Violence looms in N/Delta, Int’l crisis group warns
The relative peace being witnessed in the Niger Delta region may soon go away unless the federal government acts quickly and decisively to address longsimmering grievances, the International Crisis Group has said.
The group said in a September 29, 2015 report titled “Curbing Violence in Nigeria (III): Revisiting the Niger Delta” posted on its website that “With the costly Presidential Amnesty Program for ex-insurgents due to end in a few months, there are increasingly bitter complaints in the region that chronic poverty and catastrophic oil pollution, which fueled the earlier rebellion, remain largely unaddressed.”
The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict, according to information contained in its website.
It said in the report that since former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was Nigeria’s first leader from the Niger Delta, lost re-election bid in March, some activists from the region have resumed agitation for greater resource control and selfdetermination, while “a number of ex-militant leaders are threatening to resume fighting.”
Thus, the group said President Muhammadu Buhari, “needs to act firmly but carefully to wind down the amnesty program gradually, revamp development and environmental programs, facilitate passage of the longstalled Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and improve security and rule of law across the region.”
It noted that the precarious situation that now stares the country in the face was largely due to government’s failure to carry out recommendations that addressed the insurgency’s root causes, including inadequate infrastructure, environmental pollution, local demands for bigger share of oil revenues, widespread poverty and youth unemployment as suggested by a 2008 technical committee on the region.
Apparently influenced by Jonathan’s ouster from the presidency, the group said, “Some groups are resuming old demands, hardly heard during the Jonathan presidency, for regional autonomy or “selfdetermination.”
It said local tensions generated by the polls also pose risks, particularly in states like Rivers and that “With many guns in unauthorized hands, politically motivated assassinations and kidnappings for ransom, already common, could increase.
“Policy and institutional changes are necessary but, if not prepared and implemented inclusively and transparently, could themselves trigger conflict...A resurgence of violence and increased oilrelated crime in the Delta could seriously undermine national security and economic stability, which is already weighed down by the Boko Haram insurgency and dwindling oil revenues,” it noted further in the report, which has 15 recommendations.
The Group therefore recommended that President Buhari should visit the Delta at the earliest opportunity to underscore commitment to the region and lay out a comprehensive plan for its security and development and that the federal government should wind down the amnesty program gradually, while ensuring that ex-militants already registered complete promised training, but also demand greater transparency and accountability in the program’s management.”
It said Nigeria’s government should equally align exmilitants training with available employment opportunities and streamline regional development responsibilities, particularly by winding down the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) and reforming the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to make it a more accountable and effective agency and thereafter ensuring it is well-resourced.
In addition, the organisation said urgent steps to stop environmental degradation should be taken by reviving the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) as a statutory entity, independent from the petroleum ministry, and directing it to commence clean-up arrangements and operations in Ogoni Land and other adversely affected areas quickly; strengthening the ability of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to respond to oil spills rapidly and effectively; and discouraging the environmentally damaging proliferation of artisanal refineries by improving the availability of properlyrefined petroleum products and creating long-proposed modular refineries across the region.
The federal government was also advised to work closely with the National Assembly to ensure speedy passage of the long-stalled Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) this legislative year, on the basis of compromise between Delta interests and those of other areas; prosecute those responsible for electoral violence and fraud, but also encourage communal and interparty reconciliation, especially in Rivers State.