The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, has come down hard on some alleged unwholesome practices being perpetrated in the Niger Delta, saying the region has remained underdeveloped as a result of those practices.
According to the former Rivers State Governor, Niger Delta people were fond of demanding money in exchange for beneficial developmental projects.
He also lamented the willful destruction of government projects and public property by some elements in the region.
Amaechi cited an example of former Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed who wanted to initiate the clean-up of Ogoni land but was almost prevented from doing so by some persons from the area who demanded money in exchange for the clean-up exercise, despite its attendant benefits.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain made this known during the presentation of a book, “The Niger Delta Paradox: Impoverished in the Midst of Abundance,” written by Monsignor John Wangbu, a Catholic priest.
Amaechi said,“Niger Deltans are impoverished by themselves. The Ogoni man who broke crude oil pipe, is he not aware that there will be environmental crisis? The Ikwerre man who stops the man who is producing crude oil in one of Ikwerre communities, did he remember how much it costs the Federal Government and the Nigerian nation and the loss incurred for the number of days of stoppage of oil production?
“The private individual in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, who went to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to collect money. Did he think that the money he collected belonged to Agip? If the money belonged to Agip, he would not be given. The money he collected actually belonged to the Niger Delta. Our agitation is in private pockets.
“Calculate how much has come to Rivers State, including my administration, and look at the volume of development that has come out of the money, and see whether we are making progress. I am not saying the Federal Government is treating us in the Niger Delta well, but the funds that we have managed to get, what have we done with them? Do not blame politicians, blame yourselves too. The problem is not leadership, but followership. We must ask the right questions. It should not be a land of anything goes.
“A friend of mine was made the Minister for Environment and she wanted to take up the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for clean-up of the polluted Ogoni environment. She came to me and asked what she should do. In the Niger Delta, most people do not like development projects, but to share the money. I told her the first thing she would experience would be requests to share the money. I told her that if she smiled or laughed with the people, she would be in trouble. The first day she arrived, the people started demanding money, but she ignored them and she was successful.
“The current people (in HYPREP) are having problems, because they are listening to the people. Me, I will not listen, but I will do what is in my mind. I only want to be judged by God and the society. I want to live, knowing that my conscience is clear and I have satisfied myself that I have done the right things. So that I can sleep freely. My conscience worries me a lot.”