An Evaluation of Interventionist Agencies in the Development of the Niger Delta Region

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Being a Paper presented at an Interactive Forum of the Niger Delta Integrity Group in Conjunction with a Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Port Harcourt, Rivers State

Venue: Hartford Hotel, 50 Whimpey Road, Mile IV, Port Harcourt (Bolton Hall)

Date: Saturday 16th July, 2011; Time: 10 am Prompt
The time-honoured ritual in an interactive session such as this is to thank the distinguished audience and members of the civil society Organizations for finding time to attend this epoch making session organized by the Niger Delta Integrity Group - NDIG, which has integrity, justice and good governance as its motto. The NDIG was founded in September, 2005 with a desire to promote good government through the sensitization of all segments of society on the tenets of accountability, transparency and popular participation. It is gratifying to note that a huge majority of our people still yearn for change in spite of the fact that democracy has been around for upwards of ten years, the fundamental ethos of the praxis seem to be lacking. NDIG has since reckoned that the meaning of democracy will be incomplete if the policies and programmes are not translated into practical reality.

The topic of the lecture “An Evaluation of Interventionist Agencies in the Development of the Niger Delta Region” is not mentally tasking but intellectually stimulating. Against the backdrop of vigorous agitations mounted by the people of the Niger Delta and fifty years after independence and the efforts made by governments at all levels to redress the state of neglect, spoliation and marginalization, it is appropriate to evaluate the sincerity of government interventionist agencies in the several attempts to develop the Region. Whether we can comfortably regard them as a success is a subject of controversy, depending on the ideological wavelength of the evaluator.

However, there seems to be a consensus that there is an obvious disconnect between government and the people especially when development agencies. This disconnect has resulted in the mismanagement of the economy – making Nigeria to manifest the characteristics of a failed State. But whether Nigeria is a failed or failing State is a matter of controversy and the analytic lenses at the disposal of the person. It is germane, however to point out that the federal government is making frantic efforts to strengthen existing institutions including the electoral system.

This paper seeks to evaluate the activities should therefore, be seen as part of efforts to address the challenges of governance failure at this momentous time when even the advanced democracies are engaging in some form of ideological reappraisal. With this tradition in mind, I shall endeavour to strip this lecture bare of any scholarly gravity. The hard-headed analysis attendant to such analysis may be watered blended by the thinking that we are still an evolving nation, experimenting as it were every policy, programme or ideas, which in other lands are used to propel development.

Apart from the Middle-East, which has a long historiography of interminable crises, the Niger Delta Region, NDR, is the most studies Region of the world. This explains why there is a repertoire of literature, some of them written objectively to genuinely address the development challenges of the Region, while others are written to aggravate insurgency in the NDR. What is incontrovertible; however that is the Region has fallen into the Resource Curse trap hence measures put together as palliatives often pale into insignificance against the background of the misery index, frustration, marginalization, alienation and poverty in the Region. Amidst these bouts of crises are a group of self-serving benefit captors, economic opportunists, political adventurers and conflict entrepreneurs, all feasting on the honey pot of crude oil.

The predominant settlement type in the Niger Delta is small and scattered hamlets. The vast majority of settlements comprise largely rural communities in dispersed village settlements. In total, there are 13,329 settlements in the Niger Delta Region. Extrapolations from the 1991 National Population Census show that at a growth rate of 2.9% the population of the Niger Delta Region by 2004 was about 30 million. Projected to 2015, it is expected that the population will be 41.5 million people. The projection is shown in table 1.

