Presented to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on Tuesday, 1st November, 2016
by Pan Niger Delta Forum
With the renewed spate of militancy in the Niger Delta, several groups and platforms have been concerned with finding solutions to the crisis. Consequently, the Leaders, Elders and various interest Groups met and felt that the best way to tackle the challenges that have continued to plague our Region, is to come together, under a unified platform. Thus, these various Groups collapsed into a single body, known as Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
The invitation to PANDEF from the Presidency is welcome and indeed a profound relief that there is a prospect for Dialogue at the highest level. It is our firm belief that the best way to sustainable peace and security in the Niger Delta is through Dialogue, backed with such meaningful actions as would convince the people of the Region of the Federal Government’s commitment and sincerity of purpose.
Mr. President, it will be needless to dwell on the checkered history of the Niger Delta question, and the various efforts made to address them over the years. It will suffice to mention that the step, which you take today, follows a trajectory of various levels of action on the Matter, going back to the days before the attainment of Nigeria’s Independence. We recall that, between 1957 and 1958, the British Colonial Government appointed a high-level government Commission, which became known as the Willinks Commission to undertake a study of the concerns of the Minorities in the Country. The Report, which was presented to the British Colonial Government, underlined the fact that, due to its peculiar environment and terrain, the Niger Delta posed to its people and the Nigerian Nation, a serious developmental challenge. Accordingly, in the 1960 (Independence) Constitution, it was expressly provided that the area should be treated as a Special Developmental Zone, leading to the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), as the vehicle for that purpose.
We have decided to call attention to these facts, from the outset, as we do appreciate that the problems of our Area predates your Administration. However, the loud cry of our people has remained the desire to enjoy meaningful physical and infrastructural development, just like other parts of the Country. Sadly, over the years, neither this Body which was created, and others which came later on, such as OMPADEC, NDDC, the Amnesty Programme and so on, have been able to create the desired impact, for a number of reasons. We therefore need to reason together and adopt a paradigm shift on the matter.
In the process of trying to broker peace in the Region, we have conducted a very rigorous assessment of the problems that brought about the recent resurgence of militancy. It can be said that this has been due, largely, to a feeling of alienation and the lack of meaningful development. So we have catalogued a number of Dialogue Issues within this Paper. Some of them call for immediate attention, while others can be regarded as overarching and long-term.
We have identified the following broad Dialogue Issues, not in any particular order, where “quick wins”, could be achieved, that would be enough to restore hope and confidence in a Region that has grown skeptical of dialogues and engagements that have hardly produced tangible results:
1. The Presidential Amnesty Programme
In 2009, the late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua, proclaimed the Amnesty Programme to end hostilities in the Niger Delta and to facilitate stabilization of the security conditions and pave way for sustainable development of the Region.
The Post Amnesty Programme, conceived at the end of the disarmament and retrieval of weapons from the ex militants, had five components, namely:
• The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of former militant agitators
• Critical infrastructural and economic development in the Niger Delta
• Environmental Remediation
• Implementation of modalities for the involvement of Host Communities in the ownership of Petroleum assets
• Establishment of framework for Oil and Gas Assets Protection and Pipeline Surveillance
We note that regrettably, only the Disarmament and Demobilization component of the DDR programme is being implemented to date. Tensions over the fate of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, seven years after inception owe a great deal to the long-standing absence of any genuine Exit Strategy. There is an urgent need therefore, for a review of the programme to reappraise its Core Mandate to provide a robust Exit Strategy, in order to transit recipients into jobs, effectively integrate them and free them of dependency on stipends, so that their new-found skills would be of benefit to themselves and the larger community.
2. Law and Justice Issues
In view of the insecurity situation in the Niger Delta, a number of pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals are yet to be resolved. It is important to address these issues urgently as a step towards lasting peace.
3. The Effect of Increased Military Presence in the Niger Delta
The increased deployment of military personnel into the Niger Delta has resulted in rise in cases of invasion of communities, displacement of persons, harassment and other forms of abuse of human rights. This has continued to escalate tension and insecurity in the region. We urge that this trend be reversed.
