The Niger Delta states have enjoyed more funds than their counterparts in other regions of Nigeria because of the allocation formula that allows more funds to accrue to them. Now generally referred to as the 'derivation fund', these extra funds have been source of rancour, envy, and have even caused some whining and despair amongst their counterparts from other regions. There have been expectations from all quarters with regards to the use of these funds, especially in terms of development and economic growth of infrastructure and human resources.
However, there have not been questions from indigenous personalities of this region on the use of these funds by the governors of the various states that make up the Niger delta. But there have been outpouring of support for increase in the derivation fund and to some extent, demand for control of resources derived from the region.
What is unarguably obvious is the fact that the Niger Delta states have not fared better than others in terms of infrastructure and social development. Until recently when a couple of them have embarked on renovation and construction of schools no remarkable difference could be adduced to them in comparison with their counterparts in other regions.
The Niger Delta has undoubtedly been victim of exploitation and neglect by various administrations and the multinational corporations that come for its resources.
However, it has been expected that given the democratic environment and all the monies that have been accruing to the region since the beginning of this democratic dispensation, the level of development and economic growth would have turned them into poster states for the rest of the country. This however, has not been the story; instead what is exhibited is a constant attitude of tokenism in supposed development projects.
Therefore, to hear one of the respected elders of the region openly criticize the governors over the less than impressive use of the derivation fund is a welcome development ; because it means the era of self delusion is over and the people are now likely to begin to critically assess the performance of their governors. It is an indication also that the governors will probably now come under such serious scrutiny that they will be forced to redirect these funds towards people'-oriented programmes.
It is with such expectations that we greet Chief Edwin Clark's slamming of the Niger Delta governors for poor use of derivation fund. We acknowledge that the region's terrain is a difficult one, but had visibly impressive efforts been made the governors would have had our sympathy, but where extravagance and unnecessary exhibition of affluence becomes a toga worn by some of them it becomes an outright irritation. Chief Edwin Clark's outburst is long overdue and those concerned should rethink their priorities in line with the larger interest.