Table 1 : Population Projection of the Niger Delta States

State 2005 2010 2015 2020

Abia 3,230,000 3,763,000 4,383,000 5,106,000

Akwa Ibom 3,343,000 3,895,000 4,537,000 5,285,000

Bayelsa 1710,000 1,992,000 2,320,000 2,703,000

Cross River 2,736,000 3,187,000 3,712,000 4,325,000

Delta 3,594,000 4,186,000 4,877,000 5,681,000

Edo 3,018,000 3,516,000 4,096,000 4,871,000

Imo 3,342,000 3,894,000 4,535,000 5,283,000

Ondo 3,025,000 3,524,000 4,105,000 4,782,000

Rivers 4,858,000 5,659,000 6,592,000 7,679,000

Total 28,856,000 33,616,000 39,157,000 45,715,000

Source: NDR Survey - based on National Population Commission

The NDR is characterized by widespread poverty with about 70% of the population live below the poverty line. The pervasive poverty is due largely to the low the level of industrialization. This has been made more difficult by the activities of Trans-national Corporations TNCs, which have adversely affected the traditional economy of subsistence fishing and farming. In the NDR infant mortality and maternal morbidity are estimated to be 20% which is among the highest in the world. Modern transport infrastructure is inadequate and often hampered by a poor road network and harsh conditions especially in the coastal areas. Whereas there is hardly electricity supply in many riverine areas, telecommunication facilities are in acute short supply. Healthcare is less than desirable while the schools are ill-equipped hence they serve more as youth restive factories than institutions of learning. Waste management is waste management culture, compounded by the frequent environmental pollution exacerbated by the activities of oil companies. These harsh conditions provide a fertile ground for social unrest, conflict and instability.

The exclusion of Niger Delta communities in the control and management of the upstream and downstream operations of the oil industry is disastrous to their very existence as a people. For instance through the instrumentality of the Petroleum Act 1969 (as amended and other legislations), the local communities on whose lands oil is exploited, have been divested of their entitlements to their land and the oil produced from it. Indigenes of the Niger Delta hardly ever benefit from the allocation of Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPL) and are totally excluded from crude oil sales notwithstanding the fact that it is the local communities and the people that directly suffer from oil spillage, gas flaring, acid rain, fire disaster due to leakage from corroded and broken oil pipelines, environmental degradation and pollution amongst ecological disasters taking place in the region.

A Gallup Poll conducted on April 28, 2008 by Magali and Tortora (2008) . The Poll showed that 61% of Nigerians think the inhabitants of the Niger Delta are suffering and 63% of the respondents believe the people of the Region have a right to protest, however, a vast majority of Nigerians reject pipelines vandalization, hostage taking and kidnapping of women and children as means of protest. Damnable as it may seem, some sympathizers of the insurgents describe the crisis as part of a global move by an oppressed class to fight for freedom and economic justice.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the problems confronting the NDR is the myriad environmental hazards. The dangerous scenario was graphically captured in Article VI of the Kaiama Declaration:

The un-abating damage done to our fragile natural environment and to the health of our people is due largely to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude oil and natural gas, which has led to numerous spills, gas flaring, the opening up of our forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalizations, flooding, coastal erosion and earth tremors…

The general perception is that the federal government is deliberately opportunistic in matters concerning the development of the oil rich region. The leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force: Dokubo Melford Goodhead aptly captured the situation thus:

The Niger Delta is a conquered territory. It is a place of ruthless internal colonization; it is a place where the gun, the tanker, the battleship, and the marauding war planes of the nation are always at the ready to deal destruction and death. The Niger Delta ware planes of the nation are always at the ready to deal destruction and death. The Niger Delta is the festering sore of the nation…The Niger Delta is a beggar by the road side. The Niger Delta is a person raped and left for dead in a dark alley. It is a place of deepest sorrow

The familiar areas of conflicts and agitations include but not limited to:

 Revenue allocation among the three tiers of government

 Revenue allocation criteria as basis for equitable fiscal federalism

 State and local government areas creation as instruments of development engineering.

 Boundary adjustments related to claims of oil wells,

 Issues concerning federal character in key government appointments and distribution of federal projects.

 A profound feeling of neglect, exploitation and marginalization

 Near absence of federal presence in the Region leading to the erosion of confidence.

 The need to entrench a just, egalitarian and equitable society.

 Failure of Intervention agencies such as NDBDA; OMPADEC and NDDC. Now the Amnesty Programme is being experimented and in the past 8 months or so, there have been positive signposts of success

 General governance failure as expressed in the lack the ingredients of good governance such as consensus-building, popular participation, the rule of law, and transparency and accountability among others.

