By Constance Meju
Members of the Focused Group Discussion
When Bayelsa State was carved out of old Rivers state by the Abacha military government in 1995, there was jubilation and the people were full of expectations that development would be coming their way.
Many years after including 20 years of democratic governance, the yearnings are yet to be satisfied. Some had hoped that being a small sized oil and gas rich state, proper governance would have transformed the young state into a model state for others to envy. That dream did not materialize as with trillions of naira directed into the state coffer from the federal government and statutory allocations, Bayelsa citizens are still crying for basic social amenities while the government pursues in the main, high flying projects that do not directly impact the lives of the people, especially those from whose domain the resources that power both the state and nation, are derived.
Throughout the Seriake Dickson administration, salary payment for the essentially civil servant state was a huge issue resulting in the workers staging a protest at the tail end of his administration and even booing and chasing him with pure water sachets. That they were fed up with anything related to him was clearly demonstrated at the November 16 governorship election where the people voted overwhelmingly for a not so loved opposition All Progressives Congress party candidate.
The anger that followed the last minute annulment of that electoral victory over irregular documentations from the APC deputy governorship candidate is still simmering and to prove the position of respondents to a recent study which holds that the state government is incapable of pulling off any act that can change the poor state of affairs there, the newly sworn-in governor, Duoye Diri has just committed to the purchase of operational vehicles for himself, deputy and other officials at the cost of N2.9billion through a bank loan while hungry civil servants look on.
The APC has described the move coming barely three weeks into his government as, “scandalous, unsympathetic and ungodly”. The party said Diri was taking a loan at a time civil servants and pensioners in the state have not been paid. It said the move is a continuation of the frivolities of the Dickson administration which caused the people to reject the PDP at the polls.
Spokesperson of the party in the state, Mr Doife Ola lambasted the State legislators for approving the request adding, “This cannot be the government that the people of Bayelsa State deserve”. Indeed not. The people deserve a government that understands their needs, feels their pain and works to eliminate those pains. A government that resonates with them.
And what are their pains? Provision of basic social amenities like potable water, power, schools, hospitals, good road networks, transport, housing, business support, scholarship and employment opportunities, security, to mention a few. From available records,over the years, no government in that state has met those needs but the Seriake Dickson leads the non-performers.
A survey of state utilization of the 13 per cent derivation fund to four Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers State conducted by Kebetkache Women development and research Center, a women focused non-governmental organization working for inclusion of women in governance and helping women amplify their plight as burden bearers of the oil and gas extraction business has indicted the Bayelsa State government from 1999 to 2013 of misappropriating funds meant for uplifting the living standard of oil bearing communities.
The report titled, “Report of Survey on the Use of Thirteen Percent Derivation Fund by Selected Niger Delta States was validated in November 2019 at the Ford Foundation headquarters, Lagos. It was sponsored by Ford Foundation.
The research brought to the fore, the disillusionment among the people on the ability for government to effectively manage the fund that is specifically released through the state governments to cushion the harsh effects of oil extraction on concerned communities. The consensus was that the oil communities are not experiencing any impact as critical development programmes are clearly missing there.
From the focused group discussion came this comment:
“Community members do not have confidence in the state government on the management of the 13 per cent derivation funds to the benefits of oil and gas impacted communities in Bayelsa State. There is concern among communities that government has not been transparent and accountable on the use of the 13 per cent derivation fund, and therefore, communities should be allowed to take charge of the fund. In addition, there is concern that government is bent on suppressing NGOs/CSOs and other agencies that are advocating for an establishment of a commission to management. This according to them, is unjust and in absolute disregard of the people on a fund that is primarily allocated to develop oil impacted communities.
‘Equally, some participants expressed the view that the lack of transparency and accountability in the management of the 13% derivation by government shows that government is corrupt and negligent to the plight of oil and gas impacted communities”.
The expressed views of these opinion leaders drawn from the state, confirm the field investigations on this matter.
Bayelsa State is situated in the heart of the West African rain forest in the core Niger Delta region, between Delta and River State. The state was formed in 1996 from part of River State and is thus one of the newest states of the Nigerian federation. It is the fourth oil producing state in Nigeria being the source of about 18.07 per cent of oil in Nigeria. This state is home to Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area, where crude oil was first discovered in Nigeria in commercial quantity in 1956. Most of its land mass is wetland with myriad of creeks, rivers, and over three quarters of its land area is covered by water mostly below sea level.
Bayelsa State, is a major oil and gas producing state in Nigeria and the headquarters of the country’s fourth largest ethnic group, the Ijaws. The state has eight local governments and a population of 2,278,000 persons.
