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Niger Delta: Osinbajo’s Evangelical Outreach – By Ifeanyi Izeze

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‘Niger Delta dev’t will be community-driven for oil-bearing areas to have direct impact of oil; we begin partnership with all stakeholders in the industry’

Nothing best captures the ongoing peace outreach mission of the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in the Niger Delta oil producing states as the Holy Bible in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 16: 

“For if I merely preach the gospel (good news), I have nothing to boast about, for I am compelled that is, absolutely obligated to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the good news of salvation (Amp).”

No doubt, the Acting President’s sermon sounds like “The Great Commission and the necessity to obey it.” 

And what is the good news that the he has been going across the Niger Delta states to deliver? 

It is that “Niger Delta development will henceforth be community-driven for oil-bearing areas to have direct impact of oil; and that the federal government would begin a partnership with all the stakeholders in the oil industry to concentrate development in oil-producing communities.

“So, we come today on behalf of the President, Commander- in- Chief with my cabinet colleagues and heads of relevant agencies to propose a new vision and to signpost a new era to the people of the oil-producing communities and Nigeria.

“The federal government will begin a partnership with oil-producing communities, the local government, the oil companies, the private sector and civil society organisation for the rapid development of these communities.”

Ask me and I would bluntly tell you that there is nothing new at all in what the Acting President is proposing to the region that has not been serially proposed or rather promised before by operators of past Nigerian governments. 

However, the only thing that seems new to the people is Osinbajo’s demeanour towards their peculiar situation and his human-faced delivery of the message which can aptly be described as the real “breath of fresh air” to the region. 

The delivery of the message seems to be achieving more than the actual content and this is commendable. 

There is a manner you keep telling someone to go to hell that one day he makes up his mind to actually embark on that trip and see what would happen, this is what is happening in the Niger Delta.

Anybody who thinks the oil companies can engage the state governments and communities on issues affecting a particular state is getting it all wrong. 

That responsibility should be given to an inter-agency platform between the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and the Niger Delta, as well as the NDDC. 

Then this new collaboration should be helped by the Presidency and the civil societies to develop genuine sincerity and the will-power to be honest and transparent in implementing this new vision for the region.

It is well-known and also public acknowledged that the Niger Delta crisis which caused about 45 per cent loss in Nigeria’s oil production coupled with the not-too-impressive oil market performance worsened the financial challenges of the Muhammadu Buhari administration right from onset and the arrogance and careless talks of the officials around the president only added salt to injury.

True as said by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, at a workshop: Oil Sector Militancy Challenges…Roadmap to Closure, “despite all efforts made by successive administrations to tackle the militancy (agitation) in the Niger Delta, a permanent solution was never found.”

Previous steps taken by the federal government to tackle the inhuman neglect of the Niger Delta oil producing areas  including the setting up of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) the precursor to the current conscription- the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the 13 per cent derivation for oil producing states, did not achieve much because of the insincerity or rather outright deceit, and absence of consistency by those who ran the successive administrations. 

It did not start with the current Buhari-led administration. 

It has been there even before Obasanjo’s administration and it went on with other governments – Yar’Adua’s and Jonathan’s.

It is noteworthy that as planned by the federal government to adopt a ring-fenced approach and stop dealing with Niger Delta militancy as a national issue rather adopt a state-by-state approach; there are serious issues to be considered in the planned decentralisation of the Amnesty Programme.

According to the Minister of State for Petroleum, “the Amnesty Programme would be launched on a state-by-state basis to create opportunities for 5,000-10,000 youths in each state.”  

My take is that this looks like a dream project instituted to fail right from onset. 

The problem in it would be that everybody in the state- youth, men, women will become militants overnight seeking amnesty from the government and anybody turned back, would actually return to the creek or bush to become a full-blown armed militant with some levels of nuisance value.

The question is: Whose responsibility will it be to identify who is a militant in each state- area boys, community leaders, council chairmen, or state governors? 

There is going to be a huge problem in implementing the initiative as proposed and to avert this, my suggestion is that we totally drop this entire idea of amnesty as it creates a sense of criminals/miscreants looking for forgiveness.

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