Akinkugbe (2003) rightly observed that “in the four decades of Nigeria's political independence, we have witnessed a steady decline in values, quality of governance, commitment and the integrity of our environment. Our society has become negatively permissive and much passes for norm today that would have caused a raising of eyebrows in yonder years”.

Presently, Nigeria is reputed to be the sixth greatest oil producing country in the world. Nigeria is also an influential member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Nigeria earns about 95% of her foreign exchange from crude oil and gas, and these resources are produced in the Niger Delta Region. The paradox is that the NDR is marginalized apart from bearing the additional burden of severe environmental degradation of genocidal proportion which their negative multipliers .

The Resource Curse Model
The Resource Curse model adopted in this investigation is the Karl Terry Lynn's Model. The Resource Curse Concept asserts that when states are oil dependent, they inadvertently create a “rent seeking class”, which feasts on the oil – the “honey pot”. As more and more people depend on the “honey pot for its sustenance, there would be internal cracks because each of the rent seeking mafia would protect its own interest either by way of raising a militia or instigating crisis. The rent seeker would continue the onslaught on the honey pot until they create an “oil trap”. The oil trap once firmly established kills all other sectors of the economy. This situation leads to crisis both within the local “comprador class” and international competitors who would push for favourable investment climate to secure cheap energy.

The oil trap slows down economic growth; creates inequality and high unemployment; high corruption index, governance deficit, weak rule of law, emasculate existing democratic institutions, reinforces a culture of rent-seeking, with severe human rights violations, environmental degradation and greater risks of conflict and war.

It is not the crude oil itself that threatens the economic and political stability of Petro-states, rather it is the political and institutional arrangements that have developed around its exploitation for the entire gamut of panoply to “resource curse” to appear, petroleum must be sold in the international market. It is the international character of oil regime and the interaction between the MNCs and their host governments, and foreign financial institution.

The resource course today is not limited to world's hotspots like Iraq, Indonesia, Sudan, Chad, Colombia and the Niger Delta but also other Countries like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is precisely the dilemma of oil-exporters, Petro-States suffer from a double perverse effect; their states, formed during the period of oil running, are usually skewed by the imperatives of resource exploitation, but the intensification of the resource dependence accompanying state-building. Again, whatever type of government that is in power are sustained by the oil resources hence such states are either unstable or the leaders spend unnecessarily long tenure of office.

Figure 1: Karl Terry Lynn's Resource Curse Model
Nigeria is a crude oil mono-culture and a rentier state par excellence because it relies exclusively on foreign exchange on crude oil. A rentier state and rentier economy lead to a rentier mentality, which dooms a country's economy and long-term prospects. The implication is that there is exceptionally high value for oil and a corresponding usually high level of external interventions in shaping the affairs of the country. Essentially, Nigeria has less subject to the internal countervailing pressures. This explains why the conflict in the NDR snowballed into a mini-form of insurgency.

Therefore, the protest we see in the Niger Delta is the external dominance and control of capital and technology in oil exploitation and the connivance with the Nigerian State with the foreign companies instead of bargaining with the local population. The local population suffers from economic exclusion – they do not participate in the ownership, production and enjoyment of their own resources because of an unfair legal regime.

Collier and Hoeffler (2005) recommended that the resource curse can only abate if oil states take the following steps:

 Economic diversification: that is investing the oil revenues in industry, manufacturing and agriculture. This policy option seems to be yielding dividend in Venezuela and Iran but it has not worked in Nigeria.

