Niger Delta oil re­gion vi­o­lence could flare up again

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Paul Carsten and Tife Owolabi

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 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 per 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 much-needed in­jec­tion of cash for Nigeria.

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 the gov­ern­ment was not do­ing enough. “The gov­ern­ment… 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. – Reuters

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