The member representing Oguta State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Henry Uzoma Ezediro, is unhappy over the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Imo State, particularly his constituency.
Ezediro, who is also the House Committee Chairman on Petroleum, Niger Delta Development Commission and the Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC) said that Imo has not received fair treatment as an oil-producing state.
In this interview with Oriental News he insisted that the Federal Government has not treated Imo State well, saying that as a state it has never produced the chairman or managing director of the NDDC since its creation.
He also said that the communities where oil has been found should be allowed to determine how the proceeds are shared and not the current situation where the Federal Government has claimed sole ownership.
He also supported the agitation for fiscal federalism, among other issues.
As the Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, ISOPADEC and Petroleum Matters, what is your take on restiveness of the youths in the oil communities in the state?
The problem is that the Federal Government has not done what it is supposed to do in the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta and the situation is even worst in Imo State, which is not regarded as a major oil-producing state, which is quite unfortunate.
For instance, the last time I visited the Minister of Environment, Hon. Amina Mohammed, to complain about the environmental problems in the oil-producing communities of Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema, her reply was that Imo State was not among the core Niger Delta, and that is part of the problem. Imo State is an oil-producing state because Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema; Oguta produces over 70 per cent of the oil of the state. And yet somebody is saying that Imo is not a core Niger Delta state. So, preference is only given to Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta states, which is wrong because oil producing communities in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema also suffer from environmental degradation and pollution. So, we all should be treated equally, even the NDDC Act states that the headship of the commission should rotate in alphabetical order among the nine states that are members of the NDDC. But Imo State, which produces a large chunk of oil for the Nigerian state, has been marginalised in the commission in terms of projects and headship of the commission. So, the Federal Government has not been treating Imo State very well and that is what has given rise to the agitation of the youths from Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema in the state. Some people call them militants, but to me they are asking for their due rights that have been denied them by the Federal Government. It is high time that government did the right thing and until they do that the restiveness in the oil-producing communities would continue whether it is in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema or Rivers, Bayelsa and so on.
You noted that Imo has not occupied the chairmanship of NDDC, but Abia, which produces less oil than Imo, has done so; what do you think is responsible for that?
Now, the other bigger oil producing states have all produced the chairman or the managing director and it ought to be the turn of Imo, but we have been told that Akwa Ibom is yet to complete her own tenure. So, we hope that when Akwa Ibom is done, it should be the turn of Imo State because we produce more oil than Edo and Ondo states.
What is you assessment of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission vis-a-vis the provision of roads and facilities in the oil communities?
A new board has just been sworn in and they have pleaded with the committee to give them some time to settle down.
What of the previous board?
The previous board during the PDP government failed woefully and did not do what they were supposed to do. During the PDP government my people were highly marginalized, and the 13 per cent that was supposed to be used to develop the oil producing communities were used for something else. We have written the new board to furnish us with the projects that have been executed by ISOPADEC since inception and the ongoing ones.
You are a member of the state amnesty committee, what is the committee doing to ensure that ex-militants do not go back to the creeks?
The committee, which is under the chairperson of Her Excellency, Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha, has taken off well. Those who were displaced because of the crisis in Ohaji/Egbema are back and the committee donated food items, mattresses and we have also commenced a free medical outreach in the oil communities and as you know about 1,000 of the ex-militants are going to be employed. Again, we have empowerment programme like skills acquisition and vocational training for youths in the area.
What about the oil companies?
Most of the oil companies operating in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema have failed woefully and they are the major cause of the problems that we have in the oil communities, they are only after huge profits and not to develop the communities. So, they have failed in their corporate social responsibility. I have had interface with them on how they can assist the host communities, which would equally guarantee their smooth operation, but they are not responding. Very soon, we are going to come out with a statement in that regard.
There has been call for 50 per cent derivation, what is your take on that?
Resource control has been the main agitation in the Niger Delta and the agitation is right because people who produce anything should have a major say. It may not be oil alone. The era of monkey dey work, baboon dey chop is over. The earlier the Federal Government realises it the better for peaceful co-existence.
NDDC recently awarded the contract for road maintenance in Imo State, but the natives of the oil communities have claimed that none of the roads from communities benefitted from the exercise, what is the true position?
The outgoing acting MD of NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, has made a complete mess of award of contracts in the state. Imo is in the NDDC because of Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema and a situation where road contracts are awarded without any consideration for Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema defeats the purpose for which the commission was created because NDDC is an interventionist agency for the oil-producing areas, and none of the roads from Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta have benefited. And to make matters worse, no contractor from the area was considered. In fact, I am calling for the cancellation of the contracts. The contract award was done without consultation with the stakeholders. So, I am calling for the cancellation of the contracts. You cannot award the maintenance of the control post and you say that you have awarded a contract to the oil-producing communities. This is the major reasons why there has been agitation in the oil-producing communities. The Sun