Niger Delta Avengers, The Nigerian Federal Government, and A Way Forward

Ogoniland
Two decades after Saro Wiwa’s death, Ogoniland still deals with issues that defined his struggle. Photo/Quartz

There are severe problems to contend with between the Niger Delta Avengers and the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari over the blowing up of oil and gas pipelines in the South-South region of Nigeria, predominately the Niger Delta. These problems have directly affected the production of crude oil, but could be put to rest if both parties decided to shift their current ideological positions.

The group which has become a threat to the economic progress and development of the country due to their continuous attacks of pipelines owned by Agip, Shell, Chevron’s Escravos and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) early this year, has caused alot of damage.

Their demands for a sovereign nation of the Niger Delta people coupled with the yearnings for state resources control from the present administration makes negotiations complicated, but they have agreed to dialogue with the FG in a bid to end this crisis.

The discovery of oil in 1956 forever changed the face of the Niger Delta. Located in the southernmost part of Nigeria, it is the largest mangrove swamp in Africa and the third largest in the world.

The Niger Delta produces 90 percent of the country’s commercial crude oil and accounts for roughly 70 percent of government revenue. The total dollar amounts are staggering. According to OPEC, Nigeria made $77 billion from oil exports in 2014 — and that was a low year. The U.S. Department of Energy says Nigeria’s oil export earnings hit $99 billion in 2011. The figures were $94 billion and $84 billion for 2012 and 2013, respectively.

In the communities of the Niger Delta, there is a feeling that these mind-boggling profits belong to the people there.

NDA Demands

1. The immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference report, failure of Nigeria will forcefully break-up.

2. President Buhari, the director-general of the State Secret Service and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva should apologize to the people of the Niger Delta region and family of Late Chief DSP Alamieyesegha for killing him with intimidation and harassment because of his party affiliation.

3. The ownership of oil blocks in Nigeria must reflect 60 percent for the oil-producing people and 40 percent for the non-oil producing people.

4. The only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place – Okerenkoko in Delta state, must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.

5. The minister of transportation, Rotimi Amechi should apologize to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the citing of the University in Okerenko.

6. Ogoniland and and all oil polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up, while compensation should be paid to all oil-producing communities.

7. Radio Biafra director and Independent Peoples of Biafra leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, should be released unconditionally.

8. The Niger Delta Amnesty program must be well-funded and allowed to continue to run effectively.

9. All APC members indicted for corruption should be made to face trial like their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party.

10. All oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe these demands, as their business interest in the country will be first targeted.

Going by these demands by the Niger Delta Avengers, President Buhari’s decision to begin dialogue with the NDA is a welcome development in the sense that it would give the two parties an opportunity to address burning issues.

In addition, it can only be seen as positive for the FG to have embarked on the cleanup of Ogoniland which has been polluted for over 50 years because of oil operation in the region and the leakage of crude oil into the rivers. A United Nations Environmental Program Assessment conducted in 2011 states the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the “world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken. While some on-the-ground results could be immediate, overall the report estimates that countering and cleaning up the pollution and catalyzing a sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years”.

Muhammadu Buhari

This is where a population of over 800,000 people carry out their business activities, most are trained fishermen. For the Niger Delta communities that rely on farming and fishing, the environmental damage has been catastrophic. All told, the UNEP report states it could take at least $1 billion to clean up the pollution, so this presumably is the first in many steps the government would need to take to help the region bounce back.

Countless studies reveal that access to water, electricity, health facilities, jobs, and education remain limited. A 2006 report from the United Nations Development Program highlights “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.” The report goes on to call the Delta one of the world’s starkest examples of the “resource curse.”

Military Action

The use of military action would have escalated the problems without repairs if the Federal Government had wanted to use force against NDA, who are beginning to gain ground in the region.

Unlike other militant groups in the country which have associated themselves with killing innocent souls and kidnappings with ransom demanded, the NDA have shown none of these traits.

The FG must empower communities in the Niger Delta by creating massive job opportunities which will be of great value to them. In addition, the government must tackle the issue of corruption through diversion of money meant for the Niger Delta region that has ended up in  the hands of only kings, elders, and chiefs or Niger Amnesty Program negotiators like Tompolo.

More so, the indigenes of the Niger Delta region should be allowed to have access to the management of their state resources under the supervision of the Federal Government. The ideal of granting them amnesty is commendable; however, the federal government must put in place certain modalities that will help restore the lost trust. It goes beyond just promising, it demands acting in accordance with one’s promise.

What exactly is the South-South region

south-south_Nigeria-geo-political_zone

The Niger Delta, defined officially by the Nigerian government, extends over about 70,000 km2 (27,000 sq mi) and makes up 7.5 percent of Nigeria’s land mass. Historically and cartographically, it consists of present-day Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States. Some 31 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups including the Bini, Efik, Esan, Ibibio, Igbo, Annang, Oron, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Yoruba, Isoko, Urhobo, Ukwuani, Kalabari and Ogoni, are among the inhabitants of the political Niger Delta, speaking about 250 different dialects.

The Niger Delta, and the “South-South Zone”, which includes Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, Delta State, Edo State and Rivers State are two different entities. While the Niger Delta is the oil-producing region the Nigerian “South-South” is a geo-political zone.