Talking with His Royal Majesty King Bubaraye Dakolo Agada 1V, the Agada of Ekpetiama Kingdom of Bayelsa State can be very interesting, enriching and revealing. His passion for the development of the Niger Delta is palpable. He spoke about this and other issues in this interview with TNN.
Let’s start with the fact that the Niger Delta is still hotbed for gas flare and crisis. A lot of havoc still being done to our environment. In Southern Ijaw for example, Conoil spill has devastated that environment, a lot of environmental murder is being committed. So, what does this mean to you as a key stakeholder in this region?
Well, it’s very demoralizing and devastating and it shows clearly that there is no end in sight. Those in requisite positions of authority are clearly interested in the petrodollars, not in the environment or lives of the people. So, it is saddening. The legislations that we’ve had from time, and even the last one, the PIA, Petroleum Industry Act, all are essentially paper works and are anti-people. They are not there to make things better for me in anyway, but to ensure that the oil resources should be getting to them, while their environment and the people who ordinarily should have them, suffer.
You come from that part of the country where the first oil well was sunk
And then up till now, nothing significant is happening. Have you ever felt like crying for the Niger Delta and what the Nigeria federation is doing to the Niger Delta?
No, I’ve never felt like crying. I have been crying for what the federal government, the international oil and gas companies, the governments of the international oil and gas companies and all their collaborators across the world are doing.
I’ve been crying. The place where the first oil well was drilled is called Otuabagi; that is my maternal community, it is the community I was born and I lived there a while and then I moved on over to Okirika, after surviving the civil war and at Okirika, I lived in the refinery quarters. It is still there and I used to walk on naked pipelines, from the NPRC quarters to my school at Ibinebulor. I did that for six years every school day, to and fro, about three to four kilometers and then I returned to what they call government secondary school, Ogbia. At the time, it was in the forest of that Otuabagi area and we had to live in the buildings abandoned by shell workers. That was where the Shell’s operational base was. So, we more like inherited those houses after the war, before government then put a school there. So I schooled there and observed the atrocities, the atrocious acts of the oil industries still breathing fresh. The tanks were still there, the pipes that were vandalized during the war were still there, and so on and so forth. That was my experience. So the oil industry has been a brutal industry against the environment of the Niger Delta and against the people.
That first oil well was a shallow well and they drilled a total of 21 wells at a time, 19 of those wells were in Otuabagi, that is my maternal community and they were said to have found well over twenty million barrels of oil for that period, and if you multiply that by the going price today and exchange rate, you will see that it ran into a couple of trillions and the oil is still there because they were shallow wells and like I said, nothing is there to show apart from the rocks and decay and stench of abandonment.
And the other side of it is that our boys are now getting involved in local refining, which is called kpofire, but the curious aspect is that security agents are being accused of aiding and abetting the kpofire business. You were at some point in uniform. Did you experience this kind of a thing in your time? Is it disturbing you now that men in uniform are the ones who are helping to get crude illegally to refine?
(laughs) Well, it is sad that persons who have sworn to defend the territorial integrity of the country will turn around and become part of the desecration. But however, from the way you started, it will be okay to again re-emphasise that in 1960, there was no kpofire, in 1970 there was no kpofire, 80 no kpofire, 90 no kpofire, and in the 2000s, perhaps no real kpofire. it’s from the 2010s to date we have kpofire.
In 1998, there was oil theft and some level of vandalism, and so the Abacha junta at a time had to bring over what they call joint task force. Joint task force was a body made up of all the security agencies in this country, to ensure that the oil business went on undisturbed.
That outfit has been there for 24 years and it was under such an outfit that we started getting kpofire and increasing vandalism and all of that. I started by saying in 60s no kpofire, 70s no kpofire because if you see a 35-year-old boy or 40-year-old man today, it will mean that he was just born yesterday. So, if the Nigerian state were interested in his welfare, in his grooming, he would have been a better person. So, if today the Nigerian state trained him by reducing him to that worthlessness, then the Nigerian state has failed indeed.