The state lies almost entirely below sea level with a maze of creeks and mangrove swamps with a moderately low land and so, it is a regular host to floods and coastal erosion.
It is the smallest sized state but despite this relatively small size which should have made development easy and fast, being a major contributor to the country’s wealth and high recipient of the derivation fund, relatively little has been achieved. It also has one of the largest gas reservoirs and crude oil deposits in Nigeria and produces about 40 per cent of the onshore crude oil in the country.
Owing to its it’s assorted mineral resources and crude oil, petroleum production has exposed most the state oil producing commodities to adverse socio-economic , environmental and political consequences, causing continued agitation for fair and reasonable allocation of revenue from oil proceeds from the area.
Yenagoa and Ogbia local governments were chosen for this study on the disbursement and impact of 13 per cent derivation fund on oil communities in the state. Fifty (50) respondents were chosen from each of the LGAs and 10 communities-Akudonu-Egbebiri, Gbarantoru, Ikarama, Opolo-Epie, Koroama, Otuabagi, Otuesega, Oruma, Elebele and Imiringi.
In Ogbia LGA, 46 questionnaires were returned and 50 from Yenagoa, making the total sample figure 96. In addition,32 consciously selected persons were engaged in focused group discussions in each LGA. The focused group discussions were used to collect primary data and research materials generated information to strengthen data from the field.
Age range of the study sample ranged from 18-35 years (28.8per cent), 35 years and 65 (62.5) and 16.7 per cent aged above 65 years. This implies that the study sample was essentially mature, largely knowledgeable and conversant with the range of issues covered by the survey.
Respondents were mainly educated with 60.4 per cent having attained education above secondary school level. Respondents were mainly civil servants (28.1 per cent), private sector employees (8.3 per cent), fishing and farming (22.9 per cent), self-employed (10.4 per cent), students (8.3 per cent) and unemployed (11.5 per cent).
For shelter, 25 per cent live in bungalows, 13.5 per cent in demi-detached apartments, another 2.1 per cent in detached homes;19.8 per cent still reside in traditional apartments such as mud houses and huts 28per cent in rented apartments while 3.1 per cent share apartments with friends. Among them, 72.9 per cent have up to 10 dependents, 14.6 have between 10 and 20 dependents while 12.5 per cent have more than 20 persons depending on them financially and otherwise. 70.8 of them have no secondary source of income. Sixty four males and 32 females made up the respondents.
The study sought to ascertain the extent the communities benefit from both the state and local governments, the availability of essential social services such as electricity, potable water, public transport services, healthcare and other necessary infrastructure within the study scope. It found that in the area of electricity supply, only 30 per cent of the study sample have access to regular power supply; 62.5 per cent of the respondents agreed that there is electricity supply in their communities while 37.5 per cent indicated no electricity in their domain.
Those who indicated having access to electricity, however noted that supply is irregular (63per cent) as they can stay for weeks, sometimes months before power supply is restored. Only 25 per cent indicated having regular power supply in their area.
Core identified problems with electricity supply in the young state were absence of electricity installations such as transformers, 15.6 per cent, electric poles,3.1 per cent while 45 .8 per cent pointed out that even where there are transformers and electric poles, some still rely on alternative sources such as personal generators,, community power plants and lamps. 36.5 per cent rely on community generators, 22.9 per cent on rechargeable lamps and locally made lanterns for energy. Only 29.2 per cent rely solely on electricity distribution companies.
A major challenge in the state is water. Though surrounded by water, not much of this is good enough for healthy living. An overwhelming majority of the respondents, 64 per cent, stated that potable water supply is not available in their area while for 35.4 per cent potable water is available in theirs.50 per cent of the respondents indicated that water supply is not available in their area and where it exists, it is not potable. 20.6per cent indicated that the water in their area is somewhat potable, 23.9per cent agree that the pipe borne water in their community is potable.
Bayelsa State seems to have done better in healthcare as 62.5 per cent of the respondents affirmed that health services are available in their communities. Respondents in Akudonu-Egbebiri, Opolo-Epie, Ikarama, Otuesega and Oruma indicated there are health centers and maternal healthcare services in their communities although most of them are not well equipped or fully functional. The remaining 37.5 per cent indicated there are no health care facilities in their communities. A number of respondents in Gbarantu, Ikarama , Elebele and Imiringi communities indicated they lack well-equipped healthcare facilities in their area and as a result, most persons patronize private hospitals or traditional health providers.
The study also investigated availability and access to other essential facilities such as public transport facilities and educational services. An overwhelming 88.5 per cent of the study sample against 11.5 per cent, indicated that neither the state nor local government has been able to provide any form of public transport services making it difficult for community members to commute from their homes to their places of work or move their goods and services easily.
