Latest: The Nigerian Delta Crises, Problem And Solutions.
Our Delta, Our Values, Our Governance
Imagine coming to Niger Delta as a tourist prior to oil years! You would have been so excited with the kind of people and things you would see. The young men and women, the children and their fathers, the old and their grandchildren sharing smiles and good times. It is a region with a rich story and diverse cultures. It was really a delight to meet people with good sense of reasoning, people who have respect for common values. They were times when songs of children and birds filled the air with delightful melodies. It was a melting pot of culture, languages, customs, foods and religions. Niger Deltans are generally friendly and hospitable which I assume that runs in their blood. There was so much beauty in Niger Delta that one could subscribe to naming it the ‘pearl of Nigeria’.
However the region is endowed with enormous natural resources. It has the world’s third largest mangrove forest with the most extensive freshwater swamp forests and tropical rain forests characterized by great biological diversity. Alongside the immense potential for agricultural revolution, the Niger Delta region also has vast reserves of non-renewable natural resources particularly hydrocarbon deposits in oil and gas. Fishing, farming, trading and forest product gathering remain the primary occupations and means of sustenance of the people and despite the emergence and subsequent dominance of the hydrocarbon industry, over 80% of the people are still dependant on the traditional agrarian trade. It has produced people of note and exceptional qualities in literature, Law, Politics, Engineering, Medicine, Economics and history. Its lush, tropical jungles are home to gorgon’s birds and fascinating animals. Here, you will find swamps, majestic level lands endorsed with towering palms and rivers.
As farmers and Fishermen, their lands were polluted and rendered useless. Poverty increased and with it, anger and frustrations increased. The essay gives a brief overview of Niger Delta, its values and governance. It also outlines its many challenges and recorded efforts by the government and individuals to set matters straight. It gives practical recommendations and captures on how problems of governance can be improved with stress on mind moralization and sensitization. The essay concludes with the way forward, if these recommendations and objectives are realized within the targeted time frame, for a hitch free Niger Delta affair.
An Overview of Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, as now defined officially by the Nigerian government, extends over about 70,000 km² and makes up 7.5% of Nigeria’s land mass the region in inhabited by an estimated population of 20 million Nigerians in 2000 communities. Historically and cartographically, it consists of present day Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, Delta State, Edo State and Rivers State are among the inhabitants in the Niger Delta, speaking about 250 different dialects. The area is also home to the Ogonis, Ikwerres, Ekpeyes, Ogbas, Egbemas, Engennes and the Abuas of Ahoada division as well as the Obolos and the Opobians of Opobo division. In addition to the Ijaws of western delta are the Urhobos, Isokos, and the Itsekiris and part of Kwale.
Food – The regions varied cultures contribute to a deliciously diverse cuisine, Rice, beans, yam and cassava are traditional favorite foods varies and combinations are abundant and very popular.
Climate – Niger Delta has a hot, humid, subtropical climate which has been in the region. Sometimes they enjoy moderate climate and most areas have distinct dry and wet seasons. Wetlands and water bodies with creeks and rivers criss-crossing the entire southern parts characterize the Niger Delta region. Niger Delta is a home to coastal rainforest and mangrove habitats…a beautiful place it was, to live with nature.
Religion – while many still practice the traditional religion, others are Christians and few Muslims from Edo state part of the region.
Niger Delta’s shows great respect to man and God. They value ethics and traditional values which stands the test of time. These values have continued to keep them together as one. These values have pegged them together in their pursuit for a common goal – right to what belongs to them and fair hearing and treatment in the allocation and sharing of revenues. These values include inter-marriage, fishing, farming, celebrating their many festivals together in peace and harmony. These above mentioned activities which has stood the test of time survived under the seven great value’s which in extension are – Collective actions, courage and community spirit, hard work, love, friendship and brotherhood, Respect for elders, peace and harmony with the environment, knowledge and wisdom, culture of positive resistance. These values are progressive cultures which maintains moral or professional standard of behaviors or principle. These progressive cultures also embody the constant search for knowledge respect for ethics, values and community spirit, love, peace and restless quest for development that does not keep others in fear about them. They live in the believe that societal growth is delayed if not guided by the compass of creative wisdom and a well defined destination.
