My plan for Modular Refinery, Football Academy, others in Delta By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
Comrade Sunny Ofehe,
A former governorship aspirant in Delta State and Founder/Executive Director of The Netherlands-based Hope for Niger Delta Campaign, HNDC, Comrade Sunny Ofehe, who traveled round Delta State during the last governorship campaign, has explained why things work remarkably in Rotterdam, an oil-bearing city in The Netherlands, but fall short in Delta, an producing area in Niger Delta, Nigeria.
NDDC contractors get three weeks ultimatum to return to sites(Opens in a new browser tab)Delta
The Isoko -born Ofehe, who recently visited Nigeria with a group of investors to establish a football academy and finalizing arrangement with a group of investors to site a modular refinery in Isoko land, told Saturday Vanguard that he saw an industrialized Rotterdam and a stunted Delta state with the dissimilarity only in nationalism and high-quality administration of funds.
”It will shock you that before I entered politics to seek nomination by my party, All Progressives Congress, as its governorship candidate in the last election, I critically studied the state to understand why we are blessed with resources accruing so much in federal and internally generated revenue, yet the people live in abject poverty.”
“I compared Delta State to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, which is the city that I live and found so many similarities. I saw a developed Rotterdam and an under-developed Delta State with difference only in patriotism and good management of resources. It then dawned on me that with good leadership, we could fix Delta State. That was how I made ‘FixDelta’ my campaign mantra,” he said.
His words: “During the cause of my moving around communities and engaging the people, I saw and spoke to people living in hopelessness, the healthcare and education system were dead, there were almost no existence of factories and industries.”
“Delta state has the highest number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria with most youths roaming the streets jobless. Nearly all the youths have become political boys since they cannot find jobs. They, therefore, rely on politicians for crumbs to meet certain basic life needs.
I believe that as a state if we must create jobs for our youths, we must attract foreign investments and make our state attractive to visitors. Though I stepped down from the governorship race, I still kept the mantra and tried to use my connections in Europe to woo investors to the state.
You came with investors recently, what was it about?
Yes, he is my friend, Prof. (Dr.) Ernst Franzek, he has a strong passion for Africa and when we met he found so much interest in Nigeria and since then we have visited Nigeria twice together. We organized a public lecture at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Benin City where he gave lecture on this report.
This year, we decided to form an organization called ‘Legionnaires for Mankind’s Health’ along with Prof. Kingsley Akhigbe of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Benin City. This organization will look at the Basic human rights for everyone, including enough and healthy food, clean water supply, adequate sanitation for every household and in public places, midwifery and adequate baby care. We intend to launch the organization in May 2020 during a visit to rural communities in Delta state.
My targets are Football Academy, Modular Refinery by 2020
My target for Delta State is to ensure that we commence to football academy also in the first quarter of 2020 and begin acquiring licenses for the installation of modular oil refinery in the oil -rich Isoko region of Delta state. We already have an existing modular refinery in Europe and the funding for the project. We are just busy now working on the business plan.
I am also busy discussing with a construction company in Germany and a greenhouse farming company in The Netherlands. I am hoping that we can conclude our talks before the end of the year and they will likely visit Delta State, early next year for feasibility studies of our environment. The interesting thing in all my discussions with these investors is that they will not rely on government for funds but will back their investment with their own funding.
Unlike most Nigerians abroad, you are in constant touch with home, what is the attraction?
I believe so much in Nigeria and its people. That is why in my more than two decades of living in Europe, I have refused to be disconnected from the country. Today, we talk about emerging economic countries like India, Brazil and even Malaysia. Let us look at China that is now a global economic power rising from the ashes of a closed Communist country to becoming a liberal economic hub with emerging billionaires in the last two decades. What is the secret behind these countries success story? Their population!
Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world with a population of almost 200 million people with enormous human capacity. As we speak, there is no renowned citadel of learning in the world, where Nigerian tutors or students do not excel at the highest level.
Our country has abundant natural and mineral resources; crude oil and natural gas have been the mainstay of our economy, earning us almost 80 percent of our foreign exchange. We are so rich in natural resources that we do not even utilize most of them.
