• Fri. May 24th, 2024

HOW OKOWA CAN MAKE HIS ACHIEVEMENTS IN COASTAL AREAS SUSTAINABLE – Mulade

Mar 27, 2020

It will not in any standard be a wrong assertion to describe Comrade Sheriff Mulade, the National Coordinator, and Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ) Executive Secretary, Egbema/Gbaramatu Communities Development Foundation and advocate for the coastal areas of Delta State, as a ‘transformer’. The facts are evident.

First, in an environment where education is considered a scarce commodity, he against all permutation acquired a sound education at the most fundamental level. Secondly, from the ashes of hopelessness and deprivation in his home front, the youthful Mulade against all known logic emerged as an environmental justice advocate -that was in the mid 1990s. By early 2000, he transformed to a philanthropist. Today, he functions as an activist, a philanthropist and politician-giving scholarships to scores of Niger Delta children particularly those that dwell in the coastal communities. And have through his Non Governmental Organization-The Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), trained many youths from the region on conflict management/resolutions, and in other skills at both home and abroad.

Mulade has another attribute that stands him out; he is a man that every journalist that seeks balanced information would like to spend quality time with. He has a way of using properly framed arguments, vividly supported evidence and emotional match to drive point home-a quality that makes it very easy and a delight for one to be at ease in his presence even if the meeting is just taking place for the first time.

He recently, at his Osubi, Warri, Delta state office, Mulade, obliged Ika Weekly Newspaper an interview in which he bluntly analyzed some burning issues including what prompted his involvement in environmental activism, the state of the nation, way out of challenges confronting the Niger Delta region, Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa’s leadership style, 2023 political arrangement in the state and other sundry concerns

Essentially, what made the conversation crucial was not its focus on sundry issues but how well the solutions proffered by the Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South West LGA born activist, will serve the nation and Delta State in particular If implemented.

SEE ALSO: BANTERS IN LAGOS, POVERTY AND DISEASE IN THE NIGER DELTA

It is a must read, enjoy it

 

Looking at your profile, you need no introduction before media practitioners, but for the benefits of our readers, kindly say some words to enable the audience understand more fully your background and what informed your way of life?

Many thanks for this opportunity; I am a native of Benikrukru Community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri West Local Government Area of Delta, for the records, I am from a region that is increasingly faced with socioeconomic difficulties with no good means of survival. Growing up, I had no opportunity to enjoy economic and social benefits that flowed from stability of the environment as we were daily sacked/dispersed by flood. If not for the grace of God, we would have been wiped off. Definitely, I don’t know what God has in stock for me but one thing is sure; I would have been a different person if I had come from another region. And my work experience would have been in other fields of life.

Explicitly, the excruciating poverty I faced while growing up informed what I am doing currently.

 

Could you please explain this point?

Yes I will. First, as a philanthropist, it is my resolve to give back to my society that made me as my own way of ending poverty in the coastal region. And ensure that future generation from the region will not experience the kind of pains I passed through while growing up. Secondly, as you know, because the region particularly the coastal area was visited with ‘megawatts’ of injustice, I have taken it upon myself to advocate justly in all aspects of life for the oppressed people in the society, like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Steven Beko, Late Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana and others, in my capacity, I speak and seek justice for the needy. In the same manner, the political aspect is just to fulfill the responsibility of my in-depth desire to be in that position of supporting the needy beyond my current capacity. So I need the platform to allocate for the people what they truly need. So I am part of those struggling to bring to the people what is expected of the government. There is a strong connection between the three, Activism philanthropy and politics, hence I, Comrade Sheriff Mulade desire is to bring to my people what is due to them through positive advocacy.

And remember, when I criticize the government without participation, I will end up as an arm chair critic without value. But even when I am not holding any elective or appointed position, participating in politics avails me the opportunity to interact and associate with, and influence policy makers to the betterment of my community. When I criticize the government without participation or productive collaboration, I will end up as an arm chair critic without value”

 

You have been in the struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta people especially as it relates to degradation of the environment, what do you think the federal government and International Oil Companies (IOCs) in particular are not doing correctly or need to do differently?