 Establish a Trust Fund with the revenues through natural resource funds. In Norway, there exists the Norway's State Petroleum Fund or the Alaska Permanent Fund such that these funds are deployed for the development of infrastructure in a transparent manner. In Nigeria, monies accruing to the state above projected revenue are declared as “excess crude oil “funds” and shared among the three organs of government without spilt-over effect on the real sectors of the economy. Only recently, a Sovereign Trust Fund has been established, but whether it will be effective or not is yet another matter

 Entrenchment of transparency in government expenditure. The Nigerian hydrocarbon industry is not transparent at all, although Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe; Trinidad – Tobago, Chad, Garbon, Azerbaijan and 51 governments have subscribed to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) template, with domestic civil society and international involvement, Nigeria lacks the political will to implement transparency related issues in the oil industry. However, this could be realized if:

(1). Both host communities and government remove all obstacles to the transparent disclosure and monitoring of the oil sector.

(2). Oil revenues are included in the budget and allocations are made public through the internet, electronic and press and through a variety of consultative fora.

(3). Companies disclose at periodic intervals, all net taxes, fees, royalties and other payments made to oil producing states, including compensation payments and community development funding.

(4). For the International Financial Institutions, there is need to use the transparency criterion as conditionality for the granting of loans and technical assistance to oil states such as Nigeria.

(5) The issue of transparency is so critical that NGO's and other Civil Society Organizations should assist in building the capacity of major stakeholders to collect and disseminate information, develop a monitoring and evaluation template for the entrenchment of transparency and accountability.

(6) Above all, stakeholders should renounce the tactics of the use of violence as a means of extracting concession from the MNCs.

The Resource Curse may endure for a while because crude oil remains the world's most valuable commodity. The big players in the oil industry at the global level should reverse the Resource Curse by creating an enabling environment to save the NDR from sliding into the slippery slope of violence and war.

It is estimated that Nigerian Natural Gas produces 35 million tons of Carbon dioxide (C02), and 12 million tons of methane, the highest gas flaring in the world and the biggest single cause of global warming. In 1985 alone, Ogoni land suffered 111 spills and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) document showed that between 1976 and 1999, 2,676 spills were documented. From 1982 to 1992, shell alone accounted for 1.6 million gallons of spilled oil which constitutes 37% of the company's spills worldwide . Indeed, the activities of the oil companies have negatively affected the traditional sources of livelihood of the inhabitants.

In December 11 1998, the Ijaw Youth Council proclaimed the famous Kaiama Declaration, which reaffirmed the philosophy of the Resource Control and the the practice of true federalism. The Kaiama Declaration posits that it is resource control alone that can make the people to reclaim their dignity as a people. The situation has been aggravated by lack of coordinated effort by the Oil companies and the Federal Government. Earlier in 1990, the Ogoni had declared the Ogoni Bill of Right; the Egi people also declared the Akalaka Declaration; Other Declaration includes: the Oron Bill of Right, the Warri Accord, Resolution of the First Urhobo Economic Summit (Community Defense Law Foundation, 2007:2). All these declarations asserted the imperative of self-determination and resource control by oil producing communities in the Niger Delta Region.

Interventionist Agencies in the Niger Delta
The Willink Report of 1958 succinctly declared that the NDR we are a group of independent and autonomous kingdoms and peoples, with separate languages, culture and religion, equal in status and in no way subordinate to one another but united as a corporate body to form the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The report also recommended that the Niger Delta be given special attention. This eventually led to the establishment of various interventionist agencies.

Following the Willink Commission Report of 1958, the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, was created in 1960. The Board did not create any impact until the 30 month fratricidal civil war. This was followed by the establishment of the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, NDBDA. Like its predecessor agency, the NDBDA was under-funded in such a manner as not create any meaningful impact. Besides, the Federal Government created ten (10) other Basin Authorities and funded the others to the detriment the original one. The NDBDA was also emasculated by the Nigerian experience.

The renewed agitations during the Second Republic led to the establishment in 1980, of the 1.5% Presidential Task Force. The Task Force could not create the desired impact because of poor funding. The Babangida regime in 1992 created the Oil Mineral Producing Development Areas Commission (OMPADEC) which was killed by the conspiracy of official highhandedness, under funding and lack of accountability. Now, the subsisting Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is under-funded and there are genuine complaints about lack of internal accountability within the Commission. For the past 12 years of its existence, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has achieved very little. Nigeria needs to emulate the examples of is better to draw lesson from Canada and the United States of America where special funds were provided from royalties for the development of Alaska and Alberta.

