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Niger Delta Crisis in Nigeria

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Submitted By gaffa
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The Root Of The Niger Delta Crisis

Before 1958, when crude oil was first discovered in Nigeria, resulting in the oil boom era of the 70’s, Agriculture which was the mainstay of the economy was in the hands of both our Northern and Western counterparts. Then the Federal Government statutorily allocated revenue to regions on the basis of Origins, referred to as “Derivation Principle”. This principle had a sharing formular that gave preference to these regions as follows:

50%-Producing Region
35%-Other Regions
15%-Central Government

It could be noted that Nigeria, then, had the following major products:
Groundnut, Tin Ore, Cotton, e.t.c (Northern Region)
Cocoa (Western Region)

Somewhere down the road, came Awolowo’s( being the chief Architect), Onshore-Offshore dichotomy, put in place to strip the minority oil-producing states, with different ethnic background, of their oil revenue. The policy gave full ownership of oil produced offshore to the Federal Government, while that produced onshore was shared between the Federal Government, other regions and the producing states.
However, after the launch of the Kaduna refinery project and increased agitation for equitable distribution of oil revenue, by producing states, the Federal Government promulgated another decree, known as the “The Land use Decree of 1978”, giving it(i.e. the Federal Government) full ownership of every piece of land in the country, meaning, all the natural resources that came with the land now belonged to the federal government.

In 1990, the people of Ogoni in Rivers State issued “the Ogoni Bill of Rights”. This Bill pointed out the following amongst others:

The Neglectful environmental pollution laws and substandard inspection techniques of the federal government.
Lack of Health, education and other social facilities.
The right to control and use a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development.

The bill which was given no attention by the federal government gave birth to the group now known as the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). The group which publicly showed both the Nigerian and International Community, the utter neglect, economical disaster, abject poverty and destruction caused by the Nigerian government and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), had nine of its prominent members including the renowned playwright and Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, framed and killed in 1995.
In 1999, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration enforced the 13% derivation principle, recommended by the 1995 constitutional convention.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now before the National Assembly, poised to be a holistic approach to the problems of the Petroleum Industry, has the following as part of its provisions:

Oil companies to refine at least 50% of their production by the end of the decade.
Measures to ensure that government increases its stake from a growing number of deep-water developments.
Review of royalties on gas production.

What really does this bill have to offer to the Niger Delta region?

After the submission of President Yar’adua’s constituted Niger Delta Technical Committees’ Report early this year, the President ignoring the major content of the said report came up with the “Amnesty Deal.” While the October 4th, 2009 deadline for militants in the region to lay down their arms (probably to pave the way for resumption of crude production ) stands, it has probably another forty-nine years for the region to come out of its deplorable state.
The questions yet unanswered still remain:

Does the Federal Government have any sincere plan for the Niger Delta, come post-amnesty era?

Will there be a bill that would really make provision for equitable distribution of the God given resources of the Niger Delta People, rather than pseudo commissions?

Should this defenseless minority, oil-producing people, sit back and watch successive governments come up with plans, proposals, insincere agenda and all other sweet-talk to fool themselves and those who care to listen, while embezzling billions in the process?

The fact has always been that the Federal Government of Nigeria has never been sincere to the Niger Delta people. They tend to talk much of the region but back their words with little or no positive or sincere action. For instance, the Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and now the Niger Delta Ministry, are all ploys by successive administrations, to pretend that it holds the plight of the Region at heart. These pseudo commissions (as I call them) only appear on paper, as they are quite poorly funded. It is worthy of note that, for the past ten years, the position of a substantive Petroleum Minister has been the President with an indigene of the Niger Delta as his deputy, now it happens that when a substantive Petroleum Minister is appointed it ends up being a Northerner and a Niger Deltan as deputy. Is it that no one from the region is capable of fully administering that office?

The oil-producing region, made up of nine states and over two-hundred communities, each with problems of health care delivery, portable water, education, accessible roads, unemployment, environmental degredation, etc. has lingered, even before the formation of OMPADEC in 1992 and they are still the cries of the people to this day. How can a region that produces over two million barrels of oil per day; a region that puts Nigeria among the top ten oil exporting countries in the world, and number one in Africa; a region with oil and gas flowing from Qua Iboe terminal in Akwa Ibom state to Escravos in Delta state; a region that funds well over 78% of the trillion Naira budgets in Nigeria, be the poorest, most dangerous (environmentally) and less developed oil-producing region in the world?

It is really sad to know that beneath Soku community in Rivers State (one of the communities close to the Atlantic), lays tons of oil and natural gas, exported daily, and has but wooden boats to convey indigenes to and from neighboring communities, but most shocking and painful to see is Oloibiri in Bayelsa State (where oil was first found in Nigeria) with mud huts and stream as source of drinking water.

Are we paying the price for our God given resources? Or are we just custodians of Nigeria’s most priced possession? The last words of our late Civil Right activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, “…the struggle still continues” will always ring a bell in our bleeding hearts, and no matter how far, or how long it will take us, this struggle will continue.

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