Oil in the Niger Delta: A blessing or a curse

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The idea that natural resources could be more economic curse than a blessing began to emerge in 1980. Richard Auty in 1993 described how countries rich in natural resources were not using that wealth to increase their efficiency and how, counter-intuitive, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without abundant natural resources. A rape Commonwealth and our prominent corruption are some of the brainchild of crude oil in Nigeria has bequeathed us. Desperate drive to get public offices and elective positions clearly determine the depth of corruption and curse of crude oil in Nigeria has brought upon us.

For the marketing of crude oil in Nigeria, agriculture and effective taxes were the main sources of national our survival. Agriculture contributed 60% to our exports and gross domestic product (GDP). Although confederating States in the Nigeria were in a cold war with each other over some political differences, the development of the various regions was remarkable. We had groundnut pyramid in the North and cocoa pyramid in the West with a bustling coal industry in the region. The various regions have different programs just to ensure that their region does not lag behind among the comity of states. Well pay wages were ubiquitous and standard of living in Nigeria was incredible. Quality Education was the hallmark of the government especially in the West. Nigerians were respected at home and abroad. Nigeria gave out loans to other African countries and played a major role in the independence and liberation of most African countries. Nigerians do not need visas to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) and other developed countries. They saw the Nigerians as equals.

However, when an impressive body called Nigeria, has today become a relic of itself. Those who participated in the Nigerian Dream has left us to pursue their aspirations in other countries in the world. Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, China, India, Egypt and several others that have similar development index with us in the 1960s and ’70s have long outran us have some of the largest economies in the world. Today, Nigerians suffer untold hardship and torture in these countries that once looked up to Nigeria as Big Brother. Securing a visa to these countries is like a journey to the promised land. What is so wrong with Nigeria? Could it be a great cultural and religious differences? But India and Malaysia has been able to forge ahead in spite of cultural and religious dispute. Maybe it’s the size of our population. How about China? In a matter of 30 years, they have themselves developed their economies from obscurity to the second largest economy in the world with the potential to become the first in the near future.

According to the Niger Delta Congress, it is estimated that over $ 600 billion worth of crude oil has been pumped from the Niger Delta states since 1937. However, unemployment, environmental degradation, and lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity persist. Persistent neglect Niger Delta region has incited some disenfranchised youth in the region to take up arms. The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (Mend), fiercest and most dangerous militant group is the result of neglect in an area that has fed Nigeria for the past four decades. Compared to other oil producing areas in other countries, tragic environmental and weak infrastructural development in the Niger Delta calls for some soul-searching solutions. Abuja as other capitals deserves a befitting position. Anything short of the current outlook would suggest Nigeria in a very negative posture. And more development is still running without strong political debate. Not even the development and transformation of Abuja led to the Nigerian village square for discussion. If Abuja could be transformed into such a mega city in a few years, it is so wrong with the development of the Niger Delta region has fed the nation since independence?

Subsequent governments since the command of General Yakubu Gowon, no visible development should be pointed out, still in the area, but shouldering the survival of the nation. In terms of utilization, the area has suffered the most. Developments? It is the hallmark of the province. Oil companies conducting business in this area without recourse to the state of the environment in the region. Oil natural forces, gas flaring and oil Bunkering are some of the daily dangers that threaten the existence of the people of the Niger Delta region. More offensive is wicked army invaded the area ordered by Presidents Obasanjo and Good Luck administration. Civilians in their hundreds lost their lives to brutal military atrocities. Why this attack that should have been investigated by the United Nations (UN) was running, there was no concrete development master plan has begun to calm the nerves of these different agitating communities. Till date, the memories of these inhuman invasions and genocide still linger in the minds of the indigent in the region who lost their dear ones.

At that time in political history, we had groundnut pyramids in the north, Cocoa Pyramid in South and Coal Industry in the east. In the Niger Delta region, what is the proof of our oil reserves? Is it dysfunctional refineries, gas flaring, the abuse, the environment or the incessant killings of innocent Niger Delta? Sincerely, there is no historical monument in the Niger Delta region which represents a great wealth we have been Blest with. Many writers and public commentators have proffered solutions and recommendations to the Nigerian government on how to develop the area. Of these proposals, only the amnesty program has been implemented. Why this may be commendable, it is certainly not enough. How about the gas flare the federal government has refused to deal? Oil forces of nature, the environment and non-existence of modern infrastructure? Recently, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Allison Madueke admitted publicly that Nigeria earns over N42b daily from crude oil. For this distorted image, how much has been allocated to the development of the Niger Delta region? Reserves in foreign entities is depleted daily by greedy politicians and even our region that produces these resources is suffering total neglect. High unemployment in the area has given rise to the menace of kidnapping in the Niger Delta, which has been escalated to other areas. If we begin to enumerate the problems bedeviling the area, it will catch too many pages.

In the final analysis, urgent and concrete steps should be taken to develop this area. Enough of all the fake promises and exploitations in the region has suffered from. If the government of President Goodluck Jonathan or anyone who would succeed him is nothing to address the core issues threatening the existence of the region, then Nigeria might as well prepare for the worst from the adolescents in the area. A threat to the existence of the Niger Delta region is a threat to the existence of the Nigerian nation. The stage is set!

Fred Itua writer / contributor on The Politico Magazine living in Abuja, Nigeria.

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