The Niger Delta Technical Committee Report
The Yar'Adua administration set up the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta to understudy all previous reports and to proffer solutions to the Niger Delta problem. The Committee in packaging its Report made efforts to embark on field trips to interact with people in a few communities, ostensibly to justify the paltry allowances paid to them. Whereas the public have no access yet to the full Report of the Committee, media reports point to six major issues which by my estimation are neither new nor far-reaching. The major recommendations are:

 The open trial and bail of the detained movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) leader Mr. Henry Okah.

 An upward review of the derivation formula from 13% to 25% in order to tackle the infrastructure challenge in the Region.

 Dualization of the East-West Road.
 The disarmament, decommissioning and rehabilitation of militants within six months.

 Withdrawal of troops within six months, as confidence building measure towards the disarmament of the militants.

 Creation of employment for 2,000 youths in each Federal Government through the youth Employment Scheme, and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Government also created the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to coordinate the development of the Region. While the integral part of the recommendations has not been implemented, it was the forerunner of the Amnesty Programme.

The Amnesty Programme
President Yar'Adua made a significant milestone when in 2009; he created the first ever Federal Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs. The creation of this Ministry brought a sigh of relief to the Niger Deltans who had been yearning for greater social and infrastructural development of their region. As part of his determination and desire to put an end to the agitations and violence in the region, the late President also initiated an Amnesty Programme with the aim of disarming, rehabilitating and re-integrating militants into their communities with a promise to tackle head on, the challenges facing the region. These challenges cannot continue to stare us in the face.

The Amnesty Programme has been a huge success as the militants accepted the offer and began coming out of hiding to hand over their arms and ammunition to the government through the peace committee set up to coordinate the programme. At present, the rehabilitation centers have been established and the born-again militants have started the process of rehabilitation. With the amnesty declared a success and the period over, the post-amnesty period is before us and this period is also significant in bringing about lasting peace and development to the region. The effort and determination of the government to achieve these objectives can be seen in the budgetary provisions for the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry in the 2010 budget. Government seems to be committed to funding the Amnesty programme to avoid a relapse to the days of insurgency, chaos and uncertainty.

The Post-Amnesty Programme implementation process that started months ago promises to be a success. Already, the signposts of success are beginning to manifest. If the Nigerian Local Content Law is implemented, then the Seafarers, pipeline welders, pilots, Computers Engineers and other middle and high level manpower being produced by the amnesty programme will be accommodated by the emerging hydro-carbon industry in the Region. However, the Amnesty Programme should not be seen as a stand-alone programme; it has to work in synergy with other Ministries, parastatals and International development partners. With all modesty, the present leadership of the Amnesty Programme under Hon. Kingsley Kuku has won the confidence of otherwise despondent masses. This appears to be the verdict of recipient and non-recipient stakeholders.

The Niger Delta agitation was anchored on the issues of marginalization, environmental despoliation, and infrastructural decay and poverty amidst plenty. As far as these conditions still persist, there can never be sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region. The reports of the Niger Delta Technical Committee must be gathering dust somewhere but the reality is that not an ounce of that report has been implemented. The resources and energy government is spending to sustain the amnesty program should be intensified can be redirected to pursue verifiable physical development in the region. It is inexcusable that even at a time when we have a President from the region; many of these promises still remain in the pipeline, but there can be no invitation to break the pipelines again.

Enduring peace is a pre-requisite for development. Peace cannot be achieved through the military or armed agencies approach only. If the Niger Delta is left in the state which it is, there will be no peace. In the words of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Late Sir Ahmadu Bello “Those who may feel that the problems of oil producing areas are not in their back yard and who may feel a safe distance from the oil communities should be reminded that Nigeria is an entity within the environment and a decay in part, will ultimately affect the rest of the nation”.

