Niger Delta: Letter to the President
Your Excellency, ever since the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta region in 1956, the fortune of Nigeria as a nation has never remained the same, especially from 1958 when Nigeria’s first oil field came on stream.
The discovery of the black gold by Shell BP, the sole concessionaire at the time has led to some level of development in the country even though a far cry from what ought to be considering the huge resources that have accrued to the nation from the oil trade.
So while many view the discovery of oil as a blessing in view of those developments achieved especially during the oil boom era of the 70s, some would rather see the discovery of crude oil as bringing nothing but doom to the nation.
According to those who support the latter view, the argument is always that prior to the discovery, Nigeria was doing very well and in all ramifications.
Nigerians were very hard-working people and each region had something to justify its existence. There were talks of groundnut pyramids of the North, extensive Cocoa Plantations in the West, and massive Palm oil industry in the East among others.
Indeed, according to the argument, each of the regions was able to sustain itself convincingly through the efforts of its people. But that as soon as oil was discovered, everyone went to sleep and since then, almost all the states of the federation are forced to dependent solely on monthly allocations from the Federal Government for survival.
Your Excellency, if the truth be told, it may not be accurate to suggest that the discovery of oil was largely responsible for most states in Nigeria being grounded into such a situation as to be on their knees every time, completely tied to the apron strings of the central government to survive, it was the way and manner successive governments have handled the issue of governance that must take the greater blame.
Perhaps because oil was discovered shortly before Nigeria gained its independence from Britain and then shortly after the nation secured its freedom, the soldiers struck leaving the oil wealth in wrong hands.
Allocation of oil rigs were done in a manner that leaves much to be desired meaning that money that ought to accrue into the nation’s coffers went directly into private pockets.
Worse still, the little that fell into the Federal purse was continually grossly embezzled and thoroughly mismanaged instead of being deployed to developing each of the rich natural resources found in each state of the federation .
The belief is strong in many quarters that a large percentage of the nation’s oil wealth has been mostly either embezzled or mismanaged as evidenced in collapsed and collapsing infrastructures, decades of epileptic power supply, utterly poor road networks, completely disenchanted public servants, moribund industries and a generally grounded nation whose children look elsewhere for comfort and solace.
Indeed, considering the massive clandestine sabotage that goes on in government circles in Nigeria, it remains a miracle that the nation is still able not only to stand on its feet but also that the people have a few things to point at as signs of development.
Eye-catching edifices that dot the landscape especially on the various school campuses, the GRAs and state capitals, and the existence of some basic infrastructures across the country, even if not adequate, are all attributable and traceable to oil wealth.
Besides, the entire national Public Service comprising both the states and the Federal where many citizens work and retire for ages is based on a salary structure derivable from monthly allocations which itself is largely tied to oil resources.
Even private companies have their destinies ties to either the state or Federal governments and so also survive on the same oil.
Your Excellency, quite unfortunately however, the people of the Niger Delta region from where oil is explored for the nation’s benefit have been left completely thirsty in the midst of drinkable water!
The goose that lays the golden eggs has suffered many years of abandonment, exploitation and neglect that only depict complete lack of conscience and good judgement on the part of successive Nigerian governments.
The Niger Delta accounts for two-thirds of the entire coastline of Nigeria and extends from Apo to Bakassi from Mashin creek to the Bight of Benin.
The Oloibiri area of Bayelsa state where oil was first discovered was left without any form of development and the indigenes wallowed and still wallow in abject poverty.
It is true that ever since that first discovery at Oloibiri, oil has been found in other areas in commercial quantities and as we speak, the current largest oil deposits is in Akwa Ibom which produces 504,000barrels per day followed by Delta with 346,000bpd, Rivers 344,000bpd,Bayelsa 290. 000bpd, Ondo 60,000bpd, Lagos 40,000bpd, Edo 33,000bpd, Imo 17,000bpd and Abia 11,000bpd but the Nigerian state is yet to act fairly to the harbingers of the good fortunes – the Niger Delta.
• Oyewusi, an educationist, lives in Lagos.
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