The Unwelcome Panacea for the End of Niger Delta Struggle

By Onukwube Uwanu

One the socio-economic problems bedeviling our country, Nigeria in the recent past and which has constituted a cog in her wheel of progress is the intractable is the intractable Niger Delta crisis that has defied solutions. Measures have been put in place in the past with a view to watering down, ameliorating or better still eradicating this monster, “Militancy” in the oil producing region all to no avail with the latest Bundu Water Front Shoot-Out. The creation of interventionists bodies such as OMPADEC, which has metamorphosed into NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry Affairs, have failed to bring about the much expected Scio-economic and political tranquility in the region and by extension Nigeria, even the just expired amnesty granted to repentant militants is suspect.

Without sounding to pessimistic, whoever must have sold the idea of granting amnesty to militants in the country to President Umar Musa Yar'Adua should be eulogized as such action has at present yield positive results as evidenced in the cessation of hostilities against oil installations, oil bunkering, hostage taking etc in the region. In addition, almost if not all the major and minor militant groups alongside their leaders have surrendered arms ammunition embraced and accepted the amnesty extended to them and have long been pardoned by the Federal Government (FG).

The positive response by the FG and the freedom fighters to amnesty has therefore occasioned only transient peace and stability being experienced in region as there is still case of kidnapping in some parts of the region. It is expected that with the current situation, the shortfall in the production and exportation as a result of the freedom fighters attack on oil pipelines and installations especially the one on Atlas Cove will skyrocket considerably to the advantage of the economy of Nigeria .

At the moment, what matters is how the FG can sustain the praiseworthy tranquility that has returned in the region. The FG should not only execute the demands of the militant as quickly as possible but also tackle the root causes of the problem that has engulfed the region which include exploitation, marginalization, environmental degradation – gas flaring and other industrial activities that are injurious to human beings and the ecosystem. The issue of adopting and executing to the letter the basic principles of true federalism, fiscal federalism that will guaranty acceptable, just and equitable revenue allocation for the components unit in the country has become illusive. The lack of political will on the part of the FG to implement the Niger Delta Technical Report amongst others. The above constitute the repulsive panacea for the end of Niger Delta struggle which the FG has failed to embrace.

For Nigeria to consolidate on her drive to eradicate militancy, agitation for resource control, she must look at how petroleum proceeds were shared between oil bearing states and the FG. In the words of Otive Igbuzor, in 1969, when the Federal Military Government had successfully “liberated” the oil producing communities, it promulgated the petroleum Decree (No 51) of 1969 that vested all the lands and the resources in, under or upon the Land on the Federal Military Government. There is no doubt that the Federal Government has continued with this war strategy on the Niger Delta people till date.

The data provided in the table below shows graphically how the change occurred with the war strategy on the Niger Delta People.

In his analysis, Sagay argued that:
“Even a superficial political analysis of the situation will reveal that the fate of the mineral resources of the Niger Delta minorities particularly the trend from derivation to Federal Government absolutism, is itself a function of majority. Again, these oppressive measures are not the results of accidents or errors. They are deliberate acts of policy implementation founded in the belief that the owners of the petroleum resources being minorities can be deprived of their resources without any consequence. This is the attitude and mentality that led a senior Federal permanent secretary in a memorandum concerning Federal expropriation of the resources of the Niger Delta to make the following Freudian Slip, some years ago: “Given however the small size and population of oil producing areas, it is not cynical to observe that even if the resentments of the oil producing states continued, they cannot threaten the stability of the country nor affect its continued development” (quoted in lyayi 2002).

We cannot but agree with the analysis and position of Professor ltse Sagay. It is important to note that even the meager allocation while implementing the war strategy against the Niger Delta people was not even given to them. This can be seen graphically from allocation to OMPADEC, which was created to develop the Niger Delta in 1992. Table two below shows the expected and actual allocation to OMPADEC from 1992 -1996.

As lyayi has analyzed, between 1992 and 1996, the commission received less than 12 percent of the funds due to it from the 3 percent derivation fund. Whereas the commission was allocated about N86.4 billion for the period, it actually received NIO.9 billion” (lyayi, 2002:5)

This no doubt has confirmed the opinion of political analysts in the past that NDDC is starved of the vital financial enablement to carry out its statutory function. The above data and analysis is one of the bases for the present situation Nigeria has found herself as she grapples with the Niger Delta crisis.

The FG should in order to sustain what she has achieved through granting of amnesty return the country to true federalism with its basic tenets in operation, ensure that environment from where the resources used in running the nation is derived is adequately protected, eliminate the marginalization and exploitation of the region in her body politics, concede and execute the demands of the militants, provide adequate fund for NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta, ensure fiscal federalism as it was the case between 1960 – 1967, implement honestly the Niger Delta Technical Report and work out legislation on how to deal with politicians who recruit thugs, who may later become militants or criminal gang as well provide employment to the teeming number of unemployed persons.

If the above can be achieved, it will go a long in eradicating this ugly monster, militancy from rearing its nightmarish head.

ONUKWUBE UWANU, a social commentator writes from Elelenwo, Port Harcourt Rivers State