4. Plight of Internally Displaced Persons
The recent upsurge in insecurity in the region has resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people from their communities and subjected them to untold hardship in various locations. We hereby call on government to direct the relevant agencies to take urgent measures to meet their immediate needs and return them to their communities.
5. The Ogoni Clean-up and Environmental Remediation
• We thank Mr. President for flagging off the clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The long delay in starting the Ogoni Clean Up had sapped confidence locally, and had caused the broader Niger Delta to doubt the intentions of Government. We therefore urge the Federal Government to speed up this exercise, especially by following through the emergency steps outlined in the UNEP Report, which includes the provision of safe drinking water for a populace whose water has been declared unfit for human consumption by UNEP, years ago.
• We also urge the federal government to commission a Region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the Niger Delta and undertake to enforce all environment protection laws.
• We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforcing the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
• The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of an effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta, must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
6. The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We therefore, strongly urge Mr. President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that Mr. President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State to a University should be implemented..
7. Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank Mr. President for ensuring that the first phase of the Coastal Railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland water ways and riverine infrastructure
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing Ports in the Niger Delta including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep draft sea-going vessels and expedite the deep dredging of the Calabar Port. The Agge Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
8. Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review be done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility over the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
9. Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
10. Power Supply
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta still remain unconnected to the national Grid. We therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
11. Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to clearly signal their interest in sustained economic development in the Region by:
• Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding the Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
• Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
• Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
• Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region in particular the Gas city, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
• Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
• Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
• We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT, can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
• Resolve the various issues leading to the non operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
12. Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land, will continue, until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these Communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
13. Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Intervention Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
14. Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, in spite of the fact that it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to fulfill the purpose for which it was created.
15. The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent Blueprint for the development, and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
16. Fiscal Federalism
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be reechoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
DIALOGUE AS A PREFERRED SOLUTION
In accepting your invitation, we have come with a very open mind, and have presented to you for discussion, those Issues that need to be resolved quickly, to bring peace and progress, not only to the region, but indeed to the whole Country. In this regard, we feel constrained to bring to your attention certain documents and publications that tend to suggest that your Government has already taken precipitate, unilateral decisions on a number of those issues. This, Mr. President, would obviously vitiate the purpose of this Meeting. We hope that this is not the case. But, please permit us to caution against repeating mistakes of the past, where policies and plans were announced without rigorous public scrutiny and input. We believe that, for any such plan to have a chance of success it must, first be subjected to critical assessment. In our view, the problems will remain if those affected are excluded from the process of designing the solutions to those problems. This is why Your Excellency, your decision to Dialogue is so very welcome, and must not be preempted, in any way.
Mr. President we would like to assure you that, as stakeholders not only in the Niger Delta Region but, indeed. In the entire Country, we totally condemn criminality and the destruction of our valuable National Assets which, as we have pointed out to the perpetrators, also adds to the destruction of our environment. Our position, we hasten to add, takes full cognizance of the current parlous state of our economy.
We would also like to assure you that we the People of the Niger Delta, as patriotic and law-abiding Citizens, remain committed to the unity, peace and progress of this great Country. Our resolve as leaders of the Region, is to do all, within our power, to help this Administration to succeed. In particular, is the urgent need for us to pull the National Economy out of recession through a speedy solution to the spate of militant agitation. We are therefore, totally committed to creating the right environment, in our communities to ensure that the wealth, which God has placed in our own part of the Country, continues to be available to the benefit of all. It is our hope that such benefits will translate into the development of resources such as Agriculture, Solid Minerals and indeed Oil in other parts of the Country.
We would therefore, appeal that the Federal Government constitute its Dialogue Team with the appropriate Mandate to commence the needed Dialogue, which should include all the key Actors, especially the Oil Companies and the State Governors.
We look forward to a structured Dialogue Process with timelines, between a Federal Government Team and our side, held directly under your purview, in an atmosphere of openness and frankness.
Once again Mr. President we thank you.
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