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Towards Lasting Resolution To Niger Delta Issue


Given the advocacy for industry facility clusters in the region, government and partners should hatch plans to build three big refineries in the region to provide thousands of decent well paid jobs for the indigenes, promote entrepreneurship among the indigenes to provide services to the new industries.

Emmanuel Okoroafor

The current spate of militant attacks on the industry by the Niger Delta Avengers is without doubt deplorable, but the recent military adventure in the region is definitely a pedestrian strategy in dealing with the issue which has remained intractable, complex and complicated.

The militant hostilities impact on the economy of the country, Nigeria, as a whole; but, in particular, the attacks worsen environmental pollution of the Niger Delta region and consequently exacerbate the hardship of the people.

The Federal government going to war against the militants is not also a wise option. The militants may be defeated, but the eventual outcomes might carry severe economic and environmental consequences with the Niger Delta region and the oil and gas facilities located their suffering more destruction and consequential pollution.

Turning the Niger Delta into a war theatre carries the spell of gloom and doom. Given the proven proliferation of arms and munitions in the area which has full compliments of large swarm of angry youths, military deterrence can only meet bold and angry resistance, resulting in defiant effrontery and transfer of aggression on the petroleum industry which is obviously the government’s revenue life wire.

For decades now the industry has carried vicarious pains because it is seen as the sore spot of the government and the only reliable button for government’s immediate attention. And as long as the demands of the people have not been met, defeating the current group of militants will not erase the problems.

One will not fail to notice that the demands of the people have since evolved. In the days of Ken Saro Wiwa, it was all about the environmental damages and its impact on the lives of the people in the region. The militant groups that followed led by Dokubo Asari, Ateke Tom, Henry Okah and others like Tompolo were all sorted with security contracts covering maritime and pipelines.

The current group of militants plus those behind them are more interested in more financial stakes in the oil assets in their lands: local control of oil revenues. Without doubt, the people in the region will like such development.

Thus, resolving the conflict which has built huge risk premium on the Nigerian petroleum industry environment, forced multinational players to divest vulnerable assets and imposed huge commercial losses on operations requires more sophisticated approach and engagement strategies that amplify inclusive orientation.

Clearly, the old methods of resolving issues in the region, like awarding juicy security contracts to the militants will no longer work, not even with full military intervention involving warships, gunboats, fighter jets and boots on the ground.

Deploying more military assets and threatening an unmitigated crackdown portend an escalation of the violence. The region has upped the stakes and so should the Federal government re-strategize and come up with long lasting solutions that will keep the Niger Delta region and her people happy, maintain the union and hence stabilize the national economy for investments that propel development.

The new approach must deviate from the past: No more Community Liasion Officer roles; no more security contracts to secure facilities; no more quangos filled with fat cats without genuine interest in the region. Government must end the phase of money wasting engagement of local politicians and community leaders that have no real influence on the people. It should rather, do something that directly impacts positively on the quality of life of the masses in the region, and satisfying to their demands.

A time tested strategy that will initiate a lasting resolution of the Niger Delta issues will include action plans to Recover, Restructure and Modernise the Niger delta region environmentally, economically and with development of infrastructural faciltities.

Starting with plans to clean up the environment and make fresh water and other amenities available in the impacted areas. Enforce a cut or outright ban on pollution of the environment by O&G activities.

Government should also set up health centres to cater for those with illnesses associated with oil and gas environmental pollution and evolve a well thought corporate social responsibility programme that impact directly on the wellbeing of the people.

Given the advocacy for industry facility clusters in the region, government and partners should hatch plans to build three big refineries in the region to provide thousands of decent well paid jobs for the indigenes, promote entrepreneurship among the indigenes to provide services to the new industries.

Government should put together an extensive network of Roads and Bridges work programme that will also keep thousands more employed and facilitate movement of people and goods.

Controversial but possible, government may task companies operating oil blocks in the region to bring an indigene of the region into the board.  Such positions might include Directors of EHSS to help ensure their companies do not pollute the environment.

Also, at next round of licensing of oil blocks in the region, government should introduce affirmative action that ensures allocation of about 40 percent to indigenes of the region.

Corporate Social Responsibility – a small levy on the producing Oil Wells and blocks that is injected back into developments programmes (schools, hospitals, sanitation, etc) in the Niger Delta region. Some of which is saved for the rainy day – such as nature or man-made disasters, etc

It is expected that when the people have such stakes in the resources, they will not have cause to destroy oil and gas facilities in the region nor will they tolerate anyone to do such. Rather the indigenes of Niger Delta will start contributing to the development of their region. There will be no need for Community Liaison Officer Roles, and no more security contracts to secure facilities.  It is then and only then should we have peace and development in the region, which will impact positively on the country in terms of economic contributions from full industry business activities.

One will not achieve much by crude military suppression tactics. Turning the region to war theatre will cause massive production downturn not to mention the clean-up bill that the government will have to pick up after the clash.

My Pennyworth


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