So, the young man from the Niger Delta who has resorted to kpofire is a big victim of an oil industry and the nation that does not care about the environment and the people. He is a multiple victim of that lack of care or absence of care of even pretence of care. So, he can’t do otherwise. The JTF people are trained experts, they are employed experts. They are trained and they are employed, yet, they are an accomplice in this crime. They are the ones who have lured, encouraged, supported, funded these youths who are better described as misguided. They are sponsored by big oil thieves. I can bet you that as we speak there are definitely are one, two or more ocean liners out there in the Gulf of Guinea, waiting for stolen crude. Without such a receptacle, there would have been nobody stealing crude because where are you taking it to? Beyond that, the business of even kpofire is an illegality and who is saddled in this country to prevent, to stop, to discourage illegality if not the security agencies? So, anytime I hear kpofire, I see several sets of security agencies that have failed woefully and nobody in the nation is looking that way. They are looking at a helpless set of youths who attended schools that are not worth calling schools at all, because the nation has largely stolen petrodollars and taken these ones to go and feather their private business in Europe and America.
So, it is so bad and in this few years of oil and gas madness and theft, I don’t know if you know how many big men are in jail. There is none in jail for me to see.
You clearly may not have seen the book titled ‘the riddle of the oil field.’ ‘The riddle of the oil field’ is a book that I wrote last year, it is out there in the market, it is on amazon.com, it is in book shelves. If you are in Port Harcourt, there is one book shop they call Bookville. It’s somewhere around Rumuomasi, I think they have some stocks of it, if you read it.
So the kpofire stuff, do you see an end to that?
Why not? If today the federal government of Nigeria wants it to stop, it will stop. The reason why it is thriving is because those who are put in charge of making sure it does not happen wants it to happen, because it benefits them. That is why it is going on.
In the 80s, the economy was good and working as a civil servant in Nigeria was a better thing at a time. But today, it is one dollar to five hundred and something naira, so the economy is messed up to the point where you do not have a way to stay alive other than to do kpofire. So, you don’t even care because they are as good as dead. They are a living dead. So doing kpofire, it doesn’t matter, if you can live one more day why not? So if we want kpofire to stop today, it will mean that if it is one dollar to a naira for example now, nobody will do kpofire, because you have a thousand and one other things to do in a robust economy, other than to risk your life. So, a bad economy where the security agencies are not doing what they are supposed to do, if the customs cannot prevent guns from coming in, the customs cannot prevent drugs from coming in, the police cannot prevent people from having weapons, and drugs and so on and so forth, kpofire becomes an issue.
People say the NDDC has decayed. What do you say about the commission, what do you think should be done to make it better?
Well, today as you know, NDDC is not being run according to its Act. Right now as we are speaking, there have been no board, it has been a sole administrator, which is an aberration. Despite all the calls for the proper thing to be done, it has not been done. So what am I saying? Once you do the wrong thing, you don’t expect things to go right, because what you are doing is wrong.
NDDC, the letters of the Act are beautiful, they are supposed to help to bring about development in the Niger Delta. So, it is a good thing, however, how good is the good thing? The letter is good, the paper work is good, the Act is good, but running it has not been so good because it has been there for over 20 years and over 20 trillion naira has been spent by that body not meeting its mandate.
NDDC has a peculiar ailment where those who run it are actually handpicked, usually puppet from this environment, but handpicked by some masters of the game from somewhere else, and so they get into position and they are not able to develop even their communities, but the money goes.
So, it is more like some masters will put John there and John becomes a puppet more or less, so he may be speaking the same language with you, he may have even been your twin, but when he is there, having properly reorganized him, he is not able to function well.
Again, that is happening because the police is not arresting him when they should arrest him, when he finishes, at best maybe EFCC calls him today and tomorrow and he removes whatever small money he may have stacked somewhere.
There is none of those persons who have run NDDC that is right now in jail somewhere. None. They all leave NDDC and run for governor and all of that.
If you go to NDDC, according to somebody, if you have a contract for one million you may just need N25,000 or something to do the business, the rest of it is just kill and divide, you just divide it everywhere. So you have thousands and thousands of these projects across the Niger Delta because that is the way it is run.