Take for instance the illegal mining in Zamfara State in Northern Nigeria, which was relatively secret. Despite the huge deposit of gold, Nigeria also has considerable reserves of tin and zinc, although many of these deposits are undeveloped. People estimate that up to 80 percent of mining operations in Nigeria are illegal or small-scale projects. The influence of mining on the national economy has tumbled in recent months with the sector contributing just 0.3 percent to the country’s total GDP. If we harness our mineral resources and ensure that the original concept of our two major steel companies in Aladja and Ajaokuta are made to function in full capacity, do you know how much revenue Nigeria can generate?
Why food is cheap The Netherlands
What about agriculture, we have a very big expanse of land and flat in most part of the country. The country has enough capacity in agriculture to feed the country and become major exporter of agriculture produce. Today, in The Netherlands we buy beans, palm oil, yam, garri from retail shops. I am always proud when I see processed in Nigeria on their labels.
We can do more if the government can mobilize global support for our farmers and subsidize them as the Dutch are doing today with their farmers. The Dutch farmers get subsidy from the Dutch government and the European Union and that is why food has become the cheapest and affordable thing in the country. They understand the significance of quality and affordable food to human health and existence. Such subsidy will help bring down the cost of production and eventually reduce the market price for consumers. Therefore, Nigeria can indeed become a global powerhouse in the world.
Nigerians are facing serious hardship with high unemployment rate, poverty and lack of basic life necessity and crumbling infrastructure, how do you think the government can deal with the issue of poverty and health challenges?
You have just mentioned two vital issues that are pivotal to the growth and development of any country; poverty and healthcare. Poverty simply is lack of basic life necessities such as food and access to Medicare. Do you know that major Western European countries faced hunger and health challenges after the Second World War? They were able to conquer this challenge with massive investment in agriculture and giving the people access to quality and affordable healthcare services.
In a recent report by a very good friend of mine and a renowned European Doctor of Psychiatric and Mental Health, Prof. (Dr.) Ernst Franzek published a report, ”Prenatal Malnutrition and Its Devastating Consequences on Mental Health Later in Life” in the Open Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences. This article is necessary read for any policy maker in Nigeria.
What the report says is that wars, armed conflicts, incompetent and corrupt governments, lack of infrastructures for agriculture, lack of economic development, adequate health care and education are besides natural disasters like severe droughts, flooding and earth quakes the main consequences for hunger, malnutrition and starvation of millions of people around the globe.
Hunger, malnutrition and starvation does not only have terrible immediate consequences, but has also devastating long-term consequences on affected people’s health, including mental health during their whole life.
The study also shows that the long-term consequences of exposure to starvation and malnutrition during prenatal life in their mother’s womb revealed that the offspring have significantly more often suffered from a variety of somatic and mental diseases, including addiction and antisocial personality traits and disorders.
If you look at Nigeria today, there is so much addiction and antisocial personality disorders which can be interpreted as ‘functional antisocial personality traits’ of environmental adaptation such that a severe prenatal exposure to famine and maternal stress may produce offspring with prominent antisocial personality characteristic.
Therefore, the solution necessary to stay alive is by acquiring and maintaining food and safety for our population group that are exhibiting high levels of impulse, lack of remorse for opponents when fighting against other population groups, disregarded for their own safety. The significant excess of boys is hypothesized to be a consequence when fathers and mothers are exposed to severe famine already prior to conception.
The natural consequences of starvation and severe stress caused by armed conflicts and other catastrophes account for a high prevalence of criminal and drug related problems in hunger and stress affected population groups.
However, the criminals, the addicted and other mentally ill people should not be the only focus of interventions by governments. The real underlying problems like lack of enough and healthy food, lack of clean water and adequate housing, lack of midwifery and adequate baby care, lack of adequate sanitation, lack of primary and secondary education have to be tackled as well.
The government must invest massively in our agriculture sector to ensure that we produce what we eat affordably. The pregnant woman must have access to food and medicine before, during and after birth.
This way, our next generation of children will be born without stress to avoid traits of antisocial personality disorder. In addition, the government must improve policies that will ensure that citizens have access to quality and affordable healthcare services.
