The Benin National Congress, a Benin socio cultural group has taken its grouse against the Minister of Niger Delta to the BRACED Commission comprising of the South- South states of the Nigeria Federation- Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta while notifying several political leaders across board.
The body had earlier written to the Oba of Benin in December 2023 to apprise him of the perceived lopsided allocation by the Ministry of the Niger-Delta in its distribution of projects to be executed under the 2024 Budget.
In that letter the BNC Worldwide pointed out that all the 5 major projects under his Ministry were allocated/sited exclusively in his Edo North to the exclusion of other parts of the Niger-Delta Communities, especially Edo South Senatorial District – being the area with oil and gas production basin of the Niger-Delta.
The group has since called the attention of the Minister to their misgiving believing that it could have been an oversight but the response was unfavourable and unsatisfactory.
The document authored by the group highlighted the major projects included in the Federal Government’s proposed 2024 National budget favouring Edo North.For instance, N1.50b is allocated to the construction of 45km Okpella North, Ibie – Agenobode Road, Phase 1 in Edo State. The Federal government also allocated N800m for the construction of classrooms in the 9 Niger Delta States (global); design and construction of Ekperi Osomegbe Road, amounting to N545m. Other projects to be executed in Northern Edo State are the construction of Ihievhe – Ihievhe Ogbe Road and the N500m construction of Iyukwu – Atte Road in Akoko Edo, LGA.
According to the petitioners, “In giving credence to the exclusion of Edo South senatorial district, Senator Oyofo felicitated with the Honourable Minister for these projects given to his area, (Edo North senatorial district) but the same cannot be said of Edo South.
“We are dismayed to read that the Honourable Minister probably did this on purpose stemming from the justifications he had sought to give for concentrating all major projects within his constituency, which is not an oil and gas producing area of Edo State, knowing well that Edo State is Niger-Delta, because Edo South sits on the bight of Benin and other Niger Estuaries such as Gelegele, etc.
“In a publication in This Nigeria newpapers rhttps://thisnigeria.com/stakeholders-slam-n-delta-minister-for-siting-2024-edo-projects-in-his-senatorial-zone/ the Honourable Minister referring to our letter above, opined: “reacting to the development, a reliable source said the minister has noted that he has not made any mistake, claiming that he did it because all the previous ministers who headed the ministry started projects from their immediate constituencies.“
The source also said that the minister maintained that the likes of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, when he was the Minister, also did the same”.“According to the source, “I called the Minister, Dr Abubakar Momoh, and he confirmed that he sited those projects in Etsako, in Edo North, because he needed to start from his immediate community.”
While reacting to the letter on the same matter from Edo State chapter of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Honourable Minister said interlia: Edo State PANDEF Claims Debunked: A Detailed Look At Niger Delta Ministry’s 2024 Budget https://bushradiogist.com/edo-state-pandef-claims-debunked-a-detailed-look-at-niger-delta-ministrys-2024-budget/ Under linings ours“it is essential to address the concerns raised by Elder Asemota and his group, who seem to champion a Benin agenda to the perceived detriment of other senatorial districts in Edo State.”
“Firstly, we want to emphasize the critical distinction between the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Niger Delta Development Ministry. The NDDC focuses on oil-producing areas, whereas the Ministry encompasses the entire region, aiming to address comprehensive developmental needs”, the Minister explained.
“However, the danger lies in prioritizing a narrow Benin agenda over the overarching development of Edo State. This approach not only risks undermining principles of fairness and equity but also fosters division among senatorial districts”“We strongly urge Elder Asemota to conduct a thorough inquiry into the actions and initiatives executed by both the State Government and the Edo Representative in the NDDC”, the Minister added.
Notably, these representatives not only originate from Benin but are also situated in Benin. The inquiry should particularly center on their utilization of the direct derivation funds earmarked for the development of the oil-producing community in Edo State.”“
“Additionally, the ministry’s budget reflects the allocation of almost three billion naira to constituency projects by some members of the National Assembly representing Edo North.”
“This is a key factor contributing to the perceived concentration. If Representatives from Benin had pursued a similar course of action, they would have witnessed a substantial increase in projects within the Benin area, supplementing the existing developments.”
The group is peeved by the reasons given by the Minister for the supposed anomaly which includes that the Distinguished Senate President, H.E. Senator Godswill Akpabio, GCON acted similarly when he was Minister of Niger-Delta. That the NASS Members from his Edo North constituency area contributed their Constituency Projects whereas those from other senatorial districts, and in particular Edo South didn’t and where either stingy or not wise enough to contribute theirs to his Ministry.
The body also claims that the Minister accused the group of being parochial, tribalistic and dispendious in the use of the resources allocated to Edo State under the Oil and Gas Producing Areas contributions adding that “We are in receipt of a news media publication by the Honourable Minister in furtherance of his affront on the psyche of Edo South people.
The document which has been widely copied to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representative as well as the National Security Adviser,is signed by Amb. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo AmbP-UN,and Comrade Maxwell Uwagboe, President and Secretary General of the Congress respectively.
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, is the current Chairman of the BRACED Commission.