Higher educational services (tertiary) though important for human development, are not available or functional in most communities in the selected LGAs except for primary and secondary schools built by the state government many years ago. The Dickson administration declared a state of emergency on education at some point in the era but the report seems not to have seen proof of effect of this.
On employment opportunities, 84.3 per cent indicated scarcity of opportunities and where such exists such services are usually blighted by discriminatory practices. Only 38.5 per cent agreed that the state provides employment opportunities for the people while 46 per cent indicate the process through the state government is usually discriminatory and shrouded in secrecy. 92.7 per cent of the respondents are in agreement that even though their communities are oil producing, there is little provision for the employment of their people. A major cause for agitation by oil host communities has been to clamour for engagement in the oil companies operating in their areas.
On their perception of government’s ability to provide social services to the people, only 6.25 per cent of the respondents accept that the Bayelsa State government is making effort in that direction. The larger community, 93.75 per cent clearly stated that the state government lacks the capacity to provide social services to the people.
Among the respondents, 13.5 per cent claimed systematic corruption is responsible for government inefficiency,21.67 per cent blamed inequalities in the levels of government making it difficult for local governments to provide social and other essential services.
Interestingly, communities don’t ask for bullet proof vehicles, airports or fly overs, the preferred project choice of the state governors. On needs in the communities, 95 per cent listed electricity, education, employment, potable water, health care and transport services as critically needed in the communities.
On community knowledge of the derivation fund, the study discovered that almost everybody, 99.6 per cent knew about the fund; only 9.4 per cent of the respondents were unaware. 92.71 per cent also knew the fund was routed through the state government for administrative purposes while only 7.29 per cent do not know why the fund is routed through the state government.
An overwhelming 97.92 per cent affirmed that there is no specific institution or agency created by the state government to manage the fund while 7.2 per cent believe the NDDC and the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, BSOEC may have 13 per cent derivation fund management as part of their mandate but none of the two intervention institutions have the derivation fund as part of its responsibilities.
Definitely unhappy with the way the fund is being managed by the state, majority of the respondents (79.1 per cent) indicated preference for stoppage of routing the fund through the state government following a conviction that the state has misappropriated the fund since effects are not being felt in the oil communities.
76.04 per cent of the respondents against 21.8per cent feel routing the derivation fund through the state government underscores a loss of faith and a significant disconnect between the state government and the oil producing communities. 78.13 per cent of respondents against 21.87 per cent indicated that the 13 per cent derivation fund is not part of the consolidated revenue of any tier of government and therefore, should not be included in the allocation going to the state. Some called for the establishment of a special commission to receive and manage the fund.
There was a clear consensus among community members on the absence of a commission or agency responsible for the management of the 13% derivation in Bayelsa state. A FGD participant Dr. Tari Dadiowei, from Obunagha community in Yenagoa Local Government Area stated: “Many CSOs have advocated for the setting up of a commission to manage the 13 per cent but the state government did not yield to their request” and another participant, High Chief Shedrach Ogiriki Ere from Gbaranturu community noted:
“Whilst the state government receives the 13% fund from the federal government it was expected that, the state government will in turn set up a commission to manage the fund for the benefits of oil producing communities but refused to do so. We know that such a body would carry out a need survey in oil producing communities in a bid to provide development needs of the communities. Despite the fact that, NDDC, Local Content Development and Monitoring Board and the Niger Delta Ministry was established for the development of the area, there is no development impact in the oil producing communities. In fact, the state government is using the entire 13 percent derivation fund as revenue for the state government and plans its budget on the 13 percent without special consideration to oil producing communities”.
On perception of government presence in the oil communities, while 38.54 per cent agree there is some government presence in their communities, 61.46 per cent say there is no government presence in their areas, particularly, in the area of provision of welfare services and infrastructure. 77.1 per cent noted that while the state government has over the years been able to provide some requisite infrastructure for the people, the performance of the Dickson administration was very unsatisfactory. Only 7.3 per cent and another one per cent affirmed that the performance of the state government in this regard, has been satisfactory.
On employment opportunities , youth and women development as well as agriculture, 81.36 per cent ranked as unsatisfactory, government performance with regards to oil communities.
“There are no jobs in the state-this explains why most of the people rely on government work (civil service), royalty from companies and politics for their livelihood. If the state government doesn’t pay salaries now you will see that everything ceases in the state. “You will hear market women , landlords, students , all lamenting,” a focused group participant commented.
Of the 96 respondents, 74 (77.1 per cent) indicate the state has performed very unsatisfactorily in the development of local agriculture, 73 (76 per cent) that the state government failed providing assistance to strengthen the small scale industry in the state, making it difficult for citizens to even become self-employed.
