Asari Dokubo is a name in the Niger Delta. He is a well known freedom fighter and can be very controversial sometimes. On the same day that a new interim board was inaugurated to manage the affairs of the NDDC, he spoke to some journalists, expressing his discontent at the appointment of a new interim committee to manage the commission when new board members have already been screened and waiting for confirmation by the senate.
You are a stakeholder in the Niger Delta project and in the NDDC, some things are happening. A few weeks ago, we had an acting MD for the Niger Delta Development Commission and then just today, (November 30th) another acting MD has been inaugurated and this is coming just about 24 hours after the senate read a letter from Mr. President, presenting nominees for the board as recommended by the Act establishing the NDDC. What does all these mean to you, considering the kind of drama that is playing out in the NDDC?
From the very beginning, I knew that things will play out the way they are now, not for the interest of the people. NDDC is an interventionist agency to remedy years of deprivation of the people of the Niger Delta from the resources beneath their land; and the effect, the environmental effect, the moral effect of oil production is enormous. So, so enormous. In fact, we cannot quantify it. Now NDDC came to ameliorate this problem, to try to find small, small palliatives and people have been playing politics with NDDC. The NDDC has a law that established it; let us go to the law. So, these are the things, the disrespect for due process, it’s a major problem, and people play these things; everybody has a life of a million knives, everybody is trying to stab the other person and they say we are in control. You are in control where? How can the president transmit a letter to the Senate, submit names for people to be screened and a minister under him, whose role, even the law does not recognize, the law establishing the NDDC does not recognize the powers of that minister in that ministry, in that agency. The agency is under the president, not under the ministry of Niger Delta. These are the illegalities that have come up over time, he’s now appointing another acting interim management committee, why? So, these are the things that are going on today. Let the president put his house together. He is supposed to be president of the country, he has the power of control over all those working under him and making sure that he abides by the laws setting up all the agencies, because what is happening in NDDC is very, very regrettable. So many people fought, so many people fought to make this thing to come to reality and right before their eyes, these things are being destroyed. So for me, that setting up of these acting board and so on, is an insult on the presidency, a very big insult, that’s how I see it, it’s so shocking.
So, if you were to meet Akpabio right now because he is at the centre of all of these, what will you tell him?
If I meet Akpabio, I will tell him that look, there is no legal provision for what he has done. He’s a lawyer, we were all in UNICAL together. He should know that it is illegal but today the law does not mean anything any longer, so anybody can do whatever he likes, it’s illegal. The president has transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, nominating people to be screened and confirmed. So, what’s the big deal about setting up another one? What’s the big deal about setting up another interim management committee?
This morning there was a protest at the commission’s headquarters. Everybody is agitated; there is confusion everywhere, people are beginning to wonder how the current team will be able to deliver on the expectations from the NDDC?
I think the confusion is just too much, people are tired. Ppass the East-West road and see what is happening. Since Goodluck Jonathan left, four years plus, nothing has happened. This is supposed to be government of the Niger Delta. So there is confusion everywhere. Go to the amnesty office, it’s the same level of confusion. People have taken it over, they are now conduit pipes, big conduit pipes to service their insatiable appetite. So that is what is happening, everybody is struggling to grab and everybody is seeing it, so where is this anti-corruption hullabaloo they’ve been talking about? Where is it? You are seeing corruption walking like this, with two legs, korokoro dey waka dey come, this is corruption nah. Everybody wants to grab and put in their pocket, Amaechi used to have NDDC, now we have taken it, it’s in our pocket, this is our time to chop, you know, that sort of thing. That’s what the Niger Delta has been reduced to. At least when Obasanjo, Yar’ Adua, Goodluck were there, they were pretending. This one, there is no pretence, korokoro, our time don reach make we chop, this is what is happening.
People are already calling for the resignation or the sack of Akpabio?
Akpabio is my very good friend, I know him, he knows me, we have been good but we might disagree, I’m not a PDP member, I am not APC member. As far as I’m concerned as an individual, any of our people that stray to the wrong ideological camp becomes somebody that associating with them becomes difficult.
So, as it is now, what’s the way forward in the NDDC?
The way forward is that people should have conscience. If there is a new board that represents all the states, that should take precedent over selection of some handpicked people. Yes, I know the people that are there( I mean those they just appointed into acting capacity), maybe I will benefit. But I should not put my benefit over and above the interest of the generality of the people. Since 2015, I have not gone to NDDC. Anything that is associated with these people, I do Ben Johnson, I don’t want to be involved. If hunger catch me, make I die, my belly big, by the time my belly go small, eh go tey. Ulcer no go come now. You know goat, if him dey sleep self, him dey chop. So the one wey I don chop before, na him I still dey chop. Since 2015, I dey, we never die, so another one enter now, we no go still die. So that is it, that’s how I see it, The way forward is that let the right thing be done. There is a new board that represents all and they have been screened by the senate.
What would you say worries you so much about the Niger Delta?
My problem is that the Niger Delta has been abandoned for Ijaw people, that’s the truth of the matter. Ijaw people fight, they take the risk and others come up when it’s time to chop, everybody come, we are Niger Delta, we are Niger Delta, they bad mouth us, they say we are kidnappers, we are vandalizers, we are bad people, we are this one, we are that one. But when that one bring food nah, all of them say na we be Niger Delta, then they try to undercut us, they go to tell the people who are anti our people, that no be we dey do the thing, na Ijaw people dey do the thing. But when Ijaw people do, them wan come chop, that’s the biggest problem of the Niger Delta.
The Niger Delta people should come together and fight their battle holistically. Everyone of us, all hands on deck. That is it, because if we are not fighting. Look, from Goodluck till now, Niger Delta has gone back 80 per cent. We are not in the programme. Travel through East-West road, it took three hours from Benin entering Warri; three hours to enter Warri. That road was good when Goodluck was there; it takes you less than 45 minutes from Benin. Now you are coming into Port Harcourt. As you are entering Rumuokoro, that place, they put monkey bridge on the road, you have to pass that monkey bridge, nobody cares, and people are talking, that is in Niger Delta, that’s in Port Harcourt, that is in Sapele, that is in Warri, inside the townships, the roads are not good. What of the roads outside? The way Goodluck left East-West road, that is how it is, four years plus.
So, how do we redeem the NDDC?
The redemption of the NDDC is very simple I have said it. The law is not perfect but follow the law, when you follow the law, all these things will fall in place. People’s names have been sent to the senate and they have been screened. They are qualified, the people are from the various states, they have the right to be(in the commission as members of the board). Don’t take NDDC and put in the pocket of Amaechi, take NDDC put in the pocket of Akpabio.
People fought for it, the totality of the people fought for these things, and it belongs to the people.