MR Joseph Abakederemo, convener South-South Reawakening Group, a socio-political and Think Tank for the Niger- Delta region, in this interview, speaks on agitation for regional security arrangements by several groups and persons across the country, saying it is not the way forward. He blames the myriad of problems plaguing the nation on corruption.
It is not healthy, people have been speaking, it has generated a lot of controversy. It is something we have to avoid. I don’t want to be a proponent of regional security outfit. Even the ones governors are creating have not been helpful.
For me, corruption is at the root of all this. The Nigerian Police are short-staffed. We still rely on the conventional way of fighting crime. Training for manpower is weak. The Police don’t want to think outside the box. Modern-day technology to track crime are lacking in the Police and other security agencies We begin with the Nigeria Police on internal security and at some point, the President can bring in the army. I ask this question, when has the Nigerian Police become a revenue generating agency? We don’t know the Police, the army as revenue generating agencies. Today, besides providing security for politically exposed persons and their families there are crop of wealthy Nigerians, not even wealthy, any Nigerian that stumbles on money somewhere will go and get the Police to provide security for them and their families and this the Police does not do for free. The same with soldiers.
You find two, three hilux trucks loaded with soldiers escorting one person. The escorts are not for free, they are paid for. I know situations where the beneficiaries pay as much as one million naira a month to the ogas in the office. Not to talk of the oil companies down South-South enjoying this too. You cannot find this in any other country except in Nigeria. I have travelled to many cities, I have not seen soldiers, and Police providing security this way for private individuals. So I come back to the question, who gives account for this money the Army and Police get for providing security for individuals? Do they pay the money to the federation account because they are institutions funded with taxpayers money? The answer is no, it goes into private pockets and the money is shared. This money runs into billions of naira every year. You see security men lobbying to be posted to the houses of individuals. They say they get free food, get some allowances from the ogas they protect; and have time to relax. At times you hear them say” that man I worked with takes care of somebody well, this other guy is not good”. So where will you find commitment for the job? I know a contractor in Port Harcourt, he goes about with two hilux trucks of soldiers and he refers to the soldiers as “my dogs.” What do you expect to happen in this scenario? Corruption is at the root of all. You hear a Divisional Police Officer, DPO when he leaves office, he says he has built shopping mall everywhere. It is also here you hear a police Commissioner retiring from office saying he has housing estates scattered everywhere. Where do they make the money from? Are you telling me, a Policeman in County, New York , Huston or Florida, a Sheriff in a County which is about the rank of a DPO will leave office and begin to flaunt properties he acquired in office? How will he explain it? It is only in Nigeria you see Police Sergeants, Army Corporal acquire properties while in office, nobody ask questions. So where do we draw the line? They have abandoned the functions of their job to pursue private wealth.
When the Amotekun thing came out, the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Seriake Dickson said he supported it. He too had created five security outfits in Bayelsa. Have they solved any crime in Bayelsa? You see how cultists operate everywhere, the sea piracy is high, pipelines are still being vandalized, people are killed everywhere, you see corpses on the roads in Bayelsa. So this security arrangement is not a solution. This was how they shouted in support of Civil Defence Corps, what has happened? The way forward is to restructure the Nigerian Police force. If the Police is structured we won’t need the army on our roads who are also collecting money. There must be checks, people must face the law for any crime committed. Whether you are Inspector General of Police, IG, DPO, Commissioner, making the law run its course is the issue that will bring sanity to the system. Don’t they have hunters in the South-West they called Agbekoya? What have they done differently? In those days, we knew what we called CID, if somebody pointed a CID to you, you had goose pimples. They sit in beer palours, motor parks for information. We have to develop finger prints technology, they don’t exist because there is no data base in the country. Now you see wives kidnap themselves for husbands to pay ransom, families do for families to pay ransom, children kidnap themselves for their parents to pay ransom. Any high profile kidnap in the country are insider’s job.
