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Why govt should make Koko, Warri, Sapele ports work, by don – The …

Professor Jim Nesin Omatseye, a respected voice in the Niger Delta, in this interview with BOLAJI OGUNDELE,  talks about the economy of the region, the power sector and the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Excerpts:

Economic Potential of the Niger Delta

It has been said over and over again that the oil era is over; they even say ‘nearly over is an understatement’. We’ve talked about agriculture, manufacturing, things that will give jobs to our children, but these aren’t working. First and foremost, government can facilitate creation of jobs, it can only do very little when it comes to creating jobs by itself. For instance, look at what is happening to our ports in the Niger Delta; Koko, Warri and Sapele Ports have been fallow for a long time, so also many other such facilities in the region. People who do business say it is far cheaper for them to import through Lagos than to use any of the ports in this area, but it is false thinking to think nearness is not an opportunity. Government knows what to do.

Security concerns with the eastern ports…

They haven’t given any viable reason because if it is security, the Nigerian armed forces, especially the Navy, should know what to do to ensure there’s no criminal interference in the waterways. Here is a naval base here in Warri, another one in Koko. Are we saying that these waterway robbers or criminals stronger than our navy that are based in these places? Definitely not, it is because government has not really given thoughts to what to do about these waterways.

Also, I think that the idea that the people in the region responsible for not developing these ports is wrong. If they say there’s a cartel responsible for keeping the ports and waterways unsafe, are members of this cartel also stronger than government? Will the cartel also prevent government from sorting out the issue of the shallowness of the channels, which has prevented big vessels and ocean liners from coming into Warri and Koko ports? These are things that can be done without anyone stopping the work.

Effect on lives of the people

Niger Delta is more or less the gateway to the Southeast, if ships can come to these ports and discharge cargoes and people can have access to them, I don’t see any reason why anybody will prefer to spend up to six or seven hours from Lagos to Onitsha to spending a mere two and a half to three hours from Warri to Onitsha or Nnewi or anywhere else in the east. If the ports in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri are all open and these ocean liners can come, jobs will be created as a result of the activities taking place in these ports. In the absence of this, our children have no work, they go to the university, get degrees, come back and there’s no job. The idea that they should create their own jobs is there, but how many of them have the wherewithal? Government should create the enabling environment in order for the children to get job and create some themselves.

The power sector

As a matter of fact and to say the least, although I know a tree can’t make a forest. When Fasola was brought in as Minister of Power, Works and Housing, we expected more, but the so-called DISCOs and GENCOs have all failed and the reason they have failed is because they have enjoyed the sort of monopoly that does promote competition. What we need now in a major town like Warri is room choices for consumers to pick DISCOs to subscribe to because when you are stuck with one, you have no choice. For instance, this is about the third week in Warri since there been no light. It’s only in this country that light will be taken for that long and nobody gives you an explanation why it is so.

Whatever the minister and those controlling the power distribution and generation companies are doing, I don’t know, but I know that people have been having to use huge sums to buy fuel to power their generators, causing more pollution to the atmosphere, leaving their food bad in the refrigerators and nobody is saying anything. For God’s sake, let these companies be disbanded ansd let there be a fresh bidding for the operation of the power distribution in this country, which will make room for real competition because if they know you have a choice of one or two distributing companies to make from then they will all sit up, but as long as we are stuck with one DISCO, the user complaint will continue. So let us disband them and create more so that customers have choices to make when it comes to power distribution. The one currently operating in Edo and Delta, to say the least, is useless. They are inefficient, useless and not worth keeping.

That light will be out for this long and there’s no explanation from anyone is totally unacceptable and the minister of power should do something about this because people are tired. When the Buhari administration came in many of us were happy, believing that something like this will not happen, but we are surprised at the level of inefficiency, the ineptitude that has taken place in the performance of people. It is poor and unacceptable and inevitably people are going to call for change because the change that we thought we’ll find is not happening. Yes, the president has done a good job of, as I said before, fighting corruption, but we still say that it’s only the small fries who are getting convicted and being sent to jail, no big fry yet. I agreed that the big money so far saved should be put into a project that we can all see and appreciate.

 President Muhammadu Buhari

At the heart of the problem, which confronts the president, is the tendency to lean towards the North most of the time in order to get advice and people to serve his administration. Frankly speaking, I believe that Buhari is an honest, straightforward leader; his intension to get rid of corruption is real and credible, but he has a weakness; he seems to always look towards the north as the only source of getting people to work for him. Forget the fact that there are ministers from all the states, some of those ministers don’t have real powers, especially those ministers from the South. Let’s take what has just happened in the Ministry of Health as an instance, where a director general was accused of doing whatever wrong he has done and a minister put him on suspension. Even without any declaration that he has been found blameless, he was reinstated by the presidency. This is someone who said he has no responsibility to the one who’s supposed to be his boss, being the minister. What kind of message is that?

The real power is with a small group of people around the president and that is the source of the president’s biggest failure. Nepotism is so glaring in the appointments and it’s been said to him many times, but he doesn’t want to listen. We have a lot of intelligent people from the north who can do a lot, so it is from the south. When he appoints people from the south, he puts people who will be insubordinate, who will come to say they have no responsibility to their boss, simply because they are from the north and they have godfathers within the cabal ruining the president’s image and administration.

The Maina saga is also there. If not for the pressure that was mounted on the president in order to get justice, Maina could have come back the same way that the man in the Ministry of Health came back. That is the glaring weakness of the president. If the president can manage to purge himself of this ethnic cleavage, it will solve a lot of problem. He’s a man of integrity, but he does not seem to believe that solution can come from outside the north. My suggestion to the president is to free himself from the cabal and be every Nigerian’s president. He has somehow been capture by the cabal, he needs to free himself from these people because they are the greatest source of his undoing.

If Nigerians are telling him to leave, it’s not because they see him, as a person, as being bad, but because of the wrong steps that the cabal has taken in his name. He needs to be decisive, axe these people and convince Nigerians that it is the no nonsense, incorruptible president they elected in 2015 that is still in charge. When I look at those running up and down that they want to replace him, I see no one that is as good as Buhari, but if he cannot free himself from these group of individuals from Daura or wherever it is these cabal members are from, Nigerians aren’t going to take it.

On the issue of fighting corruption in Nigeria, I want to go on record as saying that it is good that a lot of money has been recovered from alleged looters, but it is not good enough that no one of significance has gone to jail because it sends a wrong message; that if you are caught looting, all they’ll do is to recover the money from you and allow you to walk free and that’s in fact what promotes the impunity we are talking about.

Having said that, you cannot directly blame the president for that, you should rather blame those around him, whose job it ought to have been to replace those not doing a good job of prosecuting these accused looters.

Culled from :Here

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