By Princewill, Kanjo, Ndu
The Niger Delta Region often regarded as the most economically viable region that accounts for a large percent of our economy in the country with natural endowments such as Oil and Gas that have overtime become the mainstay of the country’s economy despites its rich endowment remains the most underdeveloped and poverty ridden region. This is more worrisome even as on the part of the federal government, various agencies, ministry and commisions have been created to take care of the region’s development challenges.
The reality on ground is that the various intervention agencies, ministry and commisions have not done enough in changing the ugly developmental narrative of the people, if years after the creation of these agencies by the federal government of Nigeria to develop the Niger Delta and yet the region remains shamefully underdeveloped, then Niger Deltans needs to look inward and begin to hold political leaders in the region accountable for its underdevelopment.
This is so as it is Niger Deltans that have overtime overseeing the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Amnesty Program, Niger Delta Ministry, 13percent derivation to the Niger Delta States and what have you. Till date, the region lacks virtually all basic social amenities.
The agitations have always manifested in form of tension between foreign oil corporations and number of ethnic minorities and militia groups who feels they are being exploited, especially the Ijaw and Ogoni. Oil spillage and gas flaring has largely destroyed the fragile ecosystem of the region and the people from time to time called on the Nigerian government to come to their aid.
It is therefore on this basis that the region birthed some of the most powerful militant groups that caused the nation to shake to its very foundations. Many militant group surfaced, notably, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, Niger Delta Vigilante, Niger Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, The Avengers, the list is endless.
The situation reached an alarming point that it became an international issue when the Kidnapping of expatriates, blowing up of flow stations and other sundry violent activities became incessant. However, There is no gainsaying that many strategies have been put in place to resolve the imbroglio in the Niger Delta. First was the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the then Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration with the sole mandate of developing the oil rich region.
The NDDC is suppose to fomulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta, conceive, plan and implement programmes and projects such as qualitative education, industrialization, housing, employment, provision of good roads, pipe born water and electricity for sustainable development of the area. It was also mandated to identity factors inhibiting the development of the area and tackling ecological and environmental problems arising from exploration of oil, such as oil spillage, gas flaring and environmental pollution in the region.
In 2008, the government of Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua created the ministry of Niger Delta to serve as supervising ministry to NDDC and help formulate policies to aid speedy development of the region but the Ministry has been rated very low in the court of public opinion. Part of its statutory duty is to coordinate efforts to tackle the challenges of infrastructural development, environment protection and youth empowerment in Niger Delta.
It is on record that several projects embarked on by the ministry to improve road network, build skills acquisition centres and improve water and electricity supply were never completed. The Federal government has over time allocated large amounts for projects related to waterfront development including dredging and port development but nothing tangible has been done. Yar’ Adua later again in 2009 interceded with yet another package; the amnesty program.
Ten years after the declaration of amnesty, there has been a resurgence of militancy and hostility in the region. The amnesty which was originally programmed to last for 5 years required that repentant militants surrender their arms in return for unconditional national pardon.
The amnesty programme sooner than later become another charade, recall a particular set of beneficiaries who were flown abroad for training who were abandoned there , it took heavy protest before they were brought back to the country. The amnesty office have gradually become a conduit pipe in siphoning public wealth.
How about 13 percent derivation collected by the oil producing states, data obtained from a series of reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, revealed that oil-producing states in Nigeria received N7.006 trillion as payments under the 13 per cent Derivation principle over a period of 18 years, from 1999 to 2016.
Most states in the Niger Delta has gone the extra mile of establishing State Oil communities Development commissions all in a bid to effectively diffuse development to the grassroot and help the people leap frog from their tortous state.
The huge sum notwithstanding, the Niger Delta region is still suffering from massive infrastructural decay, widespread poverty and environmental degradation, among other numerous challenges bedeviling the region..
As ex Petreolum minister Ibe Kachikwu once remarked during one of his visits to Niger Delta that the biggest problem today in the Niger Delta is that as you go from point to point, you really cannot see any infrastructural development.
If the claims of these agencies are true, how come evidence of poverty, infrastructural decay, unemployment, lack of good water supply, environment degradation , epileptic power supply, are still clearly visible?
A pertinent question at this juncture is, who is to be blamed for the woes of the region. Is it the government who has put in place many intervention agencies to ensure that the underdevelopment of the area is addressed , or those who directly or indirectly oversea these development policies and projects?
Remember, large chunk of political appointees and officers who head these agencies and ministry are indigenes of the area.
It is time for the people of Niger Delta to look inward and tell each other the honest truth, blaming the federal government alone for the underdevelopment of the area cannot help matters , the fact remains that the underdevelopment of the region is firmly rooted in the systemic corruption that has almost become a sub- culture among some public office holders.
This places an urgent call on the political leaders of the Niger Delta, the traditional institution, the clergy and all stakeholders to prioritize the development of the region.