Renewed threats of violence in Niger Delta could derail recovery
KINGDOM OF GBARAMATU: The Nigerian government’s efforts to secure peace in the oil heartlands of the Niger Delta are empty promises, community leaders say, threatening a return to violence that would derail any broader recovery in the crude-dependent economy.
With Africa’s biggest economy mired in recession, delegations including Acting President Yemi Osinbajo have held talks since February with community leaders in the restive oil-producing states in Nigeria’s south-east.
Oil exports are now set to exceed 2 million barrels a day (bpd) in August, the highest in 17 months, from as little as just over 1 million bpd at certain points last year. That is due to a steady decline in attacks on pipelines, providing a muchneeded injection of cash into the Nigerian government’s coffers.
But ex-militants and local chieftains say that since those “town hall” discussions, little has been done – the government has not followed up on issues raised, is stalling on key demands and has not even appointed a full-time negotiating team.
If the Niger Delta people continue to feel Abuja is ignoring their needs, leaders say they will resort to the only tactic that has ever yielded results: attacks on oil facilities.
“The people of the Niger Delta can hold this government or any government to ransom, because we are the people feeding the nation,” said Godspower Gbenekama, a chief in the Kingdom of Gbaramatu.
“This peace is a graveyard peace,” he said. “Nobody can assure anybody that nothing will happen in the Delta.”
A spokesperson for the acting president rejected suggestions that the government was not doing enough.
“The government has not reneged and will never renege on any agreement,” he said, pointing to more spending on an amnesty programme for ex-militants and progress on a clean-up project.
He added it was just a matter of time for other agreements to come to fruition, such as the planned opening of a flagship university. – Reuters