Nigeria’s Sea Of Poverty And Her “Prosperous” Government!

Again, Nigerians are being subjected to emotional labour by this government. Day by day we narrate dark-figured crimes. The manner in which we are exposing our inability to prioritize and solve more crucial problems first is crazy. Today, tax-payers’ monies and resource-revenues are vanishing, but this regime is in need of money to meet up “national” interest; 2009 budget, two satellites to replace the lost Nigeria’s N30bn NigComSat satellite, influence legislators to hand-pick ministerial appointees, redress hydro-electric power producing areas commission amidst Nigeria’s “full-blown electricity” supply, yet we shun goods-producing economy.

Since this leadership is acting beyond their scope of powers; rather than taking a moralistic approach, they keep hunting editors under this democracy, to deflate our bill of right. This democracy was test-run with “Rule by elders”, as a strategy to benchmark it, but we got disappointed by Obasanjo’s oligarchy. It has been claimed for several years that the western world have passed through this goods producing, or industrial, stage and have now entered a new economy founded on the delivery of services and the production and dissemination of knowledge. Looks at how we as consumers and citizens can influence choices about oil dependency.

Nigeria maintains that rather than fuelling growth and development, natural resource wealth can become the cause of economic stagnation, corruption, and civil war. Early research focused on macroeconomic dimensions of the curse. One key problem is “Dutch disease,” whereby the real exchange rate appreciates as capital flows into a country in response to a natural resource boom. Our policy-makers render domestic manufacturing and agriculture uncompetitive, causing lost jobs and higher unemployment. These lost jobs are not compensated for by growth in the natural resource sector, which is capital-intensive. The decline of manufacturing and agriculture also makes the economy dependent on natural resources, contributing to economic volatility since natural resource earnings are highly volatile.

Nigeria’s macroeconomic problem concerns fiscal policy and inflation. Oil booms tend to raise expectations, and contribute to unrealistic projections of future income. This in turn leads to loss of control over public spending, including taking on high-cost public infrastructure projects, often financed with foreign borrowing. These projects can also become the vehicle for corruption and influence peddling. The net result is loss of fiscal discipline that contributes to inflation, the build-up of external indebtedness, and the development of cultures of corruption.

The poverty level in Nigeria is ironical considering the enormous oil wealth located in the Niger Delta region of the country. Meanwhile, the vast revenues from the region have barely touched the Niger Delta’s own pervasive local poverty. Oil exploration and production with its attendant environmental impact and politics have led to high levels of poverty and inequality, devastating environmental degradation, rampant corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, and high incidences of conflict and militia activities. The Niger Delta has therefore become a metaphor for the crisis of governance in Nigeria. It is against this background that the Niger Delta question has been raised i.e. why abundant human and natural resources have had so little impact on poverty in the region and why past development planning efforts have failed to address the region’s needs.

There are certain characteristics of the Niger Delta crisis. First is that the challenges of development of the Niger Delta dates back to the colonial times and efforts to deal with the problem also dates back to that period. However, in recent years, the urgency to deal with the challenges has become more critical with increasing crime wave in the region, hostage taking and emergence of militias. The commitment by the new regime of President Umar’u Yar’Adua to tackle the challenge of the Niger Delta as a priority makes Niger Delta Peoples dialogue series timely.

On November 6th 2006, the inhabitants of Umuohiri village in Oyigbo Rivers State experienced some strange things. As they were fetching water from the nearby Ntamiri River they noticed that the water in the river had turned unnaturally blue and that it was full of dead fish. The river is the only source of water for the villagers, so they collected water from the river as usual and gathered the dead fish for food. Later the strange colour was explained. A pipe in the nearby Oil-well had broken and toxic chemicals had leaked into the river. The owner of the oilfield, Shell Nigeria was responsible for this. We were extremely concerned because this oilfield of shell Nigeria pollutes the river on a continuous basis. The company is poorly managed and it has no environmental plans, yet this government is preaching without a visible Niger Delta master-plan.

Oil exploration in Niger Delta, if managed well, could contribute to poverty reduction in a variety of ways; most linkages work directly by generating income and creating opportunities for growth for lateral or downstream businesses. There are also indirect linkages through investments, which, in turn, enable better social services and catalyze improvements in physical infrastructure. It could be an important source of foreign exchange and fiscal receipts for governments. And again, when managed well, the net foreign exchange and taxes generated by mining can be used by governments as an engine for overall economic growth and as a funding source for social sector and poverty reduction programs.

In countries with significant coal resources, such as China, India, and South Africa, coal is an important source of energy contributing to economic growth. In countries with severe winters, such as the Russian Federation, Poland, Ukraine, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, coal is essential, particularly for poor households, since it provides accessible and affordable heating. Since independence, government has set up several agencies to deal with the Niger Delta problem including Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA), OMPADEC and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). But the problem persists. We believe that without addressing the causal factors and mitigating the increasing vulnerability of the people in the area, transforming the region will remain a mirage.

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