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Niger-delta Oil And The Politics Of Compensation

By Ita Offiong
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Niger-Delta, a region once described by a prolific writer, Michael Peel as a swamp full of dollars and variously regarded as a proverbial goose that lays the golden egg has often dominated the national discourse with one issue or the other.

The popularity of this region is not because of its prosperity, economic development or viability. It is always for the wrong reasons. Most issues attracting national attention in the tabloid have to do with deprivations, militancy, kidnapping, blowing up of oil pipelines, oil-spillage and pollution.

The reactions of the citizens to these adversities and their demands for compensation are what often make the news. These are issues that continue to shape the people’s perception about the region, making some to refer to it as a swamp of insurgency.

In deed many pressure groups have been formed to take up issues of degradation and deprivation of both the people and their environment, due to the activities of multinational oil companies. All along, the compensation for the affected people have always been on the lips of agitators and activists but unfortunately when it finally comes, it does not always reach the destination of the worst hit people, thus their plight continues unmitigated and unabated.

We have been watching how agitators and militants have become stupendously rich while the people they claim to represent continue to wallow in abject poverty. This has left many to wonder if government only listens to those who rebel against it, while the patriotic ones die in their predicament. Individuals, groups and various state governments in the region have also been flaunting compensation for these hapless denizens of the swamps but when it comes, it ends up in their accounts.

The advent of the 4th republic witnessed an intense and sustained pressure for resource control by some governors in the region. This development eventually led to a geometric increase in federal allocations and oil derivations to the states in the region. But the sad truth is that, the deplorable conditions occasioned by activities of oil explorations and exploitations have continued to leave a cocktail of poverty, pollution and diseases in the region. Those in the vanguard of protests and agitations have become stupendously rich at the expense of others. Governors of the states in the region too, have over the years generously compensated themselves leaving the generality of their impoverished indegenes out of the largesse.

Also, various commissions, boards and agencies were formed to address the plethora of crises plaguing the region, still the masses were short-changed as recommended programmes never got implemented.

It is on record that since 1960, both successive military and civilian administrations have constituted up to more than 12 panels to study the problems of the region and offer recommendations that would address these issues but the solutions have always remained illusive.

Take for instance the Willink Commission of 1958, followed by the Niger- Delta Development Board (NDDB) of 1960, and then the River Basin Development Authorities Decree in 1976, Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) was also established in 1993 while the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) came on board at the advent of this republic.

All these federal government interventions have only done little or nothing to the man in the creek, who daily engages in an eternal battle of survival between polluted environments and militants to eke out an existence in a sordid state of sub-human and deprived livelihoods.

There is this popular joke about successive governments which kept on promising Niger-Deltans better things to come but over the years, they became agitated and demanded to know when they would be delivered to them, but they were told that those things were still in the pipelines. So when the youths were tired of waiting, they began to break up oil pipe-lines to get those things that were promised them.

This may sound funny but the reality is that, the trajectory of this sad development has degenerated from travesty to tragedy. The nefarious activities of militants have led to the untimely death of many people and the cumulative loss of billions of dollars due to destruction of some oil facilities also contributed to this recession.

The oil in the Niger-Delta is supposed to be a blessing to the people but unfortunately the selfish elite’s rapaciousness has brought an untold hardship to the people. One therefore wonders why a place which habours the treasure of the nation should present such a lamentable narrative of a perennial impoverishment of un-imaginable proportion.

Government cannot truly claim to be tackling under-development conscientiously when the people from the oil-producing area continue to languish in an abject poverty. Those silent and patriotic youths in the region who neither carry guns nor explosives should also be compensated.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ita Offiong and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."