Strictly speaking, successive administrations both state and Federal have been doing their best to improve the lives and welfare of the coastal dwellers and the environment by making laws and policies, to such effect, But most of these efforts could best be described as paying lip service or curing the symptom of an illness while leaving the causal factor to thrive.

However, without fear of contradiction, is only Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s led administration that has given the people of the coastal communities in the state some sense of belonging in spite of their huge contributions. Others failed to implement these laws and policies that will improve the life chances of the people of the region. (Cuts in). Without fear of contradiction, it is only Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s led administration that has given the people of the coastal communities in the state that sense of belonging”

 

You made mention of Governor Okowa giving the region a sense of belonging, kindly explain;

Of course! I can say this from the roof top, Okowa is God sent… For a very long thing, all we at the coastal region have been hearing is that the terrain is marshy and road construction will be difficult if not impossible. But Okowa’s administration has since sent that arguments/logic to the dustbin of history as the coastal region is now blessed with appreciable level of good internal road networks.

However, for this development brought to the coastal area to be sustained and live beyond the present administration, there are two pressing demand from the Governor. He must develop the political will to pass CADA bill into law. That is into the only way Governor Okowa can make the development he has brought to the coastal areas a sustainable programme. And he will be celebrated forever by the people of the region even when he must have gone. The second point is that he must work in union with other south-south Governors to ensure that Mr. President signs to law, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).

For this development brought to the coastal area to be sustained and live beyond the present administration, there are two pressing demand from the Governor”

For some time, concerned Nigerians have advocated that stronger environmental laws regulating the activities of oil and gas to be made effective to enable remediation of our degraded and polluted environment?

Obviously yes, the government should not fail to provide policies that must impact directly on the lives of the poor majority. Take for instance,  Some of these laws/Acts in question guiding crude oil exploration and production in the region that have been in operation since the 1960s include but not limited to; the Petroleum Act of 1969, The Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Positions etc), Act 1988, Mineral Oil Safety Regulation 1963, Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulation 1969 (Subsidiary Legislation to The Petroleum Act), The off-shore Oil Revenue (Registration of Grants)Act 1971, Oil in Navigable Act 1968, Petroleum Production and Distribution(Anti Sabotage) Act 1975, Associated Gas Re-injection Act 1979, Associated Gas Re-injection(continued Flaring of Gas) Regulation, Associated Gas Re-injection(Amendment) Decree 1985, Oil Pipeline Act Chapter(CAP)338, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria(L.F.N.) 1990, and Gas Flare prohibition and punishment) Act 2016 among others.

But very regrettably, none of these laws have ever been religiously implemented. And one point we must not fail to remember is that the potency of a law lies in its implementation; government should pay more than the usual attention to implementation so that the people can get the benefits.

Again, the time has come for oil companies operating in the region to understand that they are to develop their host communities through Corporate Social Responsibility but the reverse is the case, as they are only concerned with the proceeds from Oil and Gas without the well being of the people and as the communities are not considered for development there will also be unrest in the host communities and their operations  halted as a result of perceived oppression. Let me use this medium to charge them to do the needful, provide the basic necessities to the host Communities, eg, 24 hours electricity supply , portable drinking water, good healthcare, accessible roads and human capital development. The companies can achieve it with low cost, but sad to say they prefer the divide and rule system, if you look deeply into the happenings in the oil region you will find out that these companies are the cause of crisis in the Niger Delta. Time has come for oil companies operating in the region to understand that they are to develop their host communities through Corporate Social Responsibility’

THE NIGER DELTA QUESTION AND 2030 SUSTAINABLE AGENDA

You recently began a campaign for the creation of the Coastal Areas Development Commission, what informed this?