I believe strongly in the words of Thomas Hobbies who said that ‘the primary responsibility of government is the maintenance of law and order. He added that by nature, man is self-centered and lawless and that he will presume whatever line of action that will achieve his selfish objective to the exclusion of all other consideration if given the opportunity. A multiplicity of individuals subscribing to the above perspective to life in any given society will be a recipe for strife, violence, unpredictability and perpetual chaos, man in such an environment will remain, unable to develop and realize his innate potential. To avoid a situation where a man’s existence in society become, nasty, brutish and short, the individual surrender this unrestricted freedoms to a sovereign entity that shall thereafter have the responsibility of guaranteeing a minimal level of rights and freedoms for all. Two of such rights are the rights to life and property. Therefore, a government that cannot guarantee the safety of lives and properties has thus destroyed the justification for its continued existence.
The problems of the Niger Delta region have been well articulated over time, but successive governments in the country have not been bold enough to provide practical solutions. The problems of these regions are very visible and have come to the knowledge of everyone. The agitation is continuous and justified. In more recent years, it has taken more dangerous dimensions. Hostages have been taken; oil companies live in perpetual fear and some fleeing. Families of politicians are harassed and threatened, pipelines and communities have been bombed and it seems as though, no hope is to in sight.
This region, which has its part of river line/swamp topography, has historically been politically extremely fragmented and subject to violent disputes over land and family rights. The right of these communities to continue falls in the hand of the youths who tries not only to save their communities, but the elders. For this, there is an element of truth that traditional leaders have lost much credibility and respect as the have been corrupted by payments from the government and oil companies. Also, intense control for political office is another conflict linked to poor governance in this region by the elders struggling to put a seal on their choice of candidates. It is a region today which its leaders have compromised social justice.
In all sincerity, there can be no meaningful development in an atmosphere of chaos and restiveness. No significant difference can be made without stability and good governance. There have been frequent cases of invasion of communities by government forces, extra-judicial killing cases of kidnapping and of expatriate workers and invasion of oil facilities by local people. Destruction of pipelines and bombing incidents, clashes between government forces and militants which results to the death of many innocent persons.
In putting governance aright, Niger Delta survival depends largely on people of the area. This time, they are not going to be security chief’s over their own property, but they are to be involved fully in the making of policies and decisions.
Niger Delta remains pervasively poor and under developed, lacking virtually all forms of social amenities and infrastructure, including electricity, medical facilities, roads, shelter and so on. A life of living by the riverbank and using spittle to wash one’s face, a life of scarcity in the midst of plenty It is tragic that the Niger Delta area has come to be recognized in recent times as an enclave of social conflict. The political, economic and social dynamics of the region can only be understood in the context of the ongoing underdevelopment, which has oil exploitation and exploration as its principal signpost. The relentless exploitation of the natural resources of the area, without due compensation for the environmental hazard it has occasioned, has given rise to youth restiveness which is primarily aimed at seeking redress for over 45 years of neglect and deprivation.
Oil companies recklessly explored and exploit crude oil. High-pressured pipelines are laid in their numbers on the earth surface and at close proximity of human habitation. This resulted and still resulting to environmental hazards which includes but not limited to incessant oil spills from corrosive, outdated pipes exposed to sun and other natural agents. These spills run into rivers and creeks and poison protein-based seafood, fish and other resourceful contents. They also pollute the streams which happen to be the people’s only source of drinking water. Pollutions from gas flaring and oil spill which have been happening for more than 50 years cause birth defects, premature births, rashes; and prickly heat among others. They also result to deaths. This is to me an ecological warfare. Because in this war no guns are shot, no stone thrown but human beings continue to die due to suffocation from noxious gasses, polluted water, poisoned crops and other forms of environmental pollution.
As a result of these factors, coupled with the fact that oil companies, did and do make tempting offers, many aggrievedly youths in this region resorted to direct action to extract compensation for their perceived losses. They evade oil company properties; take employees hostage, and shut down facilities. Oil companies typically negotiate the release of captured personnel’s and properties with relative ease by paying modest ransoms. This payments strategy by the oil company’s moral hazards as it breeds more problems
There are many factors at the root of the instability in the Niger Delta – including unfulfilled aspirations for political recognition and influence, poverty and historical neglect, and criminality.
