Niger Delta Question and 2030 Sustainable Agenda, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Posted by News Express | 13 August 2018 | 911 times

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•Jerome-Mario Utomi

For the 2030 sustainable agenda to succeed, said the United Nations, partnership and collaboration must be given a disciplined attention. The world body added that the scale and ambition of the agenda calls for smart partnerships, collaborations, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society organisations.

While this ideology – which is targeted at ending poverty and promoting peace and justice - is implicitly canvassed at the global stage, the path to having it achieved here in Nigeria remains windy and riddled with obstacles, as current happenings in the oil-rich Niger Delta, signposts a perfect opposite of this global demand.

The daily demonstration of disinterest in going beyond the customary corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or assist in bridging the infrastructural gap in the region by operators in the upstream, midstream and downstream segments of Nigeria oil sector underscores this assertion.

Going extra miles in their views is antithetical to the corporate existence spirit; a disposition that has in turn made their relationship with the various host communities hot and cold. This is even made worse by the weak regulatory and monitoring ability of the state actors/agencies. A state of affairs that supports the perception - by Niger Deltans and civil society groups - that the region, in the estimation of the oil companies, is an endangered species marked for extinction.

Nevertheless, it is not as if the Federal Government is not making any effort in getting the problems of the region solved; as events that unfolded in recent weeks have pointed to the fact that some powerful Niger Delta indigenes may actually be the real enemies of the region. The unsatisfactory coordination of the Federal Government Amnesty Programme by appointed Niger Deltans bear eloquent testimony to this fact; as it has hitherto been viewed not as an opportunity for the public good but as an avenue for private gain.

Conversely, the beneficiaries have since breathed a sigh of relief following the government’s prompt intervention in removing and subsequent replacement of the handlers, whom critical stakeholders perceived in reality as beneficiaries worried about.

This development notwithstanding, if the FG should think that the appointment of Prof Charles Dokubo as the new amnesty coordinator would solve the multi-faceted Niger Delta challenge it can only but meet with a mirage, as the stakeholders have since pointed out that the region’s challenge goes beyond amnesty programme.

From the stakeholders posturing, it is possible to discern two kinds of development/worries, with the most fundamental being the unwillingness of the oil companies to exhibit the attributes of good corporate citizens/neighbours  to the people of the region.

This observation is mirrored in the “reluctant respect” for the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) the oil companies entered with the various host communities. Apart from a few that stakeholders praised for their community engagement templates; most operators seem to enjoy a frosty relationship, a moral burden rather than goodwill from their various host communities.

Another challenge that may at significant level derail the much-anticipated peace/development in the region is the lip-service and lack-lustre approach in monitoring/enforcement by the Federal Government and its regulatory agencies, as a recent report on the Niger Delta affairs discovered an “Abdication of regulatory responsibilities by government agencies and departments charged with protecting the environment through standard-setting and enforcement.”

In the same breadth, critics of the government have also expressed deep worries that the government by this action is but perpetuating poverty and promoting powerlessness in the region.

But looking at commentaries, the FG’s recent appointment of Dokubo as the new boss of the Amnesty programme is prized as right step taken in the right direction, given his pedigree and experience. But, just before we over-celebrate, it is germane to point out other accompanying challenges facing the region which, of course, may thwart the amnesty outcome.

Chief among these fears is the oil majors’ troubling penchant for litigation against their host communities, using their financial muscles and non-compliance with the international best practice. From Ogoni to Erovie community in Ozoro, Odimodu/Forcados to Ogulaha communities are but some victims of such high-handedness.

Regrettably, the points often overlooked by these operators, when engaging in these unwholesome activities, is that it fuels youth’s restiveness, high unemployment rate, with insecurity as a resultant effect. Explicitly, for the amnesty programme to succeed and peace restored in the region, we must be holistic in approach. The government and the corporate organisations operating in the region must show more commitment in the area of youth employment/absorbing of the trained amnesty beneficiaries.

More important than other political moves made in recent times, is the need for the Presidency to get directly involved in the development of the region, as vast majority of Nigerians do not see the rationale behind the establishment of neither the Niger Delta Ministry nor the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), agenies bogged down by bureaucracy and other factors you can think of. Again, critical stakeholders have argued from the standpoint that since Lagos and Abuja did not require any ministry for their development, back in the days, why Niger Delta?

To avoid any unpleasantness denting the agenda, it is imperative that the region is developed in order to meet up with 2030 sustainable deadline. Failure of Nigeria to do so translates to African failure, which will in turn, have a direct impact on the entire sustainable agenda.

Catalysing this process, stakeholders are calling for the implementation of the 16 points agenda submitted by the Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF).Others are of the opinion that the Federal Government adopts and implements the Chevron Nigeria community engagement template in infrastructural development, by dealing directly with host communities.

In all, one thing stands out: Niger Deltans are desirous of development and healthy environment. A feat only federal/state governments and multinationals can, in partnership, achieve as the people patiently waits.

•Jerome-Mario Utomi, of, writes via and can also be reached on 08032725574 (SMS)

Source: News Express

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