By Constance Meju
Contaminated well source of water in a Riverine oil producing community in Rivers State – courtesy: Getty image
Although the Rivers State governor, Chief Ezenwo Wike has been dubbed “Mr Projects” an appellation in respect of numerous projects being undertaken by his administration, members of oil producing communities in Rivers State are far from being satisfied with the state government. Their grouse is that despite the quantum of revenue accruing to the state as a major oil producing state in the country, the oil hosts have been marginalized in the spread of projects and distribution of social services.
Ironically, the oil producing communities which by right should boast of development appear to constitute the least developed and often, most impoverished areas.
This position of the people was the outcome of a recent survey report on the disbursement, utilization and impact on concerned communities, of the 13 per cent derivation fund routed through state governments in the Niger Delta State. The report titled, “Report on Survey on the Use of 13 Per Cent Derivation Fund by Selected Niger Delta States was commissioned by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Port Harcourt with funding support from Ford Foundation.
It examined the utilization of the fund from 1999-2013 in four Niger Delta States-Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers State using as sample, 100 persons per state as study sample and focusing on the local government hosting the state capital and an oil host local government. For Rivers State the sampled LGAs were Port Harcourt Local Government Area and Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
The study identified poor or non-availability of social services like water and healthcare a major challenge especially in oil host communities. Although 69 per cent of the respondents indicated the existence of some level of healthcare services in their area, 31per cent indicated that the unavailability of healthcare services has been one of the major challenges in their communities.
For instance, while 22 respondents in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area indicated that a number of communities like Soku, Abonnema and Kula have very poor healthcare services and in some others, none at all, which normally drives community members to patronize traditional alternatives and private health delivery services, in Port Harcourt Local Government Area, the state capital, nine respondents noted that though heathcare is available, a number of the centers remain non-functional or ill-equipped.
The study also revealed that a large percentage of persons in the communities do not have access to potable water. Water is a fundamental human need with various basic and complementary uses such as hydration, food preparation, sanitation so its unavailability points to how much the state government is interested in the safety and healthiness of the people, the report noted.
77 per cent of the respondents indicated that potable water is not available and accessible in their communities, while only 23 per cent indicated that potable water is available and accessible in their area. Of the 50 respondents in Akuku-Toru LGA, 39 indicated that they do not have access to clean water. And in PHALGA where 38 of the 50 respondents indicated that they have potable water in their communities, they claimed that in recent times, that service has become unavailable and much of the pipe borne water available for domestic use available in the area is mostly not potable.
Sixty (60) per cent of the respondents indicated that the pipe borne water in their area is not potable which encourages people to install personal boreholes and wells. Another 16 per cent indicated that the pipe borne water in their area is somewhat potable while the remaining 15 per cent indicated that pipe borne water in the area is potable.
On availability and access to public transport facilities, 86 per cent of the respondents indicated that there are no public transport facilities while 14 per cent indicated presence of few public transport facilities especially in Port Harcourt City but most of these are now dilapidated and inadequate to meet the needs of the growing population.
Employment opportunities in the LGAs were also identified as lacking. Seventy seven (77) per cent of the respondents indicated that this very important social amenity which propels movement, business and other aspects of the economy is seriously lacking in their communities.
“Of all the social services sampled only education was generally acknowledged as available in the LGAs, but with a number of deficiencies. 64 per cent of the respondents noted that while primary and secondary education facilities are available in their LGAs, tertiary institutions are not available”, the report stated.
Even as Port Harcourt the state capital keeps expanding to accommodate influx of persons migrating from the rural areas and outside the state, investment in housing projects especially low-cost houses has been an area not addressed since the Odili administration. Most of the respondents live in rented apartments (47 percent ) and bungalows (28 per cent). Very few, just three per cent ,live in duplexes and one per cent in detached apartments. Another 10 per cent live in traditional rooming arrangements, three per cent share apartment with friends while five per cent live in other kinds of housing arrangement like batchers, tents, trailers and container houses.