Like I said, again, it is in that my book. There are two chapters that pertain to this subject and it discusses how they run it, and if you understand how it is run, you won’t be too excited. So if someone is saying they should scrap it, that is nonsense. It shouldn’t be scrapped, they should just run it. If the federal government wants it to work, it will work. But so far it has never really wanted it to work, because they use it for some purposes other than for the development of the Niger Delta. So, the paper work is just to discourage you and I from advocating further, about the development of the Niger Delta because we believe that with this good paper work, it will work and so we don’t do a thing and then before you know, it we have waited for twenty something years.
Where is the minister of Niger Delta Affairs getting it wrong in all of this?
Where is he getting it wrong?
He is getting it wrong from the beginning to the end. In fact, in that book that you are going to pick up soon, there is somebody in the book that went to the NDDC and saw a list of contractors, phantom contractors, briefcase contractors, and so on and so forth, and some of the names were a little distorted. So he was like ah! Let me see how many contractors were there. He tried to see the thing, and then he went and could not see the beginning or the end. So for the first time, he saw a list that started from infinity to infinity (laughs).
So, will it be correct to say NDDC is a fraud, or NDDC has died or the minister has killed NDDC. Which one is?
(cuts in) no, not the minister, the thing has died before the minister came to continue the death (laughs).
Okay, so he buried NDDC?
More or less, but listen to me. NDDC is a good organization, okay? Interventionist body, it’s a good one, the paper work is also good, are you getting me?
But, the powers that be don’t want it to properly run for the outcome that it is meant to serve, are you getting the point?
Let’s talk about Bayelsa State. Your governor is two years old in office. What do you think of him and his government? I think that he should do more, that is why he is governor. He cannot say he has done enough, no. He has just done two years, he has to do more. He has two more years to do so well and do better than he has. It is also my job to support him to succeed in all the ways possible. So, I will wish him the best on his second anniversary on the 14th of February and I will advise him to shine his eyes and let him come out at the end of the day as the best.
Why does he need to shine his eyes and towards what?
Well, he has to shine his eyes because he is not the first governor of Bayelsa State. We’ve had one governor and another governor and so on and so forth, and we just talked about NDDC. NDDC has countless failed projects in Bayelsa State, Bayelsa State government also has countless failed projects in Bayelsa State. Now, those who caused these projects to fail did not come from Pluto, even if some of them came from other parts of this country, the bulk of them hail from Bayelsa State, you must shine your eyes, no be so?
So that, you do not bring a kleptomania to come and help you do some jobs, and I will encourage him to do that.
What specific areas would you want him to sit up?
There are certain areas where he has real good able hands. I think the guy in the ministry of works, is doing quite well, the young man in the ministry of health is also doing quite well, maybe the aspect of trying to generate funds locally, he should look at that, and then he should also support advocacy.
Yenagoa the state capital, it still looks like a glorified village, a lot of people have talked about this, what do you think the governor should do to take Bayelsa out of that equation?
Well, the governor will do nothing other than making sure that master plan is followed. Most of the houses you see in Yenagoa are not government houses, they have government house, then we have the ones that are not government and those ones that are not government houses, they are supposed to have been regulated by the ministry of land and housing and the likes, okay? And those ones have been there, some of them came from old Rivers State, so the question is, are they doing their work enough? So those ones are the ones that are largely responsible for what you want to call the glorified village or whatever.
Though for some of us from the very narrow road, from Mbiama, Yenagoa road, of the 70s and 80s, and even 90s, we now have broader roads. So for some of us, we are seeing progress. However, we also understand that most of it are haphazard and the haphazard means that the human beings who are coming to build houses and live in the Yenagoa are supposed to obey the small rules that are placed there, I will advise you to call on civil servants to do their mandate, the civil servants in the ministry of housing, civil servants in the ministry of land, civil servants somewhere follow the rules, so that everyone else will obey the rules. they have association of Nigerian Engineers, architects and all of that, builders, and all of that, are they following their rules? These are professional bodies, so if everybody has thrown away their ethics and are doing nonsense, governor na just one man na, that is the problem.