From the first crude oil export in 1958 to the exploration of its associated products such as gas, the Niger Delta region for the past 60 years has not fared well in terms of sustained development despite being the source of the nation’s means of livelihood.
According to reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the region generates between 65% to 75% of all Federal Government’s revenue especially after the end of the Civil War in 1970.
But today, although oil and gas and its associated products still run the nation’s economy, its bye-products and impact on the region are quite devastating on both environment and the socio-economic life of the people of the area. The aquatic life, forests and farmlands have been so degraded that some areas are now devoid of human and animal habitation. Diseases and sickness are now prevalent with some communities are facing great health challenges.
Worried by these hazards, the late renowned playwright, and novelist, Kenuule Saro-Wiwa raised alarm in the late 1980’s about the fast paced degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta region. Although he was eventually killed during the struggle to find an equitable solution to the problem, the fight for a comprehensive study and remediation of the environment continued unabated despite the obstacles placed on would-be environmental activists.
The region is also described as one of the most polluted in the world. It is estimated that while the European Union experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, Nigeria recorded 9,343 cases in 10 years which could be described as a deliberate effort to slowly eradicate life from the area through poisoning of the environment.
Following the long agitations and protests from the area, the Federal Government in 2016 finally gave the nod for the implementation of the long awaited United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report beginning from 2016.
In a foreword to the report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as a case study, UNEP had this to say: “The history of oil exploration and production in Ogoni land is a large complex and often painful one that till date has become seemingly intractable in terms of its resolution and future discussion.”
It also says, “It is also history that has put people and politics and the oil industry at loggerheads rendering a landscape characterised by lack of trust, paralysis and become set against a worsening situation for the communities concerned.”
The situation in Ogoniland is peculiar to the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State was the beginning of the environmental crisis bedeviling the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the agitation for environmental reparation of the Niger Delta region dated back to the colonial times.
The agitations led to the setting up of the Willinks Commission of inquiry into the fears of the minorities. Although the commission amongst others, recommended the granting of special developmental status to the Niger Delta, the recommendation was never implemented by successive Nigerian governments after independence.
The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Niger Delta region can be said to be of mixed blessings to the region.
On the one hand, it improved the per capita income of the region through the creation of middle and high income earners. But on the other hand, it has led to series of environmental pollutions, thereby depriving communities in the region of their sources of livelihood.
This situation has led to series of crisis in the region such as the Ogoni crisis of 1990 to 1993, the Kaiama Declaration which led to the creation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the crisis in Umuechem in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and others.
Similarly, the development of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta has also been blamed for contributing to the recent acid rain and black soot in the environment.
Although the Nigerian authorities may have taken some measures to ameliorate the sufferings caused by oil explorations in the region, through the creation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) which metamorphosed into Federal Ministry of Environment, the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); inclusion of derivation into the Constitution and the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have not been able to provide the much-needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta as the problems still persist.
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta to the environmental degradation of the region. At a recent Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo shared a documentary of the current situation in the Niger Delta, adding that the region has remained backward despite its huge economic contributions to the Nigerian nation.
Ambassador Toyo who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration said, “it is frustrating to know that the context has not changed as these challenges still stare the region in the face.
“The Niger Delta is still very much degraded as issues such as the following are still debated upon: gas flaring, abject poverty, militancy, crude oil theft, unemployment, cultism and organised crime, poor state of infrastructure and underdevelopment,” she said.
She also said; “apart from lack of opportunities in the region, there is also the breakdown of law and order in the communities.
“Communities often fight over who gets what when development opportunities arise as seen in some communities in Ogoni with regards to the clean-up,” adding that such fight can scare investors away and the region will continue to suffer underdevelopment.
Also in its policy brief note on insecurity in Rivers State, the Niger Delta Dialogue Secretariat says, “there is an environmental dimension to insecurity in Rivers State. For several years now, Port Harcourt and its environs have been covered by soot.
“This is as a result of increased artisanal refining of crude oil and other forms of pollution in the state.
“These pollution-inducing activities from both illegal artisanal and legal oil production has increased environmental insecurity in Rivers State.
“This has negatively impacted on the quality of life in Rivers State,” it said.
Also speaking on the issue, a civil society activist, Ambassador Christy Iwezor said the Nigerian nation has not done enough for the Niger Delta.
She said 60 years down the lane, some oil producing communities have no water to drink and cited the example of some communities in ogoniland in which sources of water have been polluted.
Also speaking, another civil rights activist, Prince William Chinwo stressed the need for a policy that will incorporate the polluters pay principle into the Nigerian law.
According to him, if multinational companies are fined for pollution, they will be more careful in their operations.
He also blamed environmental problems on sanitary conducts.
“The problems of environmental degradation in Nigerian is caused by poor sanitary conduct of Nigerians and inefficient use of local government council workers on environmental sanitation.”
According to him, local government councils must also wakeup to their responsibilities of ensuring improved level of hygiene in their various communities.
The question is after 60 years of independence, have we really made any meaningful progress in the Niger Delta compared to similar environments across the globe where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy. It would be noted that the gulf countries where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy have gone far ahead in terms of environmental remediation.
The 60 years anniversary should provide the opportunity for the country to further look into the Niger Delta issues.
