The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has assured the oil producing communities of Niger Delta that the ministry would soon commence thorough investigation into the alleged misapplication funds accrued to oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region.
The Attorney General made the promise on Thursday when Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC led by Ogbebor of Warri Kingdom, Chief Mrs. Lori Ogbebor paid him a Save Our Soul (SOS) visit in his office.
Malami, who frowned at the level of deprivation and the alleged fraud going on in the area said he would order an immediate investigation and also ensure that all ongoing investigations about the payments and sharing of the accrued revenue to the affected communities are accorded due attention.
‘‘We will receive your petition so that we can accord it the necessary attention. I can assure you that we will accord it all the necessary attention it deserves to unravel the circumstances surrounding the matter,’’ he added.
Earlier in her address, Chief Mrs. Ogbebor, accused leaders of Itsekiri community and other oil producing areas of manipulating and sharing the oil revenue accrued to the people without recourse to the law.
She also alleged that the government had been depriving the oil communities their due in the revenue sharing formular through the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, DESOPADEC contrary to the law establishing the agency.
She therefore appealed to the AGF to intervene in the matter by instituting a judicial enquiry to unravel the alleged misappropriation of the funds meant for the development of the affected communities.
She also reminded the AGF of the ongoing investigation of the matter by the Nigerian Police Force and series of court actions she instituted on behalf of her people and appealed to the AGF to hasten the concerned government agencies to step up the matter in order to ensure justice is done to the people.
‘‘We are all aware of the life threatening incidents of oil exploration in the Niger Delta for which I am one of the leaders who fought and still fighting. Against the evil that the oil exploration has brought to our people.
‘‘I am ashamed and sorry to say today that some of these financial provisions have not been well utilized to the benefit of our people in the rural areas. ‘Chevron and Shell have signed different memoranda with us in the Warri Kingdom. For years, some of our leaders have manipulated, taken and shared the money among themselves with impunity,’’ she alleged.
‘‘I have personally witnessed the deaths of young people whom I was called to celebrate the day they were born. These men are callous and have no pity for their fellow human beings.
‘‘I have spoken to them and for years they have gone from better to worse. In the last one year, I have decided to fight back by calling on the different agencies of anti-corruption to investigate and bring these people to book and in many cases, corruption have fought back,’’ she added.
She lamented further that one of the cases was still hanging, which involves the investigation of Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC in which the police had been able to discover and freeze seven accounts with N2.1 billion and wondered why the matter was still inconclusive, one year after.
According to her, DESOPADEC is most guilty, given that it collects 50 to 100 million naira monthly from the oil companies on behalf of the oil communities. She explained that the Delta State government does not even pay the 50 percent which its own law stipulates.
‘‘We have come to ask you to ask the Delta State government to start giving DESOPDEC at least 50 percent of the proceeds accrued to them fro, the oil revenue, which its own state law stipulates,’’ she pleaded, insisting that the 13 percent derivation is meant to bring development of schools, clinics, hospitals, transportation and create jobs for the people in the rural areas and not for some powerful individuals in the government.
‘‘Sir, our people are dying and this is more than genocide. This evil is within us and among us. There is now a need for Federal government to intervene. The people cannot fight for themselves anymore because they are poor and weak.
‘‘The people are powerless against the Delta State government. Stop individuals from building empires for themselves.,’’ she lamented.
DESOPADEC is the 13 percent derivation which the Federal Government created to take care of the oil producing areas.
The money according to government is meant for the development of areas where oil production exist.
In a petition submitted to the AGF by the IRDC and read by the leader of the delegation, the group sought a proper investigation into the circumstances surrounding the discovered and freezed accounts with n2.1 billion by the police.
The group further alleged that the leaders of the community had gang stars who were paid to terrify anyone who dare to challenge them or seek to know how the funds were disbursed.
Also in the petition, the IRDC also alleged that some contracts were issued and never carried out. They further alleged that the perpetrators only engage in buying expensive cars that they cannot drive in the swampy retain and watch their kinsmen dying of hunger, disease and simple illnesses like malaria.
‘‘Some contracts are left at foundation level. Water projects are abandoned, clinics and schools are left to rot at different levels of construction,’’ they further stated.
The delegation earlier in the day had paid a courtesy visit to AIG, Ali Amodu (Rtd) to protest against the slow pace of the ongoing investigation on the alleged financial misappropriation by the community leaders and state government.
In her address at the visit, Chief Mrs. Ogbebor expressed disappointed at Nigerian police and wondered why the police would discontinue such a revealing and high profile case that is contributing to the endless crisis in the Niger Delta region.
She charged the AIG Amodu not to succumb or give up in the face of threats and intimidations coming for the forces, whom she sensed were working hard to truncate the course of justice in the matter.
According to her, some of accused leaders in the Itsekiri communities were boasting that nothing would come out of the investigation having contributed over N20 million to stop the investigation.
She informed the AIG that she and her people had been on serious threats by those fingered in the sleaze and beckoned on the police to safeguide them by bring their full weight and expertise in the investigation and conclusion of the matter.
‘‘W are afraid for our lives because those involved in this crime are threatening us. I brought my people so that they will see that I did not take bribe and also let them be addressed by the AIG as promised so that our confidence would be restored.’’
‘‘We are in court to frozen the accounts until police finish the investigation so that it can be used to provide basic facilities for our people. We have also taken DESOPADEC to court to ascertain how much was accrued to us and how the money was spent.’’
Responding, the AIG told the delegation that the investigative team had made a headway and unraveled some leads that would aid them unraveling the missing funds and also punish all the culprits.
He expressed shock that the case was stalled and frowned at the investigative team for not arresting those fingered in using unregistered names to collect monies accrued to the communities.
‘‘We visited many place as possible and still investigating. We visited many places as possible and still investigating. We have written to CAC and some banks, who have graciously responded. Three people were invited and their statement taken. At the end, a general meeting will be called,’’ said the head of the investigation team, Wakil.
While denying the allegation of compromise, Wakil challenged the group to proof the allegation with facts, insisting that the team was prepared to ensure justice to the affected communities.
While charging his men to step up the tempo, AIG AModu assured his visitors that he would leave no stone unturned to ensure justice is done in order to restore peace in the oil region and Nigeria in general.
According to him, if justice is done in the Niger Delta, Nigeria will no longer have crisis to contend with.
‘‘If the issue of Niger Delta is addressed the way it should, there will be no breaking of pipelines. We will not give up because what you are asking for is entitled to you. If this is not resolved, the fight will linger to future generation. That is why I want to see that justice is done
‘‘We are going to continue from where we stopped. Only justice will bring peace to every region in Nigeria,’’ he added.
The visit comprised youth and women leaders of Itsekiri Regional Development Council, who pleaded to the Federal Government to prevail on the matter to bring a lasting peace in the country, insisting that it is only justice that would guarantee a lasting peace in the oil producing areas.