The Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) can be described as a huge disappointment and monumental failure under the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
The agency which became comatose long before Governor Ifeanyi Okowa came to power in May 29, 2015 literally died in the intensive care unit when the governor assumed office. The ailing agency was managed under the administration of immediate past governor Emmanuel Uduaghan until 2015 when the commission, established as an interventionist agency for the oil producing communities in the state became a shadow of itself over paucity of its statutory allocation.
Since inception of Governor Okowa, the commission has nothing practical to show as an interventionist agency as it has been stripped of all its powers. Reports say the Governor who administered the money accruing to the oil commission had overtime being accused of channeling the 50% of the 13 percent derivation funds meant to develop the oil bearing communities to other parts of the state.
Reports revealed that the governor now spread the money to other developmental needs of the state, particularly to the Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency which he set up on assumption of office to give the state capital a face-lift.
Much funds meant for the agency has been reportedly channeled to the newly created Asaba Territory Development Agency, established by Okowa for the development of the state capital which the state government claimed was abandoned by successive government.
The commission’s management team headed by Olorogun Williams Makinde hardly pays staff salaries and allowances. Even payment of contractors’ backlog of projects executed for the commission has been a contentious issue since the commencement of the administration
Like her parent, the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission ( OMPADEC) of 1992 which later collapsed and gave birth to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Delta oil commission (DESOPADEC) is at the verge of being scrapped by the Okowa-led government.
The Okowa administration had alleged maladministration of funds accruing to the establishment by managers of the oil commission at a time and had reportedly instructed that he be placed in the know of any huge monetary disbursement of the interventionist agency which ought to operate as a statutory body.
The failing DESOPADEC which has no budget since inception of the administration is apparently subjected to the whims and caprices of Governor Okowa who dictates how its budgets are run: which contractor to be paid and what old project to be executed by the oil commission.
But while blames on the alleged underfunding of the commission are heaped on the governor, the main actors piloting the affairs of the commission like the Managing Director, Makinde, a protege of Chief James Ibori and Askia Ogieh, an ally of the incumbent governor, are also said to be in a middle of allegations of fraud and racketeering of the funds accruing to the oil commission.
DESOPADEC that used to be a beehive of activities has seemingly become a huge disappointment and a moribund agency to the host communities, not only because of the claimed underfunding also due to misappropriation of funds which are often used to settle political actors.
The failure of government to release the accrued funds is mostly blamed on fluctuation in revenue allocation to the state but understandably, the situation became worse off at a time the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers launched deadly attack on the oil installations in the creeks of the Niger Delta. These developments, which had huge affect on Delta state government allocation could excuse the state government for the underfunding of the agency at that time.
However, over one year after that ugly episode with Avengers hibernating back at its shell, and oil boom returning with attendant rejuvenation of the state economy, it is expected that DESOPADEC would have also been given a lifeline to return to its former booming state. But no! Okowa’s administration has either deliberately or intentionally refused to return the commission to its booming days.
Available data with BigPen Online shows that in 2013, DESOPADEC budget was N37billion, N39 billion in 2014 and N39 billion in 2015, yet the people of the oil bearing communities do not feel the impact of the agency. The recurrent expenditure of the agency is 47 per cent and only notorious for paying the management and staff outlandish salaries and allowances that are not in tune with economic realities.
Prince Maikpobi Okareme who earlier updated BigPen Online with statistics on DESOPEDEC wondered why the people are not feeling the impact of the interventionist agency, particularly under Okowa’s administration, lamenting that “it is only DESOPADEC that has first line charge in funding because the amount that ought to go to it is fixed by law.
Okareme and others have been battling the state government in court to enforce the 50% derivation funds that is lawfully the entitlement of the oil commission. The case which was instituted in 2014 with Suit No: HCY/16/2014 during the tenure of immediate past Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and former State Assembly Speaker, Rt Hon Victor Ochei had unnecessary long adjournments with about four different judges sitting over it under the period.
The law stipulates that 50 per cent of whatever accrues to the state from statutory derivation fund should go to the host communities. So far as the year (2015), on a monthly average, it is about N8 billion per month. That is to say we expect about N100 billion for 2015. The essence of derivation is to better the lots of oil producing communities, so for us to have accepted, in the interim, half of it for total usage. We are magnanimous enough”, Okareme was quoted to have said sometime ago.
BigPen Online concerted efforts to get government officials to comment on this report were unsuccessful as they failed to respond as at time of filling this report, understandably because the issues of 50% derivation as it concerns DESOPADEC is currently in court and would be sub judice to speak on it.
Finding shows judgment for the ongoing case is near.