What Should be Done
The only challenges that Niger Delta face today is the challenges of repositioning and recreation. Bombing and kidnapping which at a point became the culture was regrettable considering the fact that these acts present their governances in a negative way. In the light of these I make these recommendations: My recommendation for better Niger Delta of tomorrow is zero tolerance to corruption, a stop to destructive thoughts, dialogue, transparency, accountability
The authority in all modesty and sincerity has the interest of solving the problems but they were mere intentions. For this reason, Niger Delta should adopt the time-tested slogans of intellectual militancy, which is a way to show civility.
More so, apart from assigning some roles to local government and traditional heads, representatives from this region should be made technically and effectively accountable to the people, they govern.
It is also time to face the problem of Niger Delta through disarmament and rehabilitation. This two ideas has to do with retraining and creating opportunities for all in that region
African values need only to be rekindled to accommodate contemporary issues surrounding the way conflict on ground. This can be achieved through a well planned, systematic, or properly conducted programmed of physical activities and education for all Niger Delta children and women, Education that is geared towards inculcating self respect and faith on Niger Delta as home and source of livelihood. It is time to build on the capacity of the youths, so that they can participate in the economic activities that are going around the region.
Also, human capital development is truly a giant step to thread on as it removes idleness from the mind. If economic and social activities go on, social vices are brought to rest and peace will reign. When people are taught and are invested on, they see value as a force for change, a force to reckon with. Anyone who wishes to see a change must have shown greater interestedness on value re-orientation.
The above recommendation for good governance is real tools available for resolving some sophisticated problems created from the pressures created by the government. The recommendations seeks to address many other things – improving relations between all region, creating network for the governed and governors and to the local and uniformed people a helping hand to fine hidden creativity while encouraging collective actions and against adverse challenges threatening our live and barriers separating us.
Naturally, everyone knows what is good, but our imperfect mind is a great force to doing what is good. Soon, the criminal neglect of the region, the insensitively of the oil companies, poor management and the resources allocated to the region and lack of good governance which has helped to fuel the agitations would be a thing of the pas
I therefore conclude that re-integrating the ex-militants into civil life through re-training and rehabilitation, as well as the speedy provision of the social and economic infrastructure required by the devastated Niger Delta region to develop with its natural resources should be a top priority. The people deserve a great deal of respect after more than 50 years of exploitation, environmental ruins and death. They are demanding to control and care for their environment which those who have become drunk in crude oil currently do not care for because they are not from the region and do know what it means to live with oil spills, polluted rivers, withered farm produce, and other inherent hazards. Or do they know what it means to starve in a day? The nation has what it takes to solve this problem, it should sum the courage; the political and moral will to do right by the people for peace and stability to come. In as much as we can, we build our Delta, our values and add credit to our governance. We work to transform the life of every individual that work through our door, through team work and conducted programs, through the spirit of team work and open handedness, leaving a lasting impression on their memories forever. By showing solidarity, and reciprocally, we join hand in support of one another. We improve lives; we build our values, a strong Niger Delta. Once we are through, we discourage illegal means of getting the solution to our many problem, we then encourage recipients of our selfless spirit and collective action. There is hope.
Emmanuel Ugokwe is a Nigerian writer, a trained film producer, a translator and a journalist. The last son of a retired local school teacher, Mr. Phinihas and school-teacher mother, Mrs. Rebecca Ugokwe. Emmanuel Ugokwe is the founder of Popular Age Youth Foundation of Nigeria, an NGO with a difference. Since the birth of the NGO he is working on integrating the youths and women in social change. He had also carved a niche in writing, having won many awards in different genre of writings and literature. In 2008 he got his first prize in Word inaction International Writing Competitions 2008 in England, for his drama ‘The Silence Within’. -2008 Association of Nigeria Authors/ Things Fall Apart at 50 Art Prize and wrapped the year up with Association of Nigeria Authors/Ken Nnamani Prize for Igbo Literature. Princess Hastrup Prize for The Best Researched Work was an award he won in 2009. And in 2010 won Preemptive International Essay Competition and Nigeria 50 Stars @ 50 Award. In 2010 he was a Nominee for Young Writers Achievers Award for Nigeria 50 Years Golden Jubilee by Commonwealth Club London. He was the 2011 Ebedi International Writers Resident, in Iseyin Oyo state. And 2011 Ugreen Essay Contests shortlist. He also won the 2011 Zahara Foundation essay writing contests and received training in film production by PIND foundation in 2011 and has facilitated training to youth in secondary schools and youth organizations.