By Akanimo Sampson
Last week, Akwa Ibom State under the watch of Governor Udom Emmanuel, a former top bank executive turned politician, walked taller as the most outstanding performing state in the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria. The state was adjudged so by the World Bank in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Before this inspiring rating, the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), a civic group that is concerned with supporting the efforts of those affected in the Niger Delta area by extractive industries and weak governance through rights-based community empowerment, protecting human rights and demanding responsive governance, had articulated what they considered as the key issues facing the oil and gas region.
Despite the enormous energy reserves of the vastly polluted oil region, SDN says government and private enterprise meet less than 10 per cent of the energy needs of the area. The high cost of running generators and lack of sustainable alternatives is a significant obstacle to economic diversification of the Niger Delta.
‘’This energy poverty reinforces unemployment, limits social mobility and fuels militancy. For the people of the Niger Delta this is particularly grating as vast amounts of oil and gas are taken daily from beneath their feet and gas flares burn billions of dollars worth of useful gas over their heads that could easily provide electricity’’, SDN said on its website, adding that oil theft and illegal oil refining are seen by many as simply fulfilling domestic demand for fuel products that would otherwise be shipped abroad.
Poor democratic institutions and practices
Continuing, the group argued that the democratic transition in Nigeria remains incomplete. ‘’Weak and dysfunctional institutions lack legitimacy, while the vast majority of citizens in the Niger Delta are structurally excluded from democratic participation’’, SDN said, adding, ‘’unaccountable politics and lack of capacity of institutions to deliver development, protect justice, ensure due process and security have resulted in collective public frustration that at times contributed to cycles of violent conflict.’’
The rest of the issues the organisation raised include: Oil spills and gas flaring
‘’Poor operating practices, weak law enforcement and an active illegal oil economy contribute to hundreds of oil spills a year in the Niger Delta. This environmental disaster destroys traditional livelihoods, breeds mistrust and resentment and undermines the operational security of oil companies and Federal Government.
‘’Gas flared every day in the Niger Delta is equivalent to the daily gas consumption of Brazil. This multi-billion dollar waste not only leaves communities without effective energy solutions, but is the single, biggest contributor to CO2 emissions in Africa.
The utilisation of waste associated gas has the potential to address Nigeria’s acute domestic energy crisis and stimulate economic diversification and growth in the Niger Delta. In addition, the utilisation of flared gas to address energy poverty is an important part of creating an enabling environment in the Niger Delta. Provision of localised and reliable electricity will also reduce one of the primary drivers of illegal oil refining.
Poor governance and service delivery
‘’Essential services such as power, sanitation, healthcare and primary education have not been delivered to communities.
‘’Corruption, patronage and weak governance have led to underdevelopment and significant unrest. Over past decades, government has failed to meet the most basic needs of communities. A dominant patronage system ensures that government representatives do not have to rely on citizen led accountability or their own performance to remain in office.
‘’Hundreds of billions of US dollars of oil receipts have been squandered with limited public scrutiny and accountability. Governance failure has resulted in the substantial resources being squandered for personal gain, rather than used to improve health, education and developmental infrastructure.
‘’The patronage system, lack of transparency and accountability also affect private contracting and frontline service providers which results in corrupt practices around contract implementation and poor quality of services delivered. Performance of frontline professionals is plagued by high absenteeism, low motivation and insufficient quality.
Land clearances and displacements
‘’79% of Nigeria’s urban population live in slums. ‘Slum clearance’, leading to mass displacement and social dislocation, is too often the government’s response to the complex challenges of cities.
‘’SDN’s Urban Justice programme brings together communities, planners and politicians to create sustainable solutions that move away from policy based on mass clearance and demolition towards partnership-driven development.
Subjugation of women
‘’Women in the Niger Delta suffer from many forms of discrimination and exclusion. Their inequality in political, economic and societal sphere prevents them from achieving their full potential in promoting peace and acting as constructive agents of change at all levels of society. This is despite their unique and proven talents as peacemakers and community developers.
‘’In line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Niger Delta can become more stable if obstacles are removed that prevent the participation of women in decision-making and peace building processes and their needs, perspectives and experiences are considered in policymaking and incorporated into all stages of programming.’’
Though an award of Excellence in service delivery has been presented on behalf of the World Bank to the Governor Udom by his Kaduna State counterpart of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nasir El Rufai, at a ceremony quite recently, it is not clear whether Udom has adequately addressed the issues SDN raised.
Akwa Ibom women are still being subjugated, basic services such as power, sanitation, healthcare and primary education have not been massively delivered to communities. Yet, Governor Udom was lavishly commended for effectively partnering the international organisation for successful programmes implementation in Akwa Ibom. It may be the effective partnership of his administration earned him the rating. Whatever the case, the rating ia an invitation for the governor to do more in tackling the key issues SDN raised.
While the peoples of the state are hoping the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) go to work on those issues, a report on the financial year 2019 portfolio performance awards, issued by the State – World Bank Projects Coordination Secretariat however, indicated that the state emerged winner following Udom’s ‘’Extent of Implementation of post review contracts, Counterpart Funds Release, Procurement Plan implementation rate, as well as 2019 timely Procurement / Work Plan Submission and Clearance.’’
The World Bank team commended Governor Udom for providing enabling environment and support for World Bank project implementations in the State, noting that ‘’the award was based on excellence in service delivery as it pertains to all World Bank assisted projects across the country’’, and for timely/ successful completion of actions with International Financial Regulations and Audit compliance, Implementation Performance as indicated through disbursement performance, Results achieved and linkage and impact on state development priorities as well as the State Level Coordination Mechanism.
‘’We wish to appreciate Udom for his strong support and provision of the enabling environment. We also appreciate the commissioners of the lined-ministries and their respective permanent secretaries as well as all World Bank Project staff in the state for their hard work’’, he organisers of the excellence award stated, pointing out that the objective of the award was to spur states and World Bank partners to sustain momentum of project implementation recorded during the year.
‘’The goal was to contribute towards sustaining the momentum in implementation throughout the election year and ensure the Portfolio meets the Bank FY19 Disbursement Target by having states take action on the key actions agreed at the FY19 CPPR. This includes effective engagement with new state government through the use of Results briefs and the need to address systemic issues on the Portfolio’’, they said
Governor Udom was represented by the Environment and Petroleum Resources Commissioner, Ekong Sampson, a lawyer, accompanied by his Finance counterpart, Linus Nkan, and others.