I was in Gombe in November 2022 when the discovery of oil was announced. The reactions that followed that announcement were two-fold. One of them was that it immediately sparked off a debate as to the true owner of the oil. The location where the oil was found was a border town between Gombe and Bauchi states. While the Gombawa laid absolute claims to the oil site, the other town said that there was no way that oil was going to be drilled at a nearby town and they would not benefit.
Another reaction was that there were references to the mismanagement of oil proceeds in the Niger Delta. During one radio programme, I heard the discussants say that it was really unfortunate how states like Delta had turned out, even with monthly allocations and a 13% derivation paid to that state from the federal purse.
For the short time I was to be in Gombe, I found out that issues of multidimensional poverty prevailed. In one local government, Dukku, there were reports that residents there struggling for drinking water with their cattle for mud water. The human capital is low, and among the ten people you might run into, only two would communicate in English. That notwithstanding, I was to find the people of Gombe to be very hospitable and very enterprising.
There is a reason why we introduced this Gombe background to this discussion. It is that while Gombe only just discovered oil, Delta State has been an oil-producing state since the 60s with nothing much to show for it. Owing to agitations concerning the poor conditions of a people who produce the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, and over the debilitating effects of oil spills in the region, several interventionist initiatives were introduced. They are the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the Ministry of the Niger Delta, MND, the Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission, DESOPADEC, and most significant of all, the 13% percent derivation formulae, enshrined in Section 162, sub-section 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
With all of these interventionist programmes, it would interest you to know that Delta state is on the same level of underdevelopment with Gombe state. A report by the Cable Newspaper of February 26, 2022, and citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the report stated that Delta state was among the nine states that received over N450billion in 2021 from the 13% derivation funds.
According to the report, Delta state received the highest allocation in 2021 with a total of N141.93 billion, representing 31 percent of the total revenue from the derivation account. Another report, The Guardian newspapers of Nigeria of 17th November 2019, with the title, ‘Oil-producing communities reek of poverty despite over N10t 13% derivation’, said that despite the receipt of over N10t from the 13 per cent derivation principle between 2000 and 2018, by Niger Delta states, the deplorable living conditions in oil-producing communities remain nauseating, raising questions about the application of such large sum by state governments. But by far the most damning commentary on the misuse of the 13% derivation funds is one by ACIOE Associates with the title, ‘Impact of the 13% Derivation Fund in the Niger Delta’, in which the report said that in an 11-year period, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo states received N55.87 billion, N1.33 trillion, N1.388 trillion, N1.16 trillion and N118.85 billion respectively. Part of the above report credits one Special Assistant to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Charles Achodo, as saying that “when 13 per cent is given, the governors share it among themselves’.
Just imagine it: with just a couple of trillions, Delta state can boast of many world class tuition-free primary schools. With another one trillion, it can build and equip hospitals for women who would not need pay a fee to access antenatal care, and establish programmes to build the capacity of youth and take care of the retired. With the monies that have been paid to Delta State from the 13% Derivation, Delta has no business being on the same level with Gombe or Kebbi or even Lagos. Delta should be Dubai of Africa. Today though, it is not. It is as if the tormentors of the Delta people are the Delta people themselves.