DESOPADEC and the Fifty Grass Cutting Machines
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
The recent news report that Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESPADEC) donated fifty (50) grass cutting machines, to the good people of Okerenkoko community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South Local Government of Delta state, has again shows an agency that is yet to take control of, or improve the quality of its administrative energies regardless of eternal pressure they face.
More than anything else, the donation, as subsequent paragraphs will explain, brought to the fore DESOPADEC’s reluctance to appreciate development plans and reform programmes from a need-based perspective.
For a better understanding of the piece, DESOPADEC is an agency created by the enabling Act in Delta state. The Act establishing DESOPADEC, among other provisions stated that the commission must, secure 50% of the 13% Oil Derivation Fund accruing to Delta State government and the received sum, must be used for rehabilitation and development of oil-producing areas of the state as well as carry out other development projects as may be determined from time to time.
Going by media reports, the DESOPADEC commissioner who was represented by Mr. John Anegba, his Personal Assistant, noted that the donation of grass cutting machine to the community was statutorily captured in the commission’s 2021 budget; adding that the project was principally influenced by the Commissioner representing the Ijaw ethnic group in DESOPADEC board. He therefore encouraged the community to take good care of the equipment as it is only in that manner that the Commission will be encouraged to do more for the community.
Viewed peripherally, some, particularly those that are not conversant with the Okerenkoko community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South Local Government of Delta state where the grass cutting machines were donated, may be tempted to believe that the donation was a right step taken in the right direction. They may see nothing wrong with the donation. But in the applied sense of it, and especially for someone that is familiar with the aforementioned community, the decision to donate these machines qualifies as a misguided priority.
In fact, there is everything wrong with the development.
For instance, there is glaring evidence which points to the fact that the community was neither consulted nor carried along before the decision was made.
This piece holds the opinion that the donation failed Need assessment stipulations.
The words of the youth leader from the community support this assertion. Reacting to the development, the youth leader who spoke on behalf of the community among other things, said; we heard about skill acquisition that is ongoing. We are appealing to the Commissioner to at least create some avenue for those skill acquisitions for our ladies, for the youth in this community so that they can go out there and learn skills to back themselves, put themselves in order.”
From the above comment, one thing stands out; and that is the fact that if given the opportunity, these knowledge hungry youths in the community who will provide the future leadership needs of the country, would have opted for skill acquisition. Instead of grass cutting machines, the youths in the community would have preferred access to good schools where they will learn and compete with their peers across the globe. They were not just asking for more, rather, they were asking for something different and more beneficial to their future.
But because of the non-participatory leadership style in DESOPADEC, each time communities ask for bread, the agency makes ‘stones’ available and in a similar manner, when the communities ask for fish, DESOPADEC provides a ‘snake’.
This is terrible!
While this ugly situation ‘blossoms’ in the coastal communities of Delta state, the truth remains that if we look hard enough at the moment, we shall as a people discover that the challenge confronting the region is not too difficult. Rather, the challenge flourishes because agencies such as DESOPADEC and their administrators have routinely become reputed for taking decisions that breed poverty.
Without any shadow of the doubt, the Niger Delta region backwardness and underdevelopment principally lies in leadership failures.
Thus, for the narrative coming out of the region to change, there must be a sincere desire to engage as leaders’ best minds to help get the answers and deploy the resources we need to move the region into the future.
Secondly, Commissions and Agencies such DESOPADEC must as a matter of urgency learn how to infuse human rights principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice in their development initiatives.
Very key, DESOPADEC should not fail to remember the declaration by the United Nations Independent Expert on the Right to Development,which says that ‘for a programme to be tagged development, it must require a particular process that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms, by expanding the capabilities and choices of the individual’.
Looking above, is DESOPADEC saying that the 50% of the 13% Oil Derivation Fund accruing to Delta State government which the Agency receives monthly can only supply grass cutting machines and cannot renovate schools within the communities?
- Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). And could be reached via [email protected] /08032725374