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Poverty in the North like the Niger Delta


Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Sir: In acting capacity as president, Yemi Osinbajo showed a commitment to the cause of the Niger Delta to the extent that whenever he came visiting, he generated interest, trust and hope that the real clogs in the wheel of development in the Niger Delta would be identified and removed. This trustworthiness that he brought with him broke down barriers to the extent that some states in the South-South and South-East gave him chieftaincy titles. I remember one of such visits to Edo State wherein key stakeholders were invited to speak. Prof Osinbajo listened to everyone, and when it was his turn to speak and address the issues raised by the speakers, he said he towed the line we towed in our organisation, ANEEJ, that the key to the unravelling of the causes of the poverty prevalent in the Niger Delta lay with the elite.

You see, despite the billions already sunk therein, poverty of the worst kinds is in the Niger Delta. I remember a certain year in my village. Certain young men were getting fed up that although we had over 16 oil wells which contribute to the income of Nigeria, we had zero representation, zero hospitals and zero schools federal presence.

Therefore, they stormed the offices of the multinationals drilling and exploring for oil. It was while there that the scales fell off from their eyes. They were shown video footages of certain elements claiming to be representatives of our village collecting monies which they swore they were collecting on behalf of the village. They saw the receipts, names and signatures appended to financial documents. And so, when they returned to our village making bonfires of the homes and property of those elements, the authorities did not interfere or intervene.

And just the way it is in many places in the Niger Delta, there are many instances where the elite in Northern Nigeria work to keep the talakawa in perpetual poverty, using religion and cultural insinuations. That was what Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was referring to recently. At the KADINVEST 2.0 programme, the emir said that the elite in northern Nigeria are using religion and culture to cage their people. Some northerners refuse to send the young girls to school, preferring instead to keep them in purdah, specially groomed for matrimony at 13. The little boys are Almajiri – left to be groomed on the streets, they eventually morph into a guerrilla army in the hands of religious fundamentalists eager to send them straight to heaven.

But like the Emir has said, while the rest of the Islamic world has since moved on, and is making advances in sciences, technology, innovation and medicine, some people want to remain in the 13th Century and keep the rest of Nigeria there as well. In a certain town without water, good roads and hospitals, a former NNPC managing director locked up N13 billion in his house.

It is in line with this that we have decided to work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UNODC, the European Union and key civil societies to help government pursue corruption to a logical conclusion.
• Bob Etemiku,Lagos

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Yemi Osinbajo
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