Taiwo, Abiodun-Oni, LL.B, B.L
The Niger Delta region is oil rich, a natural resource that contributes about 70 percent to the federation’s coffers yearly. States that make up the Niger Delta region (as well as other states designated as oil producing states) are configured by the Nigerian Constitution to receive much more in monthly allocations than other States based of the derivation principle of revenue sharing that was designed by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2000.
Naturally, because of the presence of oil in these regions, many multinational companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars with interests in oil have their foot in the region for downstream and may be upstream operations. One would expect that the presence of these kinds of companies would lead the way for unmatchable and sporadic development in the region like it we see alike in oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait and Dubai, however the situation as it stands is a far cry from the reality that it ought to be.
In a bid to coordinate the development of this region, the Nigerian government established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by Act of the National Assembly; Niger Delta Development Commission Act. The commission’s budget is fused into the national budget and the amount runs into billions of naira per year non inclusive of the international grants and other IGR sources.
In recent times, the commission has been embroiled in fierce finger pointing bordering on corruption allegations running into billions of dollars. An allegation of corruption at any point in past or present Nigeria definitely doesn’t seem strange anymore because even at the lowest levels of government corruption seems just like a stroll in the park. However, one thing that makes the NDDC corruption allegations coupled with the massive under development of the Niger Delta region stand out from the pack is that it stems from the place of premeditated mindset of the politics of prebendalism.
Prebendalism is a theory often attributed to Richard Joseph, an African scholar in the field of political science. The theory borders on the concentration of the ethno-clientelistic networks of patronage, corruption, and rent seeking. It is a theory that refers to patterns of political behavior which reflects as their justifying principle that the offices of the existing state may be competed for and then utilized for the benefit of office holders as well as that of their reference or support group. To state is perceives as a congeries of offices susceptive to individual cum communal appropriation so much so that the statutory & primary purposes of such offices become a matter of secondary concern.
The main objective for the establishment of the NDDC was for the empowerment and transformation of the lives of Niger Deltans, however, I make bold to state that the very foundation with which this commission was founded was faulty to say the least. While it is not my intention to state alternatives to the NDDC, I must mention that this fault stems from the formation of the NDDC from the typicality of the mindset of the politics of prebendalism. By this, I mean to state that the commission wasn’t really formed for the development of the Niger Delta as it is believed but as a result of malignant ethnicity, both as a mask for class privilege and as the most viable means of mass mobilization. It is simply a socio-political vehicle to ease the claims of neglect of what is perceived as a minority group rather than for developmental objectives.
The Niger Delta is governed by many State Governors, half a score State Commissioners, a Federal Ministry with two (2) Federal Ministers and a Commission with a Board headed by a Chairman. This complex web of administration is just for one region and this begs the question as to whether the endgame of the commission truly is development or merely to serve as a prebend through which the region appropriates governmental revenue and other material benefits to themselves, their constituents and kin groups.
The average Niger Deltan that has shown interest in the affairs of the region is more concerned with the lack of representation or absence of federal character in appointments into governmental office rather than on issues that directly affect the development of the region, an example is portrayed in the dead silence that surrounds the stalled billion dollar Ogoni land cleanup.
It comes as no surprise that allegations of corruption in the Commission is coming up at all because an institution built on the politics of prebendalism is bound to degenerate into political predation. This happens when the patron(s) of the prebend begin to over exert his/their powers and authorities for themselves and his lineage through identity politics rather than for the wider ethnicity so much so, that a patron who rebels against the system by not slotting his children and kinsmen into offices is seen as a dimwit. The implication of this amount to what is often referred to as patron-clientelism or neopatrimonialism where the interests of masses/ethnicity are completely forgotten and only those in the high ups of the hierarchy enjoy the benefits of governance.
The crux of the problem with Nigeria as it relates to the NDDC is the over politicization of social and developmental life, Nigerians are intoxicated with politics, the premium on political power is so high that we are prone to take the most extreme measures to maintain political power.
We have failed as a people to confront the fundamental structural challenges of our national togetherness and collective political life. Unless there is a jiggle up of our fundamentally flawed logic of governance, institutions such as the NDDC will continue to serve the interests of a few rather than the larger population it is intended to service.