Values have dropped in families. How can your daughter come late at night, your son comes with a car and he is not working, your girl child comes with a phone of N300,000 the house and in all these, you don’t ask questions? Today it is coming to hunt everybody.
Restructuring, we still say no to it. If we minimize corruption, punish wrong doing, we will get there. Leadership must be held to account. This way we will not need restructuring. The individuals causing problem in the country today are not more than 1000 persons. What are we restructuring when we have not changed our behaviour? Look at the South-South, have we been able to sit down to talk? What stops us from creating an industrial zone in the South-south, have a central water system? If we can pump oil from Warri to Kaduna refinery, why can’t we have the technology to pump water round the Niger Delta region?
Lets go back to agriculture, the South-South has not been able to key into agricultural revolution in the country yet we have swamp everywhere. The rice we import to the country is swamp rice from Asia. Go to Bayelsa during the Shagari government they had the biggest rice farm in West Africa. what is the fate of the farm today. Rice can be harvested three times in a year before the flood. We from the South-South have not keyed into the rice farm yet we have the climate, the soil to plant rice. See the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Master-Plan , today nothing has been done on the document. Talking about the Niger Delta Ministry what have they done there? Development around the NDDC is not healthy even if some of us are doing business there it is not healthy. It is a shame that we have turned an agency that should be beneficial to everybody to something profiting some few persons. The stench coming out from NNDC is too much. Again, we can’t blame anybody from outside, we must blame ourselves. The wisdom of the President to set up an interim board, even if it goes against the Act we have to accept it because we need solution. Funds that have come to this region, I tell people is about one-third of the annual budget of the nation, so who is our problem? See the funds to the NDDC, 13 percent derivation, Niger Delta Ministry, Amnesty programme, the governors going to take loans from banks and billions from the capital market. With all the money from all these channels we are still where we are. We must look inward. All those that have held leadership position here must be called to account.
Yes, there should be. We are in a contraption. I still mention Timi Alaibe, the NDDC started having their problems after he left. A reputable audit firm was doing their audit when he was there. Since he left when did they do audit? It is so bad with NDDC, anybody who got position as MD wants to become governor of his state yet you are there as managing director of an interventionist agency. I suggest that all states in the South-South should contribute to what I call a Sub sovereign future funds, let all the states contribute a percentage to the fund that should be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria. NDDC can be part of the fund. The fund can be used as collateral for loans to fund big projects in the region. The Niger Delta Ministry is as guilty as NDDC. Since the creation of the Ministry what have they done, what can they pinpoint to us as achievements? How much has been expended? Senator Godswill Akpabio left other issues in his Ministry to be talking about NDDC is it altruistic? So let him go and look at his Ministry. Agreed that NDDC is in his Ministry but let him allow the people there concentrate, do their work. The Minister of Niger Delta Affair, Senator Akpabio should leave NDDC alone, let the people do their work. Look at the East-West road, see how bad it is. He should open up the region. The terrain is a blessing to us. Any task to the Federal Government? If the President wants to leave a good legacy, he must put his eyes on the Niger Delta, the Ministry and NDDC must be watched closely by the President Let him do the things he should do here ( Niger Delta ) to leave a legacy because the region is the backbone of the economy. He should work his talk. Let us do things differently in the region to bring peace in the region. I have intervened in several meetings to stop the boys from going back to the creeks. We have said never again will the boys disrupt flow of oil. We want to see development in the region, virgin forest being cleared for roads, houses, bridges, not just the Minister of Niger Delta gallivanting from one place to the other shouting about NDDC. We are also calling for audit of the Niger Delta Ministry , what have they done since 2007 they created the Ministry? We want to know. We want Senator Akpabio to sit down and work. Right now we are like in organized chaos. The governors are collecting security votes, they should give account. It is only in Nigeria you hear that they don’t account for security votes. Who says governors are not chief security officers of the states? Try a governor and see if the police will not come after you. Let nobody fool anybody in the country. The governors use commissioners of police very well. Corruption is what is destroying our country.