularly to oil bearing communities, governor Okowa had assured them of a better deal under a restructured DESOPADEC primed for effective service delivery amidst applause.
On the day of inauguration, his novel ideas for a restructured DESOPADEC occupies copious position in his speech. His words: “We will give strength to the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Law, by restructuring the Board and Management in line with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) model through an Amendment Bill”.
It is, therefore, curious that critics of the Amendment Bill, in their desperate attempt to score cheap political points, have chosen to sidestepped the governor’s moral high horse approach to issues of public concern to vilified the state chief executive for what in their view amounts to ‘’ rocking the boat”. They know, as most Deltans do, that by amending the DESOPADEC Bill , it isn’t going to be ‘’ business as usual”.
But while this incongruous views persist, a more benevolent and non-partisan school of thought emerged. Interestingly, it comprises people of the oil producing communities. It opined that the amendment deals with administrative structures and not production issue or sharing of the 13 percent derivative among the ethnic communities that make up DESOPADEC.
In clear terms, they are convinced that an amended DESOPADEC Bill will auger well for the oil producing communities, increased the capacity of DESOPADEC to render service to its people and, more importantly, be accountable to them.
As interesting as their comments may seen, it is obvious, particularly for those against the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill, that two things are at play here. It is either they have very poor understanding of the items in the proposed amendment or they are out to cause distractions. The first cannot be correct because one of those who picked holes in the amendment bill was a former Chairman of the Commission. He cannot in all sincerity claims not to have a full understanding of the principal law and its amended version.
Therefore, it is correct to infer that critics of the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill however fluid their points may be are out to distract the governor.
Separating the wheat from the chaff, the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill seeks to tackle frontally the minority right issue, which is the cause of the protracted injustice in the oil producing communities. Put differently, the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill is intended to bring development closer to the people, give greater efficiency and accountability to the management of the 13 percent derivative fund in line with international best practices.
Before now, what did we have? A variant of administration that allowed officials to function in dual positions as Commissioners representing various ethnic nationalities and chief executives overseeing day to day affairs of DESOPADEC. What does that portend? Little time is paid to the development of the ethnic communities they represent. Also by combining the two functions, the infrastructural needs of the oil producing communities were sidetracked by partisan and intra-ethnic squabbles.
If the motives of those against the amendment bill is not partisan, why are they scheming to prevent the governor from putting in place a system that makes it difficult for individuals except the oil producing communities themselves from having access to DESOPADEC fund?
Rather than playing politics with the DESOPADEC Amendment Bill, critics should commend the governor for insisting that the Delta State House of Assembly should hold a public hearing before the bill is passed into law. Because by so doing, Okowa has demonstrated that he is sincere about fulfilling his “Prosperity for all Deltans” mantra.
Udemba writes from Asaba, Delta State