Reality of Niger Delta underdevelopment crisis
Sir: The Petroleum Industry Act made some far reaching provisions for the host community’s development such as its demand that any oil prospecting licence or mining lease or an operating company on behalf of joint venture partners (settlor) is required to contribute three per cent of its actual operating expenditure in the immediately preceding calendar year to the host communities development trust fund. This is in addition to the existing contribution of three per cent to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). It is also true that recently, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, at a function in Lagos noted that the present administration in the country is determined to complete all the critical projects that we have embarked upon in the region.
Also, the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar after a meeting in Port Harcourt said his ministry is in talks with key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on devising a blueprint for alternative ways to preserve, conserve and restore mangrove in the region. Abubakar, who said the destruction of mangrove is catastrophic to the economy of the nation, noted that the resolution of the meeting in Port Harcourt was to focus on starting with short-term goals of seeking alternative means of making people stay away from mangrove destruction.
However, the Niger Delta region has, despite all these moves remained a backward and degraded coastal region occasioned by crude oil exploration, exploitation and production with no better chance of development. The government is not ready to learn from its past mistakes which bother on adoption of non-participatory approach to development that strips the people of the region their sense of ownership over their own issues. Consequently, a long dark shadow is cast on efforts to improve the wellbeing and economic development of the region’s individuals, peoples and communities. And fierce war raged in the region between ethnic and social forces over the ownership and control of oil resources in the Niger Delta.
Bringing this ugly account to the fore is a recently well timed statement/alarm raised by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, Chief Comrade Mulade Sheriff, calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria not to hands off Niger Delta region until it completes the environmental remediation and socioeconomic rejuvenation of the Niger Delta region devastated by long periods of oil spill neglect, crude oil exploration / exploitation, deprivation and marginalisation.
The group argued that the advent of the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, and allocation of three per cent to host communities, does not allocate the right to the Federal Government to shy away from its primary responsibility of providing basic amenities for and care for her citizens especially when the Federal Government are the main beneficiaries of oil production proceeds from the region and the cause of degradation of the Niger Delta environment, hence, called on the Federal Government and Presidency to do the needful.
Indeed, CEPEJ in my view may not be wrong.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the programme coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.