Vi­o­lence looms in N/Delta, Int’l cri­sis group warns

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Musa Ab­dul­lahi Kr­ishi

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.

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