The laying of pipelines had led to a sea of corruption in our body polity. The existing policy to extend pipelines from Kaduna to Libya and from Lagos to Ivory Coast will not favour Nigerians. If they go ahead with this policy, there will be another avenue for pipeline vandalization and theft of resources – which has become part of the Nigerian experience. The alternative remedy, which is recommended, is to establish industries in the Niger Delta, develop ship building industries, railways and multiple roads, and infrastructure as well as dredging the seas and rivers to ensure free flow of trade in the region and to connect the Niger Delta with the North, East and West. More, the protection and security of pipelines should be contracted to communities through which the pipelines are laid.

The following On the strength of the analysis, the following recommendations are made:

 The Federal Government should pay more attention to the developmental challenges of the NDR. Niger Delta. It is no longer sufficient for them to deal with the region solely through the Nigerian government. The federal government has failed repeatedly to live up to its responsibilities.

 The Federal Government should abrogate the Land Use Act of 1978, as the Act has destroyed the use of land as a factor of production. By Sections 34 and 36 of the Land Use Act the Government has by this single stroke of the pen given to her that which it does not have did not have in the first place. The Governor under the Land Use Act has assumed ownership of what it never owned. Therein lies the (blind) fallacy of Government in the abuse of the principle of Nemo Dat Quod Non Habet (No one can give what he does not have) established under the Common Law.

 Memorandum of understanding between the Federal Government and the Oil companies in their joint venture agreement and the production sharing contract should be harmonized to ensure the preservation of Nigeria's national interest.

 The multinational companies are sources of conflict and the Federal Government has a moral responsibility to supervise their conduct, even though they are private business.

 Boards and Agencies should be set up to address the issues of: agricultural development, housing, education, health, employment, Water supply, Power and Energy, Infrastructure (roads, rail, sea and air), Security.

 Gas, which is presently flared, should be conserved and/or developed for the benefit of the people especially in the much-needed area of electricity power generation and distribution. The Federal Government should be guided by the principles of equity and justice in the sales and allocation of Oil Prospecting Licenses (OPL) and allocations as well as upstream and downstream related business as decided by the Vision 2010 and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.

 The way oil companies respond to environmental damages and pollution in the other parts of the world must be the same way they handle such problems in Nigeria.

 Government at all levels should proactively engaged in compelling the multinational oil companies to change their corruptible, exploitative, destabilizing intimidating, brutalizing and destructive business.

 While it is germane to advocate the abrogation of the obnoxious laws excluding the oil, producing communities from participating in the exploitation of their resources, the Federal Government could also use her diplomatic and economic leverage to persuade government to MNCs to explore dialogue as a means of conflict resolution, and this calls for the urgent de-militarization of the NDR.

 Finally the following suggestions have been made to guide policy implementation:

1. Government should compel the MNCs to employ a certain percentage of their workforce come directly from the oil producing communities. This will encourage ownership among the people of the Region.

2. As part of their corporate social responsibility, the MNCs should invest a certain percentage of their resources in the region through infrastructural and institutional development. This will help in confidence building and reduce conflict. This should be implemented along with a sustainable and proactive re-orientation of youth.

3. On the long run, the abrogation of the Land Use Act, the Petroleum Act and other laws alienating the host communities will create a sense of ownership, douse tension and entrench lasting peace in the Region. Let us discredit the idea that oil is thicker than blood. It is a pseudo dogma that should not apply in the Niger Delta

The Niger Delta Region has a lot of conflict entrepreneurs who derive enormous political and social capital hence the place has been rendered a war zone where beneficiaries engage in economic opportunism and military adventurism. Only a well articulated and holistic development plan can reverse the orgy of violence, hostage taking and cyclical instability. Therefore, all stakeholders should muster up the will and determination to entrench justice and fairness as a sine qua non for lasting peace in the oil rich NDR. The NDR cannot afford a relapse to a state of lawlessness, anomie and insecurity. We must all strive to keep the peace as the benefits of peace building far outweigh the sacrifices.

I thank you for your indulgence
Idumange John – is Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group

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Articles by Idumange John