Scoring government low on women and youth development, 77.1 respondents ticked government performance very unsatisfactory on women matters, and another 80 per cent as unsatisfactory on youth development. Only a minute 5.2per cent, five of he 96 respondents accept that the state government has performed satisfactorily.
Further assessment revealed the state government as inefficient, insensitive and irresponsive to the needs and welfare of the citizenry. 82.3 per cent of respondents are very displeased with the government’s performance. Their position stems from the challenges of poor social services in terms of healthcare, education facilities, and the provision of potable water and employment and other services necessary for improved living standard. And the Governor Diri high car project against the welfare of the people validates this finding.
Most of the respondents indicated that the Seriake Dickson administration left a lot to be desired in terms of infrastructural development, employment and social services, considered necessary for living in Bayelsa State. 43.8 per cent of the respondents highlighted social services such as healthcare, education and potable water as critical needs crying for attention in their communities while for 19.8 per cent, priorities include, employment, considered urgent before social services and infrastructure.
For 36.5 per cent of respondents, infrastructure will create needed environment for private businesses to thrive as well as open up employment opportunities even ahead of government.
Based on the evident lack of many social and infrastructural amenities in the two oil communities, many indicated deep dissatisfaction with the standard of living in the oil rich state. Only a minimal 2.1 per cent indicated satisfaction with the level of living in the state. 52.2 per cent are somewhat dissatisfied, 17.7 per cent are very dissatisfied.
With regards to the management of the derivation fund, majority want the federal government to discontinue remittance of the fund to the state government based on lack of accountability, misappropriation of the fund and the evident disconnect between the remitted fund and development in the oil communities.
As an alternative measure, 87.5 per cent against 11.5 per cent want the federal government to disburse the fund directly to oil communities. According to the researchers, “This perception validates the agitations from various quarters in the Niger Delta that concerned communities should govern the derivation funds accruable to them”.
77.1 per cent of the respondents believe setting up a 13 per cent derivation board or commission made up of members of the oil communities, representatives of the state and federal government, can sole to a large extent, the issues generated by the current poor governance of the special fund. Only 5.3 per cent of the respondents disagreed with this position.
From available records, the nine states of the Niger Delta have received N44.68 trillion from the Federation Account Allocation Commission, FAAC as 13 per cent derivation revenue from June 1999 to December 2018 and Bayelsa State alone, received from this, N856,149,959,813.9 during the 19 years period, that is beside the monthly statutory allocation and its internally generated revenues. Yet the state is shopping for loan.
Despite this huge financial sum i injected into the state, the very communities the money was meant to transform remain largely excluded and highly in need of basic social amenities that every community should enjoy from government regardless of resources in their domain.
Overall, the 13 per cent impact survey revealed the general perception by the people that the state government is misappropriating fund meant for developing concerned communities, especially, as the impact of the fund is significantly unnoticed in the areas.
A general perception of the respondents is that in spite of the almost N1trillion that has been remitted to Bayelsa State as derivation fund between 1999 and 2018, from which the state has initiated some infrastructure projects such as primary, secondary schools and two universities, a state polytechnic and college of education, provision of health facilities in some parts of the state, investments in agriculture and roads, among others, these projects are very absent in most oil producing communities. Also, facilities that will improve life and make the community people feel a part of the oil the country derives revenue from, are grossly absent in their domain. Such projects include, utility network, residential, commercial and industrial access to water and sewage systems, sufficient power generation and distribution, road networks linking rural and city centers, mass transits, affordable housing and many more.
Not surprising therefore, the study noted deep frustration among Bayelsans arising from the fact that despite its wealth and small population, the state is still suffering from massive infrastructural decay, widespread poverty, increasing community and general insecurity, mounting unemployment and serious environmental degradation among other challenges whereas, its governors have received almost a trillion within the period under review. Nothing tangible has been done to change the narrative from a poor state to the dreamt thriving model others should emulate.
Thus, governors of Bayelsa State have failed to utilize the resources provided for the development of the state and communities as seen by most respondents, view as unfair and unjust, the process of sharing and utilizing funds specifically meant for the improvement of the lives of the people concerned.
Consequently, the survey recommended that the Bayelsa State government must make genuine effort to resolve the recurring underdevelopment challenges in the state’s oil producing communities as well as other parts of the state.
It charged the state government to take cognizance of the damage to livelihood from oil activities in the affected areas and employ all possible measures to lessen the negative impact as well as ensure provision of essential infrastructure and social amenities to raise the standard of living in the state.
It also charged the federal and other governments revisit the present mode of disbursement of the 13 per cent derivation fund taking into consideration, need to allow host communities govern the proper use of the fund through the creation of a commission to ensure proper application of the fund.