The Niger Delta Disturbance: Militant Gangsters or a Military Gang-up?

In 1895, the United African Company was in direct confrontation with local people over a natural resource called Palm oil, which was needed in Europe to produce butter and other types of creams. The local people from the central part of the Niger Delta felt that they were being exploited and challenged by the United African Company. Things escalated so that the people attacked the company’s trading post and destroyed the instruments of trade, like the drums and containers. When the United African Company reported that some local savages had invaded their trading post, Britain retaliated by bringing in naval forces. The town of Nembe was bombed, killing over 4,000 people, mostly women and children. The men ran away, leaving the women and the children to bear the brunt of the invading British naval forces. But take note that it was the multinational corporations that directed and controlled the British government to take those reprisal actions against a local community.

The same thing was replayed in 1897 when Benin City, a very famous kingdom, was invaded, works of art stolen, and all with the goal of capturing the rich forest resources of the Benin area…. in 1937, the well-known monstrous multinational called Shell emerged on the scene. It arrived in Nigeria in 1937. By 1956, it discovered crude oil in commercial quantities in the central part of the Niger Delta. By 1958, Ogoni people from the Boma oil fields had produced tremendous quantities of oil; the same happened in Andoni, Urhoba, Itsekiri, and so on.

50 years ago, the minorities of the Delta called for the establishment of a COR state. This is not the time to be faint-hearten. The region needs the laws necessary itinerary to take CONTROL of their nature-endowed resources. I overheard an indigent voicing;” We no go run because na goat dey run, but man dey stand”. The President should be careful about wishing people to go to hell. Those who wish to send other people to hell usually end up going there first.

Again, the issue of resource control generated controversies that the Nigerian government seems to over-look but are wasting monies to deviate such demand with the failure of leadership to fine-tune the quest of the people they rule to land at a compromise. Now oil is falling, can we change dimension? Into tin in Jos or Iron ore or other minerals like gold, diamond and graphite in Katsina!

The ideal should be 100% resource control whereby individuals and or states pay taxes to the federal government. But, we are still socially, economically and politically evolving faster than our current systems can adequately absorb or withstand. In that evolution, we cannot loose sight of corporate challenges we face from systemic corruption and widespread cultures of mismanagement and ethnocentrism. These challenges are real reasons why 100% resource control is not yet ripe for implementation. There are risks that may arise from wanton abuse by unscrupulous leaders. Some states may be forced into bankruptcy and fellow Nigerians (not the corrupt politicians and other oligarchic juggernauts) will needlessly bear more hardship than there is today. If that happens, more conflicts will generate and in nearly every case, extreme lawlessness will become the order. Nobody can win under that situation.

However, individuals and states can be empowered when partial resource control obtains for a start. Should 15% resource control be adopted, the remaining 85% still remains in hands of the federal government to disburse under a new set of Revenue Allocation Formula. Every state in the federation will thus have a safety net should its government or its corrupt officials make away with or mismanage own resources. Governors and leaders will be forced to become more creative in management techniques and to be more accountable to their citizens. States may engage in mufti-lateral economic relations with others – engaging creative joint venture programs for mutual economic prosperity.

Niger Deltans or any other Nigerian will take some focus off the federal government and concentrate upon maximally developing own resources, as there is devolution of economic powers from Abuja. There will be healthy competition among states. Everybody will shut up about resource control, as both local and foreign investors redeem all opening economic veins. Lazy and less ingenious state governments that depend upon government handouts will continue at own risk, as market forces and other economic factors within the true federalism dictate who sinks or who prospers.

Partial resource control may be experimented with for a fixed period of time and its gains reviewed at end of period: there can be incremental percentage increases after each fixed period until national economic and other modalities allow for 100% resource control. This way, states can be encouraged to utilize endowed resources without an overbearing federal government precluding with outmoded regulations and bureaucracies.

Successive Nigerian leaders ignored or failed to resolve substantive national issues. Each time they were confronted with a serious political issue, they would push it aside or threaten to use force to stop the matter from being discussed or resolved amicably. In fact, the current National Political Reform Conference is actually a staged substitute for a Sovereign National Conference because the president and the power-wielders did not want to confront the issues that have prevented or thwarted unity and progress. The failure to deal with critical national matters, since independence, led to the demand for creation of states, the Tiv riots, the civil war, the religious riots, Bakassi imbroglio, and resource control. For now, resource control is the hottest topic in town. So, what is the issue about resource control?

Basically, the oil-producing states are demanding a greater input in the control and management of oil business in the country. They want the following changes so that equity can take place in the allocation of revenue and the use of oil revenue for the development of the country: The restoration of the principle of derivation as the impetus for the allocation of oil revenue. A demand for increase in oil revenue allocation from the current 13% to 25 or 50%.The elimination of the Petroleum Act, the Land Use Decrees, the National Waterways Decree, and any other law or decree which concentrates too much power in the hands of the national government and contributes to the unequal distribution of oil revenue. The management of the oil business by the states and not by the Federal Government. A true national development plan that is reflective of the national character and not selective development.

But it was not until 1967 that the cruel hands of the multinationals became apparent. Most people in Europe and America think that the war that broke out in Nigeria in 1967 [Biafra] was an ethnic war, but it was not. It was an oil war, engineered by the multinationals. If you look closely at the history, the Ebus of the eastern region were crying out against the persecution of the Lothin region. And, of course, the east thought that they could survive because of the numerous oil reserves there. And so they decided to secede. But secession would have meant that the oil that was then under the control of Shell (and to a large extent of Britain), would have moved away from British control. So, Shell moved swiftly to advise the British government never to back secession. The government’s subsequent actions led to a civil war in which over one million people died between 1967 and 1970.

In many African countries the wrong kinds have made it to leadership. They see power for the sake of power and for their own aggrandizement rather than having a real understanding of the need to improve their countries or its people. In such way, despite Obasanjo’s blood thirsty actions in the Niger Delta, where his regime has stationed wild troops that rape and rob the people daily in order to silence them in the struggle for self determination, Obasanjo embarked on real vain-glorious pursuit. Everyone knows that General Obasanjo did not know Nigeria’s problems. His earlier experience was to rule the country as a military dictator appointed by the Northern military in 1976. Nigerians made him to give up military rule in 1979, and brought him back to power after a short spell in Abacha’s death cell. He pursued discriminate policy, particularly in the Niger Delta where Abacha had inflicted terror.

Besides sending troops to finish the people in the Niger Delta, in order to silence them in the struggle for self determination, Obasanjo has really done nothing at all. As the London based Guardian newspaper of 28/11/2000 put it “president Obasanjo fails to save fellow Christians from the rigour of Sharia”. But he does nothing to stop Northern Islamic fundamentalists burning down churches and kill and drive Southerners away.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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