CSOs SEEK SPECIAL ATTENTION TO CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND EXISTING PROJECTS IN THE NIGER DELTA
17th January, 2017
Abuja, Nigeria…As the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, leads high-level delegations of the Federal Government to the Niger Delta region to interact with leaders and representatives of some oil-producing communities in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers, as part of effort to address the Niger Delta crisis, the undersigned Civil Society Organisations consider it imperative to use this opportunity to draw the attention of the Federal Government to lingering critical issues in the region that require decisive and urgent attention of the Federal Government before they snowball into full blown crisis.
The region is currently facing increasing military operations in response to a new wave of militancy which has claimed responsibility for the series of attacks on oil and gas installations. The renewed militancy has reduced Nigeria’s daily oil production and worsened the already bad situation caused by global crash in the price of crude oil. The people at risk are mostly innocent citizens in the region like children, youths, women and the elderly.
We are mindful of the state of critical infrastructure in the region and are eager to mention that the poor implementation of the Presidential Amnesty programme is part of the reason for the resurgence of conflict. While government has emphasized disarmament, training and payment of allowances to militants, it has failed to implement the reconstruction aspect of the programme that deals with the accelerated development of the region. The resulting poor state of infrastructure is therefore a major reason for the current crisis. In a related vein, we particularly frown at the complete neglect of the reintegration aspects of the programme, as well as other critical elements of the Amnesty exit strategy.
While we laud the increased allocation to the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the 2017 budget, we must quickly note the progressive reduction in allocation to Niger Delta Institutions such as Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission, in the 2016 budget and the 2017 budget proposal.
We thus call on the federal government to pay attention to the following:
- Pay special attention to developing critical infrastructure and completing existing projects including the East-West road among others and embark on new projects that will have significant impact in the lives of the majority of Niger Delta people. In this regard, we demand increased funding for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission, to enable them play this role.
- The Federal Government should open the consultation process in the region beyond a predictable cohort to include representatives of the broadest possible collection of ethnic nationalities and interest groups in the region including civil society organisations and religious leaders. It is only through broad and inclusive engagement with the people of the region that the government can truly feel the pulse of the people and be better equipped to respond to their issues.
- We appreciate government determination to clean up Ogoniland. We however urge Mr. President to address implementation with the urgency it deserves and as well extend the exercise to other parts of the region which have equally been polluted by crude oil spills.
- While we condemn the resurgence of militant activities in the Niger Delta region, we urge the Federal government to explore the option of dialogue rather than a military approach as the use of force by the military will only worsen the situation.
- We urge the Federal Government to explore innovative ways of protecting pipelines and other oil and gas facilities to check the trend of pipe line vandalism and oil theft.
- The federal government should work closely with state governments in the region irrespective of political party affiliations to promote regional initiatives and cooperation. This also has the potential of attracting development to the region.
After this round of consultation which should be sustained, we expect the Federal Government to come out with clearly defined commitments on what they will do for the region, so that the people of the region can in turn hold the Federal Government accountable to such commitments.
Rev. David Ugolor – Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)
Joel Bisina – Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa)
Ken Henshaw – Social Action
Harry Udoh – Support Training Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP)
Ede O. Edem – Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE)
Rev. Francis Waive – Riverine Communities Health and Development Organisation (RIVCHO)
Tijah Bolton-Akpan – Policy Alert
Robinson Kuroghobogha – Bayelsa NGO Forum