From Sunny Nwankwo, Umuaha
Leaders of Ukwa, the only oil-producing area in Abia State, have called for the community’s representation on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board.
They believe that a lack of effective leadership of the interventionist agency is responsible for its poor performance.
The community leaders believe that individuals from outside the oil-producing areas control the NDDC board appointments without ensuring that key stakeholders are represented.
An Ukwa community leader, Chief Chukwumeka Nwamuo, urged the government to consult widely to ensure that all oil-producing communities are carried along in NDDC board and management appointments.
To him, the crisis of corruption in the commission would not have occurred had the appointments been made with the input of critical stakeholders in the oil-producing areas.
Nwamuo believes NDDC’s performances in Abia would improve significantly if the government considers Ukwa people when appointments into the Commission are made.
According to him, a sense of ownership of the land from where oil is produced would deter appointees from frittering away the people’s resources.
He said: “It is very clear that when someone knows that his or her people influenced his or her appointment into the Commission, there is no way his or her attention would not focus on pleasing the people.”
A woman leader, Mrs Caroline Nwankpa, said major NDDC contracts are awarded to outsiders instead of the qualified indigenes.
She said: “The contracts are given to those people who facilitated the appointment and their cronies.
“I know that if contracts are awarded to our people, one of the aims of the Commission, which is to empower people like us, would have been achieved.
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“Imagine that since the discovery of oil in our place in 1958, there has not been any big project executed by the government for our people.
“I am convinced that once the government gives room for our people to contribute to the choice of the Abia State representative on the board of the Commission, things will change for the better.”
Another leader, Kenneth Nwarie, decried the state of infrastructure in an area that has been producing oil for over 60 years.
He said: “Our youths have remained calm in the face of the bad roads, bad schools, no good hospitals, but the day they resort to violence, the government will bring out armoured tanks and security men to quell the situation.
“The government has done well by establishing the NDDC and the Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC), but they should ensure that the agencies deliver on their mandate.”