At last we can heave a sigh of relief as the Pan Niger Delta Leaders’ Forum recently met with President Muhammadu Buhari and presented its 16-point demands for a comprehensive turnaround in the oil rich region. Firstly, we must acknowledge the jaw-jaw approach of Mr President who opted to dialogue with leaders of the region.
Definately, this is a win-win situation for all stakeholders, and the country generally as it is in our enlightened interest to ensure that peace reigns in all parts of the country. President Buhari has led the way and it now requires the support of all Nigerians, and particularly stakeholders in the Niger Delta region to reciprocate the good gesture.
Incessant attacks on oil installations and pipelines have led to depletion in oil exports and the concomitant negative impact on Nigeria’s accruable revenue has left a sour taste in the mouth. The fact that the federal government extended the olive branch to the Niger Delta leaders as a way of finding lasting solutions to the problems afflicting the region is commendable and ought to be sustained.
It does not augur well for the country when some groups embark on destroying the mainstay of the nation’s economy. Apart from the negative consequences on the entire nation, oil spillages contaminate the environment, and this endangers the ecosystem. Furthermore, the uncontrolled oil spillages have the potential of exacerbating the harsh effects of climate change which is currently ravaging the entire globe.
Regardless of the grievances of any group, including the much touted neglect of the oil producing region, there is no justification to resort to violence. In the words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”.
It is expected that the leaders from the region will reciprocate the President’s peace overtures by prevailing on their youths to give peace a chance by halting further pipeline attacks.
It must be noted that the President has shown empathy and commitment towards the plight of the Niger Delta region. A few months ago, he rolled out a comprehensive plan for the clean-up of Ogoniland. Meanwhile, the devastation of the Ogoni environment happened several decades ago under the watch of past leaders.
Similarly, he has committed to fast track the completion of the East-West Road. Under his administration, the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail line has been budgeted for, and will hopefully be completed in record time. Even the amnesty programme has been rejuvenated with a sizeable number of repentant militants being trained in different institutions within and outside the country.
Furthermore, the intervention agency for the region, Niger Delta Development Commission, has been given necessary financial boost to deliver on its mandate. So in totality, it can be said that President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to develop the Niger Delta, and reclaim the oil-polluted environment for the benefit of the people.
Perhaps, all interest groups in the region need to be reminded that it is a herculean task to restore an environment that has been neglected over the years in a hurry. It will definitely require painstaking planning and diligent execution of remediation projects. Therefore, there is need for the stakeholders, including oil bearing communities, traditional institutions, women and youths, to partner with the government in finding a sustainable and holistic solution to the problems.
As much as we regret the neglect of the region by previous administrations, it is consoling that the present government has shown considerable interest in putting things right, and for this to be achieved, all hands must be on deck. This can only happen under a peaceful atmosphere and the key players in the region have a responsibility to support the federal government in delivering on the region’s expectations.
The point must also be made that apart from the Federal Government, the states and local governments in the Niger Delta region have a pivotal role to play in seeing that issues of development are adequately addressed. A situation where they receive 13% derivation from the federation account with no tangible projects to show for it leaves much to be desired.
They ought to be partners in progress with the Federal Government in developing the region, rather than staying aloof and indifferent in the face of daunting developmental challenges.
Now that we have an administration committed to redressing the wrongs of the past, mostly as they affect the Niger Delta region, let us fully utilise the opportunity by demonstrating equal goodwill. President Buhari means well for the Niger Delta but his efforts can only yield the desired results when those concerned cooperate with him.