Going by information at the public domain, a Warri Delta State-based newspaper, GbaramatuVoice, in furtherance of its Niger Delta Economic Discourse series, will on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 by 10am, at the BON Hotel, Warri, Delta state, hold a focused group discussion that centers on two separate but related typical and topical issues – the recently extended Presidential Amnesty Programme and the Federal Government proposed but abandoned modular refineries in the region.
The dialogue, which has as a theme, ‘Presidential Amnesty Programme and Modular Refineries: Towards sustainable human capital relations,’ will bring together, to deeply appraise the programmes and come up with useful recommendations, critical stakeholders comprising ex-agitators in the Niger Delta, policymakers from both state and federal levels, agencies and commissions, development professionals, media professionals, traditional rulers from the oil producing communities, representatives of different security agencies and apparatus in the country among others.
While the newspaper’s effort/decision to bring to the surface major issues/ills confronting the Niger Delta region is well understood and appreciated, it again raises the questions as to why the region challenges have become an unending commentary that have defied every solution proffered in recent past by individuals, specialised groups and professionals? Is it not an absurdity that instead of shared prosperity and national cohesion, oil has brought Nigeria conflict and poverty, inequality and oppression, dependency, recurrent economic recession, and environmental dilapidation? How do we explain the fact that despite the abundance of oil and gas, hydro and energy resources, guarantees for the most part, Nigerians live in darkness, and businesses are decreasing because of lack of power supply?
Is the situation of the Niger Delta a case of resource curse (Dutch disease), which is also known as the paradox of plenty or the poverty paradox; where countries with an abundance of natural resources have less economic growth, less democracy, or worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources?
Indeed, there are many reasons the above questions/fears cannot be described as unfounded.
Fundamentally, like other news and development focused organisations, GbaramatuVoice has in the past, through its Niger Delta Economic Discourse Series, facilitated research, publications, and partnered relevant agencies of the government and private sector on issues that are critical to the development of the Niger Delta region. Yet, none of the policymakers in the country articulated such recommendations in their national or state policy frameworks.
Again, aside from dwelling in detail on sustainable actions that could consistently be taken by the Federal Government and other interventionist agencies to project Niger Delta in good light, some agencies, particularly non-governmental organisations have in recent times provided platforms for all to ventilate their concerns about the now extended PAP as well as the Federal Government proposed modular refineries to be sited in the Niger Delta region. Other people of the region with critical interests have also at one time or the other offered road maps for restoring the health and vitality of the Niger Delta region, and particularly proposed strategies for sustainable development, empowerment and reintroduction/re-integration of the youths of the region to their proper pride of place. But successive administrations in the country have viewed these propositions as a prank.
Regrettably, the failure to adjust, adapt and incorporate these calls by the nation’s policy makers have characterised the region as an ‘unfinished project,’ worse than a ‘work-in-progress.’ This has gone so bad that even at 62, no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria. Over the years, a myriad of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace.
Today, the petroleum sector, without going into specifics, doubles as a centre for the primitive accumulation of wealth as well as a platform for petro-rentier crimes. Within this sector, petroleum rents, according to reports, have been the object of an opportunistic scramble by corrupt political elite and their counterparts. In effect, the significance of oil wealth in Nigeria has been contradictory. It has been a blessing as well as a curse, by generating both revenue and criminality. This pain, visited on the Niger Delta and the nation as a whole, is deepened by the fact that it was avoidable.
Making the above awareness a crisis is the report that there are huge solid mineral deposits across the length and breadth of the country, yet Nigeria depends 95 per cent on oil income for foreign exchange earnings. Every part of the country is blessed with immense agricultural potential yet the vast majority of our youths remain unemployed, while we spend billions annually importing food staples and industrial raw materials. We are quick to boast of a huge population. It is true that one in every four Black persons in the world may be a Nigerian, but a significant number are more of human liability than human resource.
As the nation continues to brood over the above revelations, the truth must be told to the fact that the current challenge was heightened by the Nigeria’s refusal to learn from history which continues to teach humanity invaluable lessons about life. To move forward, the present administration must recognise that any personality who wants to grow in leadership must almost always scale and be open to learning. They must be molded by new experiences to improve their leadership.
Most importantly, even as stakeholders will at the meeting put together GbaramatuVoice highlight in details, urgent steps needed to support through training, financing and other technical equipment, of operators of modular refineries in the region particularly, as available evidence has shown that most of their refined products assures more quality assurance when compared with products refined abroad, this piece still believes that the Federal Government must articulate for consideration modalities for revamping the nation’s refineries.
This must be done not for political reasons but because Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a function in Lagos told a gathering that the Federal Government was determined to see through the completion of all the critical projects that had been embarked upon in the Niger Delta region. Without doubt, the above point appears welcoming, but, again, the truth must be told to the effect that the people of the region are particularly not happy with the paltry three per cent allocation to host communities by the new Petroleum Industry Act.
Utomi can be reached via j[email protected]/