Signals from the Niger Delta region show that if a drastic action is not taken by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the peace being enjoyed in the oil-rich region would cave in.
On Monday, elders issued a three-month ultimatum to the government to implement the demands presented to Buhari in 2016. They are threatening to pull out of the deal that restored normalcy to the region after a series of attacks on oil and gas pipelines. Their grouse is the “slow response” of the government to their demands.
Here is a run-down of the 16 requests which presented by PANDEF:
THE PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROGRAMME
The elders had said that out of the five components of the amnesty programme, only the disarmament and de-mobilisation components are being implemented. They had asked for a concrete strategy that would translate into sustainable jobs for the beneficiaries rather than merely depending on stipends.
THE OGONI CLEAN-UP AND ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION
This is of particular importance to the region considering the harm the mess caused by oil spill is causing them.
They had asked the government to speedily implement the exercise, enforce zero gas flare deadline, tackle devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of an effective shoreline protection for the communities. They also asked the government to undertake to enforce environmental laws in the region while commissioning a region-wide assessment of the pollution caused by crude oil exploration in the region.
Sadly, not a drop of spilled oil has been cleaned since the exercise was flagged-off in 2016 by the current administration. TheCable visited communities in the region and spoke with stakeholders.
REDUCTION IN HEAVY MILITARY PRESENCE
Following the incidents of bomb blasts on oil pipelines, there had been a heavy military presence in the area. But members of communities raised the alarm that their presence led to the displacement of persons, harassment and other forms of human rights abuses and as such, want the number of military personnel in the area reduced.
PROMPT TAKE-OFF OF THE MARITIME UNIVERSITY
They had also asked the government to urgently see to the take-off of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta state.
However, on May 5, the senate passed a bill seeking to establish the university.
SECURITY AND PROTECTION OF OIL AND GAS FACILITIES
The leaders had reasoned that if their communities were given pipeline surveillance contracts rather than individuals, they would see the protection of pipelines and other oil facilities as their responsibility.
While expressing their support for fiscal federalism, the Niger Delta leaders also asked government to address the call for fiscal federalism – a measure that would deal with the division of governmental functions and financial relations among levels of government.
RELOCATION OF OIL COMPANIES
Headquarters of most oil companies are currently not located within the Niger Delta region. So the group is asking that these companies move their base to the region as their presence would fast-track its economic development.
PLIGHT OF INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
Part of their demands was also for government agencies to meet the immediate needs of those displaced as a result of the upsurge of security challenges in the region.
The group had asked the government to put in place a long term power plan that would tie power supply in the Niger Delta to gas supplies and with power being a key factor in the development of an area, they believe power stability would go a long way in improving their standard of living.
LAW AND JUSTICE
The leaders had asked the federal government to resolve pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals. They said this would help check the insecurity situation in the region characterized by attacks on oil pipeline from some of these aggrieved parties such as militant groups among.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EMPOWERMENT
Part of their demands was also the implementation of the Brass LNG and fertiliser plant project, a review of the national gas master plan to enable integration of the region’s economic interests and industrialization.
They said this would also help in the creation of a Niger Delta industrial corridor that would expedite work on the export processing zones as well as harness the agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farms estates, fishery development projects and agro-allied industrial clusters.
INCLUSIVE PARTICIPATION IN OIL INDUSTRY
Edwin Clark, co-convener of PANDEF, had said on Monday that he was shocked to discover that “virtually all the oil blocks or marginal oil fields in the country are owned by northerners and their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria, mostly south-westerners and south-easterners.”
To address this, the region had asked government to articulate policies to solve this “imbalance” in the ownership of oil and gas assets.
RESTRUCTURING AND FUNDING OF THE NDDC
Communities in the region want to have a say in projects that would come to them. They also asked for a full implementation of the funding provisions of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act.
They said the restructuring of the commission will ensure that it operates as a true “interventionist agency” established to respond to the yearnings of the Niger Delta communities.
STRENGTHENING THE NIGER DELTA MINISTRY
According to them, the Niger Delta ministry is not properly funded and strengthened to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. They want this to be addressed as well.
KEY REGIONAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The group had also pushed for the completion of the east-west road, a key regional route which they said would boost economic activities in the region.
They also asked for the full implementation of the rail project designated to run from the Niger Delta region to Lagos.
THE BAKASSI QUESTION
The leaders want government to put in place a comprehensive resettlement plan for displaced Bakassi indigenes. They said this would help reduce the risk of making them into a “stateless people.”