Nigeria

Of Treasures, Crisis and Poverty

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The Niger Delta crisis is one that has, amongst other things, been politicised for as long as the violence in the region exists. In the year 2020, promises of militancy are still prevalent even with the establishment of the Presidential Amnesty programme since 2009. Despite the huge sums committed to the peace deal, the possibility of the war re-emerging is just one threat away. There are enough lamentations and blames to go round among actors in the region; ex-militants, local institutions, oil companies and government agencies. The unending crisis and promises of war from the oil-rich region deserve sustainable solutions.

At the heart of the renewed schisms or threats are socio-economic development deficits and environmental degradation due to oil exploration. These were some of the causative factors to violent militancy before the granting of amnesty. Agitating youths from the area engaged in violence to register their displeasure at the state of affairs in the region. The amnesty programme has not fully addressed these challenges, hence, the frequent protests and threats of violence. Therefore, the Nigerian government must engender development in the oil-rich region. The infrastructural expectations in the 2009 Presidential amnesty programme must be achieved. The Nigerian state must not expect the payment of N65,000 monthly stipend to ex-militants to continually ensure peace in the region.

There is also a need for government to re-mobilise the numerous factions of ex-militants that exist in the region. There appears to be new agitations and triggers of schisms within the area. News reports confirm this claim. The peace advocacy of 2009 is waning with ease. Hence, government need to renew sensitisation programmes and town hall meetings with the actors in the region. This will provide a platform for collective voices to be heard. The current trend does not work and will only lead to back and forth competition of demands amongst different groups with their different motives. Some youths in the region may have championed the violence, they can also be used to locally drive peacebuilding initiatives. Strategic partnerships between and among government, civil society groups and youth-based organisations will help to engender a government-sponsored but locally-driven peace in the region. But these efforts must begin with the government’s commitment to addressing the structural challenges in the area particularly those caused and worsened by oil exploration activities.

Corruption predates Niger Delta crisis. It may largely account for why development deficits still exist in the area despite the fortunes made from crude oil production. Civil society groups on transparency and accountability must strengthen advocacy on anti-corruption within government agencies working in the region. Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies must investigate allegations of corruption in those agencies. Government should demonstrate its readiness to ensure budgeted resources for the Niger Delta region are fully utilised for its purposes. Many actors and factors contribute to the Niger Delta conflict, but it is time to start addressing these issues based on the actors and factors enabling them.