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The Clean-up Of The Niger Delta Is An Irrevocable Commitment – Buhari Declares

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BEVERLY HILLS, November 21, (THEWILL) – President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the clean-up of the Niger Delta, beginning with Ogoniland, is an irrevocable commitment that is administration is bound to fulfil.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the senior executive course 38 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, Plateau state, represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the President declared that the attacks on pipelines and export facilities in the Niger Delta has far reaching consequences for the national economy.

“It is clear that a stable, safe and prosperous society must be the desire of every group of policy makers and executors. It is probably true to say also that the chief function of government is the protection and assurance of the security of lives, livelihoods and the properties of the citizenry,” he said.

“In recent years, Nigeria has had to deal with fairly significant and sustained breaches of the norms of law and order, these include the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, several cases of herdsmen and farmer clashes, and also cattle rustling, facility and pipeline sabotage in the Niger Delta, kidnappings for ransom and the Shiite-Army and Police clashes with pro-Biafra agitators in the southeast among others.

“But beginning with the Boko Haram insurgency, although in the past year, the capacity of the Boko Haram as a military force and to hold territory has, to a level, been degraded, much laws and instability has resulted, and it is essentially a rag-tag left-over that still carry out the itinerant ambushes and raids especially in border territories.

“But almost over 2 million people have been displaced in the Northeast, some in IDP camps, but most in host communities, with orphans in the tens of thousands. As the insurgents fled very many small border hamlets, they left behind women and children that they had held in captivity, in many cases badly malnourished.

“The humanitarian tragedies are immense and the losses are enormous. No farming has taken place in many of the villages and communities for over three years. Farmlands in many cases have been mined by the fleeing insurgents and because they are largely at various communities, the deprivation of livelihood and economic opportunities is big.

“Invariably, this dents agriculture's 32 percent contribution to our GDP. Although the terrorists still hold several persons captive, the nation recently received the cheering news of the rescue of 21 of the Chibok girls after practically two years in captivity. They were reunited with their families.

“Government is, and as I have said repeatedly, committed in ensuring that all the girls and all those who are in captivity are returned safely. Over twenty thousand Nigerians have lost their lives in the Boko Haram insurgency. The cost of rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure in the Northeast is enormous. The education of children in many communities has been stalled for years.

“Turning to Fulani herdsmen and farmer clashes, this has had an unfortunate long history. Disputes have arisen, use of essential resources, farmlands and grazing areas and water, farmers complaining of invasion of their farms and destruction of their crops by cattle, climate change and the continuous decrease in grazing land have led to even greater complications  and the dire needs that have continually presented this particular problem.

“More recently, the disputes have turned more violent with the arming of herdsmen with guns. There is also evidence of the infiltrations of the ranks of the herdsmen by North African youths who have been involved in the civil conflict between Libya and Mali. The proliferation of small arms in these conflicts has probably made them more available to criminal acts. Cattle rustling has also been a prominent breach of law and order.

“My firm orders had been that even the bearing of arms without license is illegal and persons found with arms must be arrested and prosecuted. No quarter can be granted to anyone who perpetrates violence or promote its occurrence in anyway. There is nothing noble about the banditry and criminal violence that we have seen more frequently and we must prevent their continuing occurrence.

“Turning to the Niger Delta, the attacks on pipelines and export facilities in the Niger Delta is a different law and order challenge. The damage has far reaching consequences for the national economy, the perpetrators are few and their motives are not necessarily aligned. The huge degradation of the environment and the criminal neglect of the region due to corruption, failed policies and the continuous vandalization of facilities has created a vicious cycle of environmental damage, poverty and violence.

“The economic dimensions of the disruptions in oil and gas production caused by militant activities in the region are grave indeed. The blowing of four strategic oil facilities and oil fields, the Trans Forcados pipelines to the terminal, the Qua Iboe terminal, the Brass pipeline, the Trans-Niger pipeline and the Nembe creek trunkline access both of which convey exports to the Bonny terminal, led to a decline in output from budgetary provisions of about 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1.1 million or sometimes less than 1.1 million barrels per day.

“In August 2016, the loss of over 1 million barrels of oil per day translated to the loss of over 60 percent of gross revenues. This is compounded by the comparatively low price oil regime. When oil revenues crash, even the non-oil economy is affected because 52 percent of our non-oil sector revenues depend on oil. Real GDP growth is directly linked to the price of crude and the relationship between oil price, oil export, and GDP growth rate remain as important as ever.

“Besides, as of February 2016, we were generating 5,000 Mega Watts of power for the first time in the history of the country but that same month the attack on Trans Forcados pipeline led to a 40 percent loss in gas for power. We suffered a sharp drop in power output to less than 2000 Mega Watts of power at some points.

“The implication of these despicable acts of sabotage on the vast majority of our people and even our people who live in the Niger Delta trying to make a living is definitely obvious. While we have made it absolutely clear that criminality under any guise will not be tolerated in any part of the country and the sabotage of national assets is a heinous crime. We have nonetheless opened several channels of communication with all relevant groups in the Delta.

“The clean-up of the Niger Delta beginning with Ogoniland is an irrevocable commitment, it will be irresponsible of this generation of leaders to ignore or worsen the environmental degradation in the region. This is why the continual vandalization of pipelines ultimately jeopardizes the lives and the livelihood of the present and the next generation.

“There is no question at all that the security, law and order come first in order of priority. As we have seen, violators of the law completely undermine our economic potentials and harm the poorest amongst us the most.

“The policies of the government on law and order are quite clear: first, we believe in the dignity of every Nigerian regardless of status, tribe or religion. As a soldier, l pledged my life to defend this nation, since my youth; I have in adulthood, twice sworn, as Head of State and President, to defend the laws and constitution. Our constitution grants the right to life and with it I believe, the right to be protected from the violation of one’s cause or property and l take that oath seriously.

“It is therefore the position of government that this criminal conducts cannot be tolerated in any form. Every criminal act must be accounted for. It must remain clear that impunity has come to an end in our country and there would be consequences for violations of the law. This is why we are working diligently to improve the nation's capacity to maintain law and order.

“We are supporting the incremental provision of state-of-the-art equipment of crime fighting especially using technology. Recently we commissioned a central criminal database of police in Abuja which will greatly assist in crime detection and prosecution.

“Our system of criminal justice from investigation to prosecution and adjudication by the court needs to be re-engineered. A long delay in the trial process has impaired the credibility of our capacity to hold offenders to account. Our problem, it seems, is not access to justice, it is exiting our justice system once you have access to it. I have charged the judiciary often, and I do so again, on the task of developing a firm blueprint for a justice system that works, a system that delivers result.”

Story by Oputah David