CADA will definitely end the long and continued neglect of the people living in the coastal areas. If passed, the ACT will provide a holistic development of the rural riverine or coastal areas. It is out of my strong desire for the development of Riverine or Coastal areas that informed the bill. If you have been to those areas,  you will weep for the poor living conditions of the people, they build houses with woods and rafters on top of water, the health condition is nothing to speak about. My desire for the implementation of equal rights and justice to everyone as part of the motivating factors.

The Riverine people are deprived, they are looked down upon by those in the urban region, and the School Children cannot compete academically with their peers from other regions. I was a victim of that same deprivation, but I fought my way out and broke that low self esteem, that is why I am organizing the annual Peace and Unity Football tournaments and Peace and Unity Quiz and Essay Competitions also known as Comrade Mulade Sheriff for  Riverine schools in the 3 Warri Local Government Areas of Delta State and the Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and Unity Football tournaments with the primary aim of promoting Peaceful coexistence amongst the Ijaws, Itsekiris and Urhobos to attract development and the desired Peace. I know how the students feel when they come out of the creeks and mingle with others; it is always really pathetic and painful. I was a victim of that same deprivation, but I fought my way out and broke that low self esteem’’

It is my wish that those living in the coastal region enjoy what those in the upland are enjoying. For example, access to good health care, roads, Portable water, just name it, the list is endless. Is it the degraded environment that has been long fogotten by the government? We from the Coastal areas will be very grateful and happy to see that His Excellency, Sen Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Governor of Delta State and the Honourable Speaker, Rt Hon Chief Sheriff Oborovwore both consider and give speedy passage to the peoples oriented CADA bill which is currently with Delta State House of Assembly and for the Governor’s assent.

If this comes to reality, Nigerians will see the quick and massive transformation that the Coastal regions will experience. CADA will truly accomplish much more than other Agencies, Boards and Commissions established by government because it is strictly structured with deliberate mandate and focus to march out developmental blueprints for Coastal communities only.

 

We often see crises between host communities and the oil companies, what is really the problem sir?

When Oil companies are not living up to their responsibilities by preferring the shortcuts out of expected responsibilities and by settling selected few powerful people who could suppress the majority of our people. Sometimes confrontations are a collective way in which the aggrieved majority expresses their displeasure.

Especially when what is due to a community by law is given to someone else who does not have the same status and is not qualified to benefit from the proceeds of oil production, how do you want the people to react? Will that not cause crisis? For us, it is the height of marginalization  and that is exactly what is happening in the host communities the companies are using what belongs to oil producing communities to develop non oil producing areas within the state and regions that is a recipe for crisis.

 

In your objective evaluation, what is  your impression about agencies such as NDDC and DESOPADEC, is their performance above or below expectations?

If you take time to travel round the mandated areas of NDDC and DESOPADEC you will observe pockets of their infrastructural works in communities, but they are not felt as they should be when compared with the amount of funds allocated  to their in the past years. The Developmental projects and activities by these Commissions are not commensurate with the amount of funds that have been put in the projects, it is like putting in an elephant and harvesting an ant, if you have such a strong comparison, what will be your evaluation, are these Commissions with all due respect to their efforts in their mandate areas living up to expectations?

I believe you can answer my question because their works speak for themselves. What we were expecting from them is a robust and holistic development of the Niger Delta and DESOPADEC mandated areas which is the oil producing Communities of the State, but, as we speak it is not being experienced and this is where CADA comes in, CADA is to bridge the gap between the State government, NDDC, DESOPADEC and other Agencies with the Coastal regions. CADA will bring government presence closer to the riverine people, CADA will do a lot of good for us in the riverine communities, it is a blueprint for development..

 

The nation is facing a lot of security challenges now, what would you proffer as solutions to the security threats in the country?

The federal Government should be bold and proactive enough to address this ugly menace confronting our dear Nation. We are the hope of Africa continent in security, economy and development, the world is watching us as the most populous black nation on earth. It is imperative to state that government and security agencies must rise up to the challenges and separate governance from politics, ethnic and religious sentiments to save not only Nigeria but Africa at large.