This reveals the distribution of income level in the selected LGAs and also points to a deficiency in the state’s housing policies especially as a number of persons still live in batchers and traditional mud houses beside those who pay exorbitant fees as rent for their apartments.
On the peoples’ perception of the state government’s ability to provide social services, 83 per cent feel government lacks the capacity to provide social services. They (47 per cent of the respondents), identified corruption and inequality in government as major challenges of governance. Only 17 per cent ticked government good in the provision of social services and indicated that government at all levels are making all possible effort to ensure a better life for the people.
This implies that many persons perceive government as unable to provide social services essential to the people whereas one of the key functions of government is to ensure effectiveness of public institutions in the performance of various functions such as service delivery, and social protection system. When these services are inefficient or unavailable, the people begin to perceive their government as ineffective.
Discussions around the justification for and relevance of the 13 per cent derivation fund revealed a number of ambiguities around the significance, disbursement and utilization of the fund. Many of the study sample, 94 per cent, are aware that the fund is a percentage from the crude oil fund to states in direct proportion to the amount of mineral resources extracted from their communities.
While some agree that 13 per cent derivation fund is routed through the state government for administrative purposes only, majority, 41 and 34 respondents from Akuku-Toru and PHALGA respectively, pointed at an urgent need for the federal government to stop paying the fund to the state but instead, remit it directly to the concerned communities.
They gave as reason for their position, non-accountability and misappropriation of the derivation fund which they indicated has become endemic among state governments. 91 per cent of the respondents insist the derivation fund remains largely unnoticed in oil bearing communities in terms of availability of facilities and development, and 88 per cent identified the fact that the fund is not part of the consolidated revenue of any tier of government and thus creates lack of faith and a significant disconnect between the oil communities and government.
The feelings over the remittance explains the continued agitations for resource control in the region and collaborates the argument of scholars like Professors Jinadu and Joab-Peterside and Ako that , “despite the enormous wealth occasioned by the existence of crude oil in the Niger Delta, the people of the region have been subjected to indescribable hardship, through alienation, impoverishment, high cost of living created by the petro-economy, unchecked environmental degradation resulting in the destruction of the peoples’ source of livelihood, reason for persistent insurgency in the region”.
On perceptions on institutions specifically created to administer the derivation fund, felt presence of government especially in the area of development projects, agriculture, welfare programmes, assistance to small scale businesses, etc., 86 per cent of the study sample (42/44) confirmed there are no institutions or agencies established in the state by law to receive and administer the derivation fund accruing to concerned oil bearing communities.
Fourteen (14) per cent indicated that though there is no institution in the state specifically so designed, an agency like the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency, RSSDA with mandate to initiate development programmes in the state though its activities are close, registered little or no significant impact on oil bearing communities.
”Rivers State has something seemingly that is a caricature of an oil producing area development agency in RSSDA created during Rotimi Amaechi ‘s time.. However, unlike commissions such as EDOSOPADEC and DESODADEC, all that RSSDA could do was some sort of agricultural development, send connected persons overseas on scholarship and organize a couple of youth workshops. In the end the agency wasted a lot of resources and is now dilapidated”, an opinion leader in the area stated.
On awareness about government presence in their communities,46 per cent of the respondents agreed that there is some presence of government in their communities while 54 per cent indicated that government presence is largely not felt in their neighbourhood.
“For most of the respondents, although the state government has been able to establish social facilities and development projects in some parts of the state ,in terms of meeting the needs and aspirations of the populace, the performance of government remains rather unsatisfactory especially, in the area of employment opportunities for the local populace, youth development, welfare programmes for communities, agricultural development, opportunities and assistance to small and medium scale businesses.”
Fifty-eight (58) per cent of the study sample also indicated that the Rivers State government has performed unsatisfactorily in the provision of essential infrastructure, durable road network, state public transport system, etc.
With regards to employment, majority (62 per cent) against nine per cent indicated that the state government and concerned LGAs have performed inadequately in the area of provision of job opportunities for indigenes of oil host communities despite the enormous resources coming to the state.
