The presence of militant groups and their attacks on oil installations in the oil-rich Niger Delta has been a major source of concern to the Federal Government of Nigeria. This has affected the planned volume of 2.2 million barrels of crude oil production per day and hence a fall in government oil revenue. With the reduction in crude oil production and a fall in the prices of crude oil globally, it is obvious that the 2016 budget may not be fully implemented due to the resultant fall in government revenue.
Being a major source of earnings, contributing over 90% to government revenue, crude oil has become a mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Therefore, any unrest due to militancy and other form of agitations in the oil-producing Niger Delta region usually threatens the health of the country’s economy.
In trying to find lasting solutions to the activities of militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta, the Federal Government, through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, has disclosed a new plan that could bring to an end militancy and asset vandalism in the region.
In a podcast speech captioned, “Oil Sector Militancy Challenges…Roadmap to Closure,” the Minister, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu had disclosed “a 20-point Agenda” which was aimed at establishing permanent peace in the Niger Delta, the country’s oil-producing region, which has experienced a surge in militancy leading to disruption of oil exploration, production and export in the past one year. The 20-point agenda of the Federal Government include the following:
Agenda #1: Engagements in Town Hall Meetings with the communities and state apparatus involving the state governments, the military and the oil companies. The government has begun the process of engaging the community.
Agenda #2: Inter-Agency Collaboration with the Ministries of Petroleum and Niger Delta, amnesty group and the NDDC in finding solutions that will address the concerns of the people.
Agenda #3: Introduction of a Ring-Fenced State Approach. The militant’s agitations will no longer be treated as national issues. A state-by-state approach to ending militancy would be adopted on the ground that each state in the region appeared to have peculiar challenges that prompted militancy in the states. Each state must develop measures and solutions which will create opportunities to manage the oil sector. The communities will be educated on how not to allow criminal elements from other parts of the Delta to foment troubles.
Agenda #4: Security Holding Hand Approach: The government will have a Security Hold Hands which entails that the Ministry of Petroleum will work with the security agencies because they are the only ones that guarantee peace in the Delta. The aim is to strengthen security in the region through the collaboration of all relevant security agencies.
Agenda #5: Peace and Investment Initiatives on State Basis. Each state would be encouraged to pursue peace in exchange for improved investment.
Agenda #6: Core Business Investment Focus which will include modular refineries, plants and core refineries. Modular refinery will be in each of the states to create employment, gas investment plants, once there is job, militancy will cease. This will create economic opportunities for inhabitants of the region to have decent livelihoods for themselves and their families. It is expected that the setting up of cottage industries and business startups in the region will encourage violent agitators to shun militancy and engage in business activities that will earn them good incomes.
Agenda #7: The creation of 100,000 jobs across each of the oil-producing states over the next five years which will take a public and private approach. This will be followed by the decentralization of the Amnesty Programme due to lack of funds resulting from dwindling oil revenue.
Agenda #8: Investment on Gas-to-Power projects for steady power supply in the Niger Delta region. Stranded gas in the Delta will be distributed to generate power and take these states from the national grid for development and peace.
Agenda #9: Incentives for Peace Scheme which will drive international investment where there will be export oil and gas park, but peace must be guaranteed for the purpose to be actualized.
Agenda #10: Massive Revamping of oil and gas Infrastructures in the Niger Delta. The gas pipelines and distribution networks are old with malfunctioned depots hence there will be infrastructural revamp.
Schools, hospitals and skills centre will also be revamped. Specialist schools and hospitals will be established per state. This will pull militants out of militancy and be rehabilitated and plan for their future.
Agenda #11: Clean up of the environment that has been ravaged by oil spillage and destruction of aquatic lives. This has made the people to be helpless and find it difficult to live a conducive life, hence resorting to agitation with the government. Besides, President Mohammadu Buhari has launched the Ogoni clean-up campaign in Rivers State. The clean-up process will involve other places in the Niger Delta through the Ministry of Environment such that every state has a programme of clean-up with oil companies that are operating there. The clean-up will enhance better environment which will make the people to focus on agriculture.
Agenda #12: Domestication of Oil and Gas Business Opportunities. This will encourage greater participation of the people of the oil-producing region without the exclusion of other Nigerians. Kachikwu stressed further that it is saddened for people who produce resources and not have access to those resource opportunities which the militants have advocated for that resource control should be left in the hands of the region. As the government focuses on marginal field grants and refinery revamps, it will be concentrating on a lot of opportunities for Niger Delta to participate.
Agenda #13: Niger Delta Development Fund (NDDF) Initiatives. Niger Delta pays a big price for producing oil in Nigeria. Foreign investors are needed to work with Federal Government to create a fund initiative to address long-term and cross-state investments for development. The same terms will be used for the northern part of the country.
Agenda #14: The Search for crude in Lake Chad and the Benue Trough. A successful discovery, exploration and production of crude oil in the Lake Chad and Benue Trough is expected to put an end to militancy in the Niger Delta region.
Agenda #15: Militancy-to-Education Initiative (MET) programmes to take the militants back to school with incentives like Federal Government free feeding and scholarship. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) will expand scholarship programme to schools and this will be enhanced by oil companies. Encouraging education programmes in the Niger Delta is expected to make the people embrace education and shun militancy.
Agenda #16: State Amnesty Programme will not be easy for continuous funding due to huge financial implication but the government will use the opportunity to create jobs for the militants.
Agenda #17: The PANDEF Youth Wing which has been used to mobilize key players into an organized platform which will dissuade the youths from militancy.
Agenda #18: Federal Government Partnership with State to create concept and businesses with states has to be supported.
Agenda #19: Security and Peace. Ensuring justice for all the stakeholders in the region would be the major plank of the agenda. A due process of justice would be followed to address grievances by any individual and groups. This will discourage aggrieved persons and groups from taking laws into their hands in seeking justice.
Agenda #20: Policing for Peace to strengthen the security apparatus. The obligation of the government is peace and continuous pattern of militants holding the government to ransom will stop.
The 20-point agenda, though briefly mentioned, may not achieve any meaningful impact due to the fact that it appeared to be a top-down measure which lacks inputs from the oil-producing communities and people themselves. The issue of militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region is deeply rooted in the communities and can only be addressed with the help of the communities. Only duly collaborative and participatory measures/solutions will eliminate or minimize militancy in the region. And it is unfortunate that only few of the 20-point agenda seem to address the core need of the oil communities and people, which is the dire need of Sustainable Community Development.
This is likely another failed attempt by the Federal Government to answer the Niger Delta Question.