 

Stakeholders are calling for regional security outfits as a way forward while others are saying true federalism .what are your thoughts on this?

Without any shadow of the doubt, every well meaning Nigerian must be concerned and therefore it will not be out of place for people to profer alternative solutions to addressing it and that is the reason for the calls for Regional Security and Community Policing outfits. It is also unfortunate that we allowed our security challenges to deteriorate to this extent because of Ethnic, Religious and Political sentiments. The Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari must act now to save Nigeria because we cannot afford to experience another ugly civil war, which to me is unnecessary and avoidable.

IMG-20200319-WA0029 HOW OKOWA CAN MAKE HIS ACHIEVEMENTS IN COASTAL AREAS SUSTAINABLE - Mulade

Let’s now take a look at your political voyage so far. You contested for House of Assembly to represent your constituency but you didn’t succeed, as a major stakeholder, one expected you should be given an appointment by the governor, why have you not been considered?

It is more than what you postulated. You should understand that politics is dynamic and politics in practical terms is about and around the people. Elective offices in States are very few and if it wasn’t possible yesterday, do not suggest it won’t be possible tomorrow. Appointments don’t come from man but God. It is God that creates in men the interest to handpick or favour people. My life’s journey is entirely in the hands of God and most times. He has granted me specific directions to follow in my quest to work for the people. Appointment into any government office or offices, boards, Agancies, Commissions, and Ministries as Aides is the absolute prerogative of a Governor or President, if he has not deemed it worthy of appointing me now he has his reasons and his reasons are best known to him.

Let me say this very clearly with all humility and respect without pride that, I don’t have a political godfather but God has always been on my side and  for His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, not to have appointed me into any office cannot be a source of worry, we are looking ahead as politics is a continuum. My primary interest is to attract development to the state particularly to my coastal area and that was why I ran for the Delta State House of Assembly position to be a voice for my people. I remain Comrade Mulade Sheriff and that is who I am.

 

Do you think PDP is prepared to bounce back to power at the federal level, expecially the Presidency in 2023?

With the passing of time and the evidence that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing its best, however, 2023 is by the corner, every party is building up towards gaining power, Nigerians will decide because our democracy is still growing and consolidating.. .

 

You are pushing for a Governor of Ijaw extraction coming eight years after an Itsekiri left office, Urhobo is also agitating to be governor in 2023, on what premises are you clamouring for the Ijaws?

Yes, I think that the Delta State political structure is built rotational approach. This process is deep in Delta State politics and it has become our poltical culture.-not in the constitution but enshrined in our brains. Apart from the facts that His Excellency Senator Ifeayi Okowa performed in his first tenure in office, one other major reason he was voted a second term was fundamentally for this reason. I choose to believe that equity is what the party stands for in the State. We may ask ourselves which region has not been favoured all these years in the zoning arrangement. That is where we as citizens of the State should start from. Except I am proven to be wrong, the Ijaws happens to be behind and have not produced any Governor since the inception of turn by turn and would it be wrong to jettison such practice at the moment?

To me jettisoning it in the 2023 governorship race would amount to robbing Paul to pay Peter. It will interest you to note that 2023 is the turn of Ijaws of Delta State as the second largest ethnic group; secondly, we have supported all senatorial districts to produce the Governor since the creation of the State. The Ijaws are the economy, live wire of the State and I want to believe and strongly appeal to the conscience of Delta people particularly my Urhobo brothers and sisters to have understanding with Ijaws to produce the next Governor as we have done to them and for me it is not a do or die affair but just harmonious understanding to give sense of belonging to each other for the development of the State.

 

Your final message Sir

Without any shadow of the doubt, amiable Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa, is doing well for the resident s of the coastal communities. But , it is said that ‘the largest room known to mankind is the room for improvement’. And I want Mr. Governor to make effective use of the room by ensuring that CADA is set up.

BY JEROME-MARIO UTOMI

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