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Ndokwa Vanguard

....we are out to educate, inform, sensitize & update

The sad reality of Niger Delta- Imalah Blessing Chioma

Jul 20, 2023 #News

THE NIGER DELTA Region of Nigeria is the storehouse of Nigeria’s crude oil, which accounts for approximately 90% of the country’s revenue, providing more than 90% of total exports. Despite this, the people remain poor, marginalized and restive.Oil rivers as it is sometimes called because of its prominence in oil production is a region in Nigeria that is home to many ethnic groups, including the ukwuani,Ijaw, Ogoni, and Itsekiri. The region is known for its vast oil reserves, but unfortunately, there has been a long history of environmental damage and violence in the area. The Niger Delta people have been fighting for their rights to resources and autonomy for many years.

It is a haven, rich in natural resources, including oil, natural gas, and minerals such as limestone and clay. The region is also home to some of the largest mangrove forests in the world, which provide habitat for a wide variety of species and help to protect the coastline from erosion. Additionally, the region is known for its fertile soil, which supports agriculture, fishing, and other industries. However, the exploitation of these resources has led to environmental damage and conflicts over land and resources.

These people have a very densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil. The area was the British Oil Rivers Protectorate from 1885 until 1893, when it was expanded and became the Niger Coast Protectorate.

Funny enough these are the people who own the natural resources and they get to benefit in the least you could imagine! Exhibit A the Niger deltans were given the bare minimum to leave with as compensation for supplying the country with such rich resources to sustain them all when they were allocated just 13% of the revenue generated irrespective of the fact that it was elicited from the Niger delta.Till date, many people believe that the 13% derivation is not enough to compensate for the damage caused by the oil industry in the Niger Delta, because apparently they share almost the same percentage with the others who have no hand, or privilege rather to enjoy such benefits.There have been calls for a greater share of revenue to be given to the people of the Niger Delta, as well as for greater environmental protections and a more equitable distribution of resources.

The exploitation of natural resources in the Niger Delta has had a significant impact on the below average man. The environmental damage caused by oil spills and pollution has led to the loss of farmland, fishing waters, and clean water, which has made it more difficult for people to make a living. Additionally, the oil industry has not provided enough jobs for people in the region, and many of the jobs that are available are low-paying and dangerous. More or less,the exploitation of natural resources has also contributed to controversies and conflicts between different ethnic groups, which has made it more difficult for people to live in peace and security.

Following history,the derivation process in Nigeria was first established in 1954, shortly after Nigeria gained independence from Britain. The derivation principle was enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution of 1960, which stipulated that the regions that produced natural resources should receive a greater share of the revenue generated from those resources. Over time, the derivation formula has been revised and updated severally most recently in 2018, when the Nigerian government increased the share of oil revenue that is allocated to oil-producing states from 13% to 21%. However, there is still significant debate and controversy over how the derivation formula is calculated and how the revenue is distributed, and many people argue that the current system is still not fair or equitable.

The reason why the people of the Niger Delta were not given fair treatment from the start are complex and multifaceted. One of the main factors was the legacy of colonialism in Nigeria, which created a system of economic and political domination that favored the interests of the colonial powers and their allies over those of the local population. This legacy of exploitation and marginalization was exacerbated by the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta in the 1950s, which led to a rapid influx of foreign investment and multinational corporations, and a corresponding increase in environmental degradation, social inequality, and political instability.

Additionally, the Nigerian government has historically been characterized by corruption, political repression, and a lack of accountability, which has made it difficult for the people of the Niger Delta to have their voices heard and their rights protected. Despite these challenges, however, there are many people and organizations that are working to promote justice and sustainable development in the Niger Delta, and there are shallow reasons to be hopeful that positive change is possible.

The issue of revenue allocation; which is the sharing of the country’s revenue among various tiers of the government from the federation account, is one of the factors that gives a heads up to the supposed unfair treatment meted out on the Niger delta. Among the problems facing Nigerian federalism,this is one of the most controversial and sensitive because it caused the Niger delta to become a volatile region sometime in the past……various formulas have been used and suggested for use but none have been arrived at, reason being that a formula may favour an area but will be unjust to others,and in that situation those who are not favoured will cry foul.

Manifesting from perspective and history….the derivation formula which was recommended by the chicks commission of 1954 was enacted at the time Nigeria’s major source of revenue was cocoa, so it was a very big advantage to the western Nigeria when Obafemi Awolowo was in power…it was used to the benefits of the Yorubas as they was education in free for them. Unfortunately It became a turning point when oil was discovered and emerged as the main source of revenue for the country,the table was turned;the derivation method was no longer used….apparently the cake bakers had to make do with the little morsel that was given them while the ones who didn’t even have a smell of the cake while it was in the oven wallowed in the luxury of the bigger percentage.

Instability and insecurity; two among the other factors in the Niger delta result from a lack of development, but also obstruct development progressing for example, competition for resource and political control particularly over the revenue and related benefits which can be derived from the oil and gas industry,contributes to conflict.

Marks are left on the raw ground of our environment, for years,oil leaked out of the pipelines into nearby swampland and rivers, contaminating the water people drink and wash with! This pollution is as a result of poor operational standards from oil and gas companies,poor regulation and enforcement by government,pipeline sabotage,and crude oil theft. We all already know that oil spills and gas flaring are major sources of environmental damage and habitat loss in the Niger delta which as well affects local populations dependent on agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods in the sense that marks like the erosion reduces the ability for people to recover from economic and environmental shocks such as flooding,pollution of air and water damages the health of those living nearby not to mention that children are twice as likely to die in their first month of life if their mother lived near an oil spill before conception, a very sad truth.

Although there are a few methods of remedy that could be tried but will such leaders adhere?. Bio stimulation was identified to have a high potential for cleaning polluted sediments in the Niger delta,while ex-situ trenching and treatment are recommended for contaminated soils,though all these suggestions have their limitations,it is rather a better off resolution to letting the damage destroy us.

The people in authority are thereby being appealed to, for they have the capacity to respond to environmental damage from oil spills by implementing pollution cleanup activities so all citizens can benefit from
environmental resources, particularly access to clean energy.

It has been established that 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange comes from the oil that is pumped from the Niger Delta why then is it that we have to take the people of Niger delta for granted for so long? The Nigerian govemment should and must embark on immediate massive public works for road construction,clean up and other infrastructure that can create jobs for all the citizens and restless youths of the Niger delta! For of what worth is that that we have the key to riches but we are compensated with peanuts? Why do we have to be the ones to suffer the aftermaths of pollution when the gold is being up right from our palour? None of this amounts to any sense, therefore we need new laws that have teeth. We should say to the oil companies, “ if you spill,you clean.” “If you fail to clean,you go to jail.”Justice should and must be served!

Ironically, it’s is a natural habit for the African man to be insatiable but then again, Caesar should be given what belongs to him so that ultimate peace can prevail.

Imalah Blessing Chioma is 100 level law student of Delta state university,Abraka, Oleh campus.

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