Edwin Clark, a former federal commissioner of information, has made allegations against Ifeanyi Okowa, the immediate past Governor of Delta State, claiming that he misused more than N1 trillion of the 13 per cent oil derivation fund designated for the state. The 13 per cent derivation fund is sourced from the federation account and is meant to be disbursed to oil-producing communities through state governments, as stated in section 162 (2) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Mr. Clark, a respected leader and influential figure in South-south Nigeria, expressed these accusations during his appearance on Arise TV’s “The Morning Show” on Wednesday.
The former federal commissioner asserted that Mr. Okowa had inappropriately managed the funds during his tenure as the Governor of Delta State.
Regarding the discovery of the alleged misappropriation, Mr. Clark, who leads the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), admitted that he and others had previously been blaming the federal government for the region’s lack of development without realizing that the governors in the area were “embezzling the money” intended for regional progress.
In November 2022, Nyesom Wike, the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, disclosed that the federal government had paid outstanding oil derivation funds to the oil-producing states in the country. Following Mr. Wike’s revelation, Garba Shehu, the spokesperson for then-President Muhammadu Buhari, released specific details of the funds allocated to nine oil-producing states. Delta State reportedly received the highest allocation, totaling N296.63 billion.
Prompted by these revelations, Mr. Clark decided to address the issue by sending a letter to Mr. Okowa, demanding accountability for the funds.
“He (Okowa) said he had been spending the money. The answer they gave me was that they spent N5 billion on paying pensioners. How does that come under 13 per cent?” Mr Clark said.
“And they also spent the money building a university in Okowa’s village.”
Expressing his discontent with the former governor’s response, the former federal commissioner mentioned that he was compelled to engage the services of a lawyer. This legal professional then obtained a certified copy of all the derivation funds disbursed to the state from 2007 until December 2022, directly from the accountant general’s office.
“The one paid to Delta State came to N1.767 trillion,” he said.
According to the leader of PANDEF, the legislation that created the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) stipulated that 50 percent of the 13 percent oil derivation fund should be allocated to DESOPADEC. However, the governor retained the entire amount of the funds.
DESOPADEC is an interventionist agency established to oversee the management of a 13 percent oil derivation fund, with the aim of facilitating the development of infrastructure in the oil-producing communities within the state.
“Instead of paying 50 per cent (of the N1.760 trillion) to the DESOPADEC as provided by the law, which is automatic, he (Okowa) now held the 13 per cent fund- the entire money, dishing out instalmentally and approving every contract the DESOPADEC had awarded,” he said.
Mr. Clark revealed that he sent a second letter to Mr. Okowa, with a copy also addressed to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In the letter, he expressed his concerns about the governor’s alleged establishment of a private commercial bank called Premium Bank. According to Mr. Clark, he believed that the governor had used this bank to deposit all the derivation funds.
Furthermore, Mr. Clark stated that he informed Mr. Okowa in the letter about his knowledge of the governor’s ownership of 13 companies. He accused the governor of channeling the 13 percent derivation funds into these companies and challenged him to refute this claim.
According to Mr. Clark, the embezzlement of funds by certain governors had made them wealthier than their respective states. He pointed out that the misappropriation of funds was not even reflected in the governor’s annual budget.
However, it was not mentioned whether the EFCC responded to Mr. Clark’s letter.
When reminded by one of the program anchors, Reuben Abati, that Mr. Okowa had denied owning the Premium Bank, Mr. Clark insisted that the former governor was lying and claimed to be familiar with the bank’s history.