FG Needs To Restrategise On War Against Insecurity, Osinbajo Admits
The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, admitted that the nation needs to review its “conventional means” of dealing with security challenges.
He said the government needed to do more on “local intelligence” and community policing.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, in a statement, said Osinbajo spoke while answering questions from reporters on his arrival at Lafia, Nasarawa State, for a one-day official visit.
Akande made the transcript of the interview available in the statement titled, “Terrorist attack on farming community in Borno: We will do all it takes to secure Nigeria, Osinbajo says.”
Reacting specifically to the recent killing of more than 43 rice farmers in Borno State, Osinbajo said such an attack could not be prepared for through conventional means.
Akande quoted Osinbajo as saying that, “As the President said, this group of people acted insanely in such a dastardly manner, killing innocent people, people who had gone to their farms to work.
“I spoke to the Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum and the former governor, Senator Kashim Shettima, to express my condolence, but more importantly, to try and think through ways of dealing with this kind of random attacks.
“It’s important to understand also that we will probably need to keep reviewing the conventional means of dealing with some of these issues, these security challenges, especially the randomness.
“This is why the President has said that he is taking a serious look at how to deal with the issues, especially the randomness: some insane person go into a place and shoot people, that is not the sort of thing that you are prepared for conventionally.
“We have to do a lot more local intelligence and some of the community policing efforts we are planning on, so that information is supplied faster, especially at the local level and then a reaction will then be possible.
“It is a major tragedy; it’s a very unfortunate thing and our hearts are with the family of those who were killed in such a terrible manner.
“We are very confident and the Federal Government will continue to do what it needs to do especially in terms of trying to ensure security in the North-East and all over Nigeria.
“You’ve heard the President and what he has to say, especially some of the new ideas around security and the security architecture which we are trying to put in place. We will get there.”
Borno Killings: Fire Service Chiefs Now, Senate Tells Buhari …Reps Summon President
The Senate, yesterday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari, to sack service chiefs as a result of their failure to secure Nigerians.
The Senate decision, which is the third it would pass this year, followed a motion by Senator Kashim Shettima on the recent killing of 43 rice farmers in Borno State by the Boko Haram insurgents.
The Senate asked Buhari to replace the security chiefs with new ones “immediately”.
The red chamber also asked Buhari to restructure and remodel the nation’s security architecture.
Apart from that, the chamber demanded a probe into the allegations of corruption and financial leakage levelled against some top hierarchy of the military.
The Senate asked Buhari to aggressively negotiate with the nation’s neighbouring countries for multinational cooperation in order to strengthen the war against insurgency.
It directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, NEMA and NEDC to provide succour and psychological support for the families of the victims.
It also sought proper welfare for soldiers at the war front and proper resettlement and support for the families of the fallen soldiers.
It urged the federal and state governments to address issues fuelling insecurity.
It similarly called for massive recruitment into the military and the police force.
Similarly, the House of Representatives, yesterday, resolved to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to address members in plenary over the security crises across the country.
Before the decision, plenary at the House of Representatives had turned rowdy, as members were sharply divided over a motion seeking to invite Buhari to appear before the lawmakers to explain the rising spate of insecurity in the country.
The House was considering a motion moved by members from Borno State on the recent massacre of more than 43 rice farmers in the state by Boko Haram insurgents.
Part of the prayers was to invite Buhari to appear on the floor of the House and address the lawmakers in plenary.
Efforts by the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and Chairman, House Committee on Air Force, Shehu Koko, among others, to have the prayer dropped proved abortive.
Gbajabiamila’s plea that a state of emergency be adopted instead was also rebuffed.
The speaker was forced to ask that the lawmakers have an executive (closed-door) session.
Emerging from the closed-door session, Gbajabiamila asked one of the sponsors of the motion, Ahmad Jaha, to make an amendment to the motion.
Jaha prayed the House to invite the president as proposed in the original motion.
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
5m Jostle For Recruitment Into NIS, Civil Defence
The Federal Government has announced that aptitude tests for recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) would be conducted on December 7 and 8, respectively.
Over two million Nigerians applied for vacancies in the two agencies under the Ministry of Interior.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Director of Press in the ministry, Alhaji Mohammed Manga, the exercise would be conducted in collaboration with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Manga said the conduct of the forthcoming Computer-Based Aptitude Test for recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was aimed at ensuring transparency, equity and justice in the
He said the partnership would provide all eligible and qualified Nigerians who applied for various posts in the services equal opportunity to be employed in line with the present administration’s policy thrust of ensuring transparency in the conduct of government business.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Interior and Chairman, Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, recently assured Nigerians that the ministry would ensure transparency in the recruitment processes in to the services, Manga stated.
To this end, the ministry has concluded arrangements with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to conduct the aptitude test for eligible candidates into the Nigeria Immigration Service on the 7th of December, 2020, while that of the NSCDC is expected to hold 8th December, 2020, in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, he added.
Manga said, “the ministry has also worked out modalities to enable qualified candidates access the notification for the aptitude tests for CBAT from 6pm on 1st December, 2020, through their e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
“Accordingly, all candidates who applied for NIS are expected to visit the website of the service at https://immigrationrecruitment.org.ng while those who applied for NSCDC and subsequently updated their educational records are to visit https://cdfipb.careers to print individual letters of invitation.”
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