As an Ijaw leader who had led the youth wing of the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, Mike Wenibowei is one man that is not quite happy with the current leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide in which he had been chairman, Central Zone and currently, chairman, IYC Elders Council of same zone. In this interview with our correspondent in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, he also expressed pessimism that the report of the forensic audit on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) recently submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio won’t see the light. He also spoke on the Petroleum Industry Act which was recently signed by the president.
What is your take on the newly submitted report of forensic audit on the NDDC?
In the first place, we are very happy that the report of the forensic audit on NDDC is finally out. When it started they told us that it will take just two months but it is finally out and they have given us a report of six trillion naira that has come to the NDDC and over 13,777 abandoned projects. We thank them. However, in my own view, I see the forensic audit on the NDDC as a form of distraction especially to us in the Niger Delta. The present federal government is playing politics. If we are not careful, we, the Niger Delta people will be fighting among ourselves while they are doing what they are doing. Definitely, the presidency will not do anything about it because most of the persons who perpetrated the fraud in the NDDC are in the government. They know themselves because when the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio appeared in the National Assembly in respect of the fraud in the NDDC, he indicted the senate before they set up the audit. Now that the report is out, Buhari will not do anything about it. That is why I said it’s a distraction. They know that the only region that is safe now in the country is the Niger Delta. So, they want to use this audit to set confusion among us so that we will begin to kill ourselves that Niger Deltans have stolen funds that were given to the NDDC. It’s a way of diverting people’s attention from the core issue of insecurity facing the country at the moment.
Are you implying that the federal government is using the Niger Deltans against the Niger Delta?
That is exactly what I am saying because we don’t know where this country is heading to. You can see the time frame the audit took before it finally came out. If the presidency will come out fair and prosecute all the persons involved in the corrupt practices in the NDDC irrespective of party differences, we will applaud him. We know that nothing will come out of it. That’s why I call it a distraction. Now, anywhere you go to in the Niger Delta, every discussion is on the forensic audit. They want to know who did this and who did that amongst ourselves. If the presidency is sincere enough, let them expose all those involved. It’s not about the Niger Delta alone. Bring out everything and let’s see who and who is involved and let them start the prosecutions immediately so that we will know that the presidency is sincere. But for now, it’s just an abracadabra they are doing. Today, all we hear is forensic audit report, everywhere you go. Nobody is talking about the insecurity in the country anymore.
So, are you saying the major persons involved in the NDDC fraud may not be Niger Deltans?
It’s all encompassing. They are in the Senate and other critical sectors across the country including Niger Deltans. It is a conspiracy against the suffering mass of the Niger Delta. The people involved are people that cannot be prosecuted.
Do you mean they are above the law?
I wouldn’t say they are above the law but they can’t be prosecuted. It is just like the insecurity in the country now. The people committing the crimes are there visible. But are they being arrested? They know them but no one has been arrested. It is the same thing that will happen to the NDDC forensic audit report. We will be happy if Buhari can take a decisive action on this forensic audit report because it’s our region that is getting backward. If they had judiciously deployed the six trillion naira that came to the NDDC, the region would have been singing songs of development by now. If those abandoned projects were executed on the soil of the Niger Delta, it is the people that will benefit. So, we want to know the people who have done this wickedness to us and let them be prosecuted and we know Buhari will not do that. The result is out, we want to see the actions to be taken.
Before the president received the NDDC forensic audit report, he had earlier signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, what is your view on the three percent provision for the oil producing host communities?
I want to align myself with some of us who are of the view that we should accept the three percent and let’s start from there. You can recall that this bill had been long in the National Assembly. Even when one of our own, Goodluck Jonathan was in the presidency, this same bill was there. Now that we have got three per cent, let us accept it. After all, we have got 13 per cent oil derivation, we have the NDDC and the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Presidential Amnesty office. They gave us NIMASA and an ljaw man was there. How far have we gone with all those privileges? Sometimes, if you can’t properly manage the little in your hands, you may not be able to manage the billions you are yearning for. Don’t forget, our representatives in the National Assembly, our Senators and House of Reps members were all in the house. They all deliberated on the issue before they arrived at the three percent. Though they staged a walkout but it didn’t make any impact. It can be increased tomorrow but now that we have three percent, let us make use of it.
But some persons would say the governors of the Niger Delta didn’t lobby enough, what do you think?
I don’t want to think that didn’t try their best, they did their best. That is why our governor here in Bayelsa is not happy with the three percent but it has been passed.
The leadership of the Ijaw National Congress is proposing an all Ijaw summit. Are you in support of it?
If the INC is proposing to organize an all ljaw summit, I think all ljaw sons and daughters should embrace it. It’s a forum which will create an avenue for the ljaw nation to articulate her problems and channel same to the appropriate quarters for necessary action. It will be an opportunity for the whole world to hear us. It’s a welcome development that should be supported by all well meaning ljaw sons because there is crisis in ljaw land because of politics. In such a forum, we should be able to tell ourselves the truth and fudge a common front to move our nation forward.
How would you view the current national leadership of the IYC?
It’s a shame that there’s no more unity in the IYC. As elders in council, our duty is to give advice to guide their steps, which we have been doing but these days, it’s as if they want to see us as Intruders. They have a mindset that our time has passed and this is their time. They no longer heed our advice. But the council was not found in that light. You are aware that the president was once allegedly kidnapped. All these are issues that are bothering us. The Spokesman would wake up from his bedroom and go straight to the press without proper consultation. We, the elders of the central zone, we want to even apologize to the ljaw nation concerning what is happening in the current leadership of IYC. If you go to the Eastern Zone of the IYC, they are having two presidents. The Director of Mobilization is acclaiming to be president while Peter Igbifa, the one we voted, is from the same zone and we have elders council in that zone. They have two presidents, two zonal chairmen. So, it’s like we don’t have IYC for now. The president would say something and members of his council would say that is his own opinion. That’s not what the ljaw nation wants for now. Indeed, the present leadership of the IYC has brought shame to us as a nation. In the zonal meeting that we are about to hold soon, we are going to discuss all these things.