In the area of human development, the Wike administration was rated low by an overwhelming majority with regards to youth and women development, housing, support for small businesses and improving the overall standard of living in the state.
Forty-eight (48) per cent of the respondents are very displeased that lack of social services, inadequate infrastructure and poor healthcare service delivery remain recurrent in the state. Another 29 per cent are somewhat displeased with the overall performance of the state government while eight per cent are neither pleased nor displeased. Only three per cent indicated being pleased with the performance of the government in fulfilling its pledge of delivery to the people.
Considered critical needs in the state from responses reveal that employment, social services and infrastructure rank most represented by 45 per cent while 44 per cent identified social services as most important followed by employment and infrastructure. The remaining 11 per cent of the respondents identified infrastructure as most important since it provides ease to all other needs.
For optimal management of the 13 per cent derivation fund, 67 per cent of the study sample will prefer a direct disbursement and absolute control of the fund by oil producing communities especially in the face of undesirable methods and high level improbity of the state in the use of the fund. From the pool, 24 per cent are of the opinion that only the state government can judiciously manage the disbursement of the fund without rancor and intergroup contestations, as would be found among the communities if left to manage funds accruable to them.
Those in support of direct disbursement are not unmindful of the need to touch all segments with the fund and suggest a sharing formula of 75 per cent to host communities and five per cent to non-host communities. Some of the respondents who were of the opinion that oil producing communities should have direct control of the derivation fund also indicated that as an alternative and considering the need for the state government to augment state revenue in order to meet the needs of other parts of the state beyond to the oil producing areas, , a sharing formula of 75: 25 per cent can be adopted and the state share of 25 per cent should be specifically directed to developing other parts of the state. Meanwhile, 88 per cent supported the creation of a 13 per cent derivation board made up of members of the oil producing communities and representatives of the state and federal government.
“One solution is to set up a commission to specifically manage the derivation fund for development. The commission should render quarterly accounts to the people of Rivers State. “The mandate of that commission will be to use transparently, the 13 per cent fund for the development of oil bearing communities and other affected neighbouring communities where oil activities extend to”
Rivers people want accountability. The state received a total of N1, 095,916,755,400.9 (almost N2trillion) between 1999 and 2014 yet not much could be accounted for in terms of development as social and economic amenities in the oil communities will aid rapid economic and social development of communities in Tai, Gokana, Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro and Akuku-Toru LGAs. The state is still bedeviled by high level of insecurity, massive infrastructure decay, widespread poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation and accounts for 36 per cent the country’s unemployed population.
There is hardly any government presence in most of the oil communities as social and economic amenities are grossly inadequate or mostly dilapidated. Consequently, the poor management of oil revenues in the region has become a potent factor impeding socio-economic development and has engendered the incessant militancy in the region.
Not surprisingly, government is perceived by the people to have failed to utilize the 13 per cent derivation fund for the original purpose of ameliorating the negative effects of oil production in their communities and the resulting staggering disparity between the huge oil wealth in the state and the evident poverty and state of decayed infrastructure, dearth of social amenities as well as the seriously degraded environment Niger Deltans live in has confirmed the region an example of the curse of oil.
Following these findings, the study recommended that concrete efforts be made by federal, state and local governments to improve on the provision of infrastructure and social amenities to the citizenry stressing that, “ it is the duty of government to justify its existence and legitimacy by meeting the needs and aspirations of its people”.
It stated, “The effectiveness and quality of public good and services affect how the citizens perceive the state as essential, indispensible, useful or otherwise”.
The survey called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency, re-examine the management of the 13 per cent revenue derivation fund by state governments and also consider creating a special agency to manage the affairs of oil communities working in tandem with the communities to identify their core needs and how to resolve them as a way of addressing allegations of gross misappropriation and poor management and quiet continued agitations on resource control.
Between June 1999 and December 2014, the Federation Account Allocation Commission, FAAC has remitted to the Rivers State government the sum of N1, 095,916, 755,400.9 from a total of N4, 136,817, 452,118.3 allocated to the region.