Some leaders of the South-South region have carpeted the Katsina State Governor Bello Masari for accusing leaders of the oil-rich zone of having squandered 13 percent oil derivation to them over the years.
“For six years, we had a Niger Delta president. Let us see what difference he made in six years when he was President. When the excess crude account became pocket money, how much of the money went to the Niger Delta?” Masari said.
Reacting to the statement, the South South leaders have challenged Masari to show what the North used its hold on political power to achieve for the past 40 years.
Spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare said, “That statement is a careless statement. The principal question is what have the leaders from the north who have ruled Nigeria for the majority of years done to eradicate the endemic poverty that is in the region? Bad governance is not localised in the Niger Delta, it is a Nigerian problem. “If the Niger Delta is not developed, it is simply because there has been bad governance in Nigeria and not exceptional to Niger Delta leaders.”
Also, Ayemi-Botu, former national chairman of the Association of Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities of Nigeria and Paramount Ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Charles Ayemi-Botu, said: “No right-thinking person will say that money which came to Niger Delta ended up in the pockets of Niger Delta leaders. Which leaders is he talking about and how did the money end up in their pockets?
“Are they the governors of the states of Niger Delta, do they supervise the Ministry of Niger Delta or the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC? How did the money come to them, are they contractors?
“You do not sit down in Katsina and make unguarded statements that is why I said that no right thinking man makes such statement. I think he should be examined properly. “Now, let me tell you, the money that comes to the region does not end up in the pockets of Niger Delta leaders, let that point be made clear. Secondly, a governor should not make uncomplimentary remarks without facts.
“What is his problem? Has he forgotten that in the time of agro-economy, the north took 50 per cent derivation? Now the Niger Delta states are collecting just 13 per cent derivation and he is making noise.
“Since 56 years of independence of the country, the north has ruled the country for 40 years and northerners own more than 83 per cent of the oil blocs in the Niger Delta. What is the yardstick for that?
What he is saying is arrant nonsense because the wealth of this nation, as it is today, is in the hands of the north. As the governor of Katsina State, does the allocation that comes to his state go to the leaders of the North?
“If that is the situation, he should let us know how, because that is not how the governors of Niger Delta states disburse their allocations.
“We, leaders of Niger Delta, are shouting that allocation to the region is too small and somebody is saying that the money is in the pockets of the leaders.”
In a similar light, a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and South-South leader from Edo State, Brig General Don Idada Ikponmwen (retd.) said: “I want to tell the Katsina governor that what we have at hand is not a Niger Delta problem; it is a national problem and we should address the issue, not running away from it or diverting attention.
What is he blaming Niger Delta leaders for? The leaders saw the problem of bombing by militants and the devastation it was causing the nation. They conveyed a meeting and asked the militants to stop the havoc; they listened to the voice of their fathers and we are now talking about proper dialogue with the federal government.
“Saying that people elected into office shortchanged their people is a known phenomenon in the country, which the EFCC is dealing with among serving and past governors, and it is not peculiar to Niger Delta.
“I am at a loss why he is berating Niger Delta leaders. Are we the governors, I am aware that more than half of the 15 governors the EFCC is investigating now for graft are from the north.
“It is clear to Nigerians that Niger Delta leaders are not in support of corruption and we are happy that the present government is fighting corruption. Let all the corrupt leaders be investigated, whether from the Niger Delta, North or South-West, and prosecuted if there is evidence.
“Nobody should drag us back with such allegations, it has been the trend from misguided northern leaders over time and let me inform you that stealing money is not peculiar to any region, it is pervasive in this country. So, let him say something else, instead of beating about the bush.”