By Adeola Aderounmu.
The troubled Niger Delta area of Nigeria holds most of the oil that is found in Nigeria. In present day Nigeria, the main foreign exchange earner is the oil that is explored in this region. Niger delta is ironically home to some of the poorest people on earth. Environmentally, some parts of the Niger Delta have been described as disasters due to pollution/oil spillage. The poorest people in the world should not be living in the oil producing regions of Nigeria where millions of dollars exchange hands daily.
As a result of frustration arising from the lack of basic necessities of life in this oil producing regions of Nigeria, militants have emerged and they are demanding autonomy or resource control for the oil that comes from this region. The militants claimed that they want to bring good life to their people. That is not their job. It is a duty that every government owns the citizenry: to see to the welfare of the states and the inhabitants. Whatever happens, the Federal Government of Nigeria will never concede to the demands of the militants (except paying ransoms to kidnappers). Rather than concede, the Nigerian government will go to war with the militants if the need arises. History will repeat itself, fatally. Concerned Nigerians and leaders of thoughts have expressed interests in the plights of the people of the Niger Delta such that resolving to arm conflicts should definitely not be an option.
Oil exploration has been going on in the Niger Delta for some decades now. It is still a mystery therefore that despite the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria has been promising to help the Delta people for many years, the progress made have been very little. Perhaps as a result of corruption and insincerity on the part of the states and federal government there are only a few pockets of progress here and there. What is actually needed in the Niger Delta and indeed Nigeria is a total transformation of lives into that which is worth living.The targets should include to let clean water run in every home, to provide decent schools for the children, good roads and modern hospitals. These are provisions that should have been made without demands. Where serious environmental damage have occurred, the communities should be compensated depending on the degree of damage. The oil companies in the Niger Delta should clean up their mess and pollute no more. The Environmental Protection Agency must ensure strict compliance.
In the Niger Delta especially, the concerned states and the federal government need to take drastic measures to correct the anomaly of many years. It has been said that some leaders of the Niger Delta area have contributed to the woes of the region. This is justifiable going by the failures of OMPADEC, NDDC and the recent prosecution of the likes of Alamieyeseigha.
Here are some of the properties that Alamieyeseigha forfeited after his prosecution in July 2007:
This is an example of how madness is displayed by Nigerian politicians. How can only one man loot this much in the Niger delta area where some of the poorest people in the world lives? Still, by Nigeria standard, this guy is not even a very corrupt politician yet. He had only been a state governor. These assets are nothing close to what the likes of Babangida and David Mark (former communications minister and present senate leader!) have stashed away.
But now that everyone seemed to be enlightened and keen, it will be nice to see what can be done to restore the hope of the people in the Niger Delta area. We will all like to see what has been put in place to protect the environment as well. The Federal government and the various oil companies operating in the Niger Delta have a lot to do to change the region from a killing field to a place where sanity reigns.
One thing that has played out in the Niger Delta recently is that the militants have actually constituted themselves into public nuisances as well. The extent to which the militants have pursued their claims and demands has attracted condemnations. They should not have ever kidnapped children or women. They have become greedily used to the ransoms that have sustained their big mouths over the years and now and it seems that they will not know when to call it quit despite the fact that one of them is now the vice president of Nigeria as a result of the fraudulent and criminalized elections of 2007. Even the militant leader incarcerated by Obasanjo has been released.
A quick reminder to the militants: as far as Nigeria is concerned, there is frustration and oppression almost everywhere and we cannot all resolve to carrying arms to right all the wrongs we have lived with for all of our lifetime. As we work towards out targets in the Niger Delta, we will not forget the Nigerian people who live close to or in the desert regions. The commitments of a sincere and legitimate government will cover all and sundry with justice and fairness as the motives.
For the future, we need to find the answers to some nagging security questions: Why should militants operating in the creeks be more sophisticated than the Nigerian Army, Police and Navy put together? Why are the coastal areas not properly guarded? Will our enemies not utilize this weakness someday to invade us if necessary? Are the militants the only group of people who understand the creeks? When will the Nigerian Police be really ready to tackle the problem of safety of the citizens in our common neighbourhoods?
For now, urgent steps are needed to disarm the various factions of militants. Some of them are simply a group of petty thieves picking up easy preys and looting on fishing boats. Unemployment problems should be addressed with immediate effect to dissuade criminals from kidnapping more innocent citizens. The problem of pollution should be tackled without hesitation. The local indigenes should be able to live, swim, fish and farm in safe and unpolluted environment. Above all, patience will remain a virtue in Nigeria even if the leadership still lacks legitimacy.
May the Glory of Nigeria come, soon!