Apr 06, 2009

Ogoni: Delta problem must be addressed

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Delta state governor, Dr. Uduaghan and MOSOP President Mr. Mitee discussed Nigeria development and problems at the conference held in Kaduna.


Below is an article published by: Vanguard

Delta state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) Mr. Ledum Mitee have said that Nigeria cannot achieve its desire of being one of the most developed countries in the world by the year 2020 without addressing the problems of the Niger Delta.

Mitee specially blamed the Obasanjo administration of not doing much to improve the situation in the region in his eight years tenure.

Also, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa state, Peremabowei Ebebi spoke in the same vein, urging the federal government to increase the 13 percent derivation fund for the oil producing area to between 25 and 30 percent to give the leaders of the area some respect before the youth. He said the state government has employed thousands of youths in the state to monitor the water ways as part of its ‘triple E’ of engagement, employment, and enforcement.

They all spoke 5th All Nigeria Editor’s Conference in Kaduna yesterday [03 April 2009}.

In his speech entitled “Niger Delta insurgency: A threat or Challenge to Vision 2020”, Uduaghan said that there can be no pretending that the vision is imperiled unless the Niger Delta issues are resolved.

Both speakers said that it was wrong for the media to attribute the crisis in the Niger Delta as insurgency, saying that there must be “distinction between genuine grievances of the zone and those agitating for change and the activities of criminal groups engaged in illegal oil bunkering”

According to Uduaghan “most times, what the media erroneously refer to as activities of those seeking change in the region are pure criminal actions.

“The illegal crude oil bunkering is the principal source of violence in the zone today. It is conducted using sophisticated technology far beyond the competence of ordinary persons backed by a cache of small arms.”

“As I am sure we all know, the stolen crude oil is sold in the international spot market with financing that can only come from crooked international traders.

“It is however my hope that as we beef up security in our territorial waters and in the creeks, the blue and brown waters, we will not be far from ending these activities. I will also hope that with the cooperation of the international community in halting this trade, we will finally end this menace.”

The governor however praised the federal [government] for granting amnesty to militants who renounce arms struggle and show genuine desire to be reintegrated into the society, pointing out that is a significant step.

The governor further said that the federal government action was not only positive, but “fully the wishes and desires of the people of the zone to reabsorb the young people who renounce violence in their agitation for a better Niger Delta area.”

Uduaghan stressed that the demands of the people of the Niger Delta for justice, equity, fair play and respect are not different from the federal government action, adding that this is why “I long declared that the violent phase of the Niger Delta struggle is over.”

“It is a lesson for this country that it is futile to sweep an issue of great urgent importance under the table and pretend it did not matter or exist. The Niger Delta question shows that it does matter and that the cost of not remedying such an issue is usually very high, most times, unacceptably high”.

The governor further said that “it is the natural instinct of man to rebel against unjust laws, unjust circumstances and hostile encumbrances that prevents him from enjoying his potentials”.

Earlier, the MOSOP leader, Mr. Mitee who is also the chairman of the Niger Delta Technical Committee had said that apart from neglect from the federal government, economic and political factors have conspired to exacerbate the problems of the Niger Delta region.

“Several years of government embargo on employment, the shameful policy […] by oil companies and discrimination against Niger Delta youths, employment of foreigners for jobs Nigerians can do, [and] patronage […], among others have all contributed to erect a regime of massive youth unemployment.”

“Neglected by the government, pressured by the demand of subsistence and expectations from family and community, some fringe of youths, some of whom it has to be restated,  [who] are university graduates, have been attracted to illegitimate ways of fending for themselves-sometimes through participation in oil theft (bunkering) and other vices.

“The huge amount of money accruing from bunkering and payoffs by governments and operating companies act as disincentives to genuine employment in the area in certain cases.”

“These make for ready availability of an army of youth for potential recruitment into militia groups or as political thugs.”

“There is thus an overwhelming community feeling of anger that irreplaceable revenue from the sources of their land are exploited and used for the development of other areas whilst they live pristine conditions.”

“This creates the enabling excuse and environment for gangs and groups to exploit the popular grievances to embark on illegal exploitation of the resources for their private benefit or make direct alliances with outside interests seeking to do so.”

“The predictable response of government to the violence [is] unleashing superior violence [and] is often justified publicly on the basis of threat to national unity… which is not only faulty, but fictitious because by relying on militarist approach to the neglect of the social approach creates a paradoxical situation where national security becomes a threat to its nationals which in turn produces a burning sense of injustice”.

Mitee said that throughout the eight years of Obasanjo government, the political attitude in Abuja “has been predominantly geared to maintain the statuesque with a few concessions as possible, while payment to armed groups to prevent them from fomenting trouble appear to be an ongoing phenomenon which all but guarantee continuing conflict.”

He also said that the most obvious beneficiaries of the Niger Delta crisis are “an array of security interests who are able to demand additional resources, contracts, equipments and payments that are among the least likely in Nigeria to be tested to any level of transparency.”

“Those involved include the military forces, police, state security services, international private security firms, [expert] workers whose allowances are tripled, international Insurance companies, military hardware contractors, state government (security budget), government and oil operatives and even local governments who will not hesitate to lean on security to justify extra expenditure.”

“Local war lords who control bunkering [routes] and those associated with ransom payment also eke out significant benefits. So profound has this been that it has not only become an economic empire, but has become self perpetuating to the extent that I am afraid to say that sadly, just like armed robbery, kidnapping has come to stay.”

“This is because it has even grown to be used as a frightening tool in the resolution family, business and political disagreements.”

“I believe that any credible starting point towards overcoming the nation’s developmental vision must therefore necessarily be responding to the fundamentals to the issues of development of the region.”

“It is inconceivable that you can afford the luxury of thinking that you could have a development vision or to be seen to have one that does not start with the issue of addressing the issue of developing the Niger Delta”, he said.