You stepped down for APC candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, who lost to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, but you have two APC top shots, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Minister for State, Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, from Delta at the federal leave, are you okay with their strides?
First, I have no regrets stepping down for Chief Great Ogboru. As I have always said, I have so much respect for him and I see true leadership in him. I was even more convinced of his leadership acumen during the campaigns because it afforded me the opportunity to study his true character.
You cannot say he lost woefully because there were clear evidence of voting malpractices and rigging from the PDP. I personally monitored a few polling units and I saw what happened. He contested the election at the election tribunal, even though the tribunal ruled in favour of PDP; he has taken his case to the court of appeal where we are all hoping for a positive outcome.
Before I will answer this question, we need to look at the character of these two great personalities that you have mentioned; distinguished Senator OvieOmo-Agege and Hon. Minister, Barrister Festus Keyamo. They are the greatest political exports from Delta State to the country and they have distinguished themselves first as lawyers and now as politicians.
I have known Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from when he served at various capacities in previous Delta State Executive cabinet before his election as a Senator representing Delta State. My first encounter with him was when I consulted him at his residence in Asaba during the campaigns and subsequently, we met at political rallies where he clearly stood out as a grassroots politician and one sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of his people. Remember, he became a Senator under the Labour Party in a State dominated by PDP and APC.
Barrister Keyamo (SAN) needs no introduction to Nigerians. He has worked his way to the top solely on his belief on equity and fair play. He has never hidden his admiration for the current President, Muhammadu Buhari. He was the spokesperson of the Presidential Campaign Committee and today he is a cabinet Minister. We all saw what he did for the party and the President’s campaign. I mean, knowing Keyamo from our days of humble beginning in Ughelli, Delta State where he was two classes ahead of me, it is no surprise to see him attain such enviable height in both legal and political career.
I have also visited him as a new cabinet Minister with investors from Europe and I can testify that he has a magnanimous policy for the common person.
Therefore, as a citizen of Delta State with these two great personalities representing you at the national level, you can only be more proud. This is because they understand the needs of the people they represent and the willingness to deliver on their promises will always remain paramount.
NDDC has a new board with the Managing Director, Mr Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, however, the President has suspended any further action on NDDC for a forensic investigation of its activities from 2001 until date. Do you think Buhari is on the right track?
I saw the composition of the new board and this time the managing director slot went to Chief Bernard Okumagba, who is from Delta State. Firstly, I am very thrilled that Delta State is getting the chance to produce the next managing director, but most importantly, I applaud the choice of Chief Bernard Okumagba as managing director designate.
Chief Bernard Okumagba is a man of exemplary qualities who has attained a great height as a financial mogul and a successful businessperson yet unassuming and God- fearing. I recently met him and had the chance to discuss several issues, including the perennial challenges of under-development in the Niger Delta region. I can categorically state that he is the superlative choice for the position and NDDC, as it now needs an experienced manager that embodies quality and accountability to run the day- to- day affairs of the commission. You know the commission is been riddled with massive corruption and mismanagement, he will definitely restore the lost confidence in the board of NDDC.
I have always advocated for the holistic review and audit of NDDC since inception (2001). Therefore, I fully support the bold action taken by Mr. President to carry out a forensic audit of NDDC since 2001.
The House of Representatives passed the sum of N346.5bn budget for Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the 2019 budget. According to reports, the NDDC has received several trillions of naira from the Federation account since 2001 with no meaningful projects within the Niger Delta region to justify such revenue.
Reports have it that contractors have abandoned not less 5000 NDDC projects costing the Commission billions of naira within the region and contractors still owed in billions. Estimate of NDDC total debts for bogus contracts is more than a trillion naira. You can blame the Commission’s poor performance on lack of proper monitory mechanism over inflation and non-execution of contracts.
The Commission was set up to improve the lives and environment of the ordinary citizens of the Niger Delta region, but what we see today is poverty, degraded environment and non-existing infrastructure. No responsible government will continue to watch a commission such as NDDC to remain a conduit pipe for corrupt government officials and politicians to siphon monies meant for developmental projects.
Therefore, I personally believe that the President has acted good faith and in the interest of the good people of the Niger Delta region and that is why his action has received massive support from everyone including even the opposition PDP.