The Niger Delta region consists of the predominantly oil-producing states in Nigeria. In political discourse, the term Niger Delta is used interchangeably with the South-South geopolitical zone.
So much has been said over the years about Nigeria’s ‘federalism’, with wealth concentrated at the center and the Land Use Act of 1978 ensuring that oil minerals are the exclusive rights of the Federal Government.
Oil matters to the Nigerian economy. It has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy over the past 60 years, accounting for over 80% of our annual budget. As compensation for the environmental impact of crude exploration, the oil-producing states receive a 13% derivation fund from the federation account.
- In addition, the Nigerian state established the Niger Delta Development Commission, Presidential Amnesty Office and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to speed up economic development in the region.
How have these interventionist actions fared? Not very well. They have not yielded positive results in the oil-producing areas and this failure has contributed to the distrust between the people of the Niger Delta and the Federal Government.
But here is a thought worth examining: Should the federal government shoulder the lion share of blame for the under-development of the oil-producing states while governors and local political leaders in the region hide under the outrage of the people and expand the empire of their questionable wealth?
Niger Deltans have a right to clamor for a 50-100% derivative fund. However, even if this request is granted, the money will still go into the bottomless pockets of our governors and political leaders who never fail to enrich themselves at the detriment of the region.
- The NDDC is a cesspit of corruption. Within the last 3 years, the Director of the Presidential Amnesty Office has been changed twice over allegations of massive corruption.
Without minimizing the negative impact of Nigeria’s skewed federalism or absolving the federal government of any blame, it is time to question our leaders past and present of their role in the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta. This question must be asked by Niger Deltans themselves and nobody else without any form of bias or political agenda.
Why has Yenagoa been grossly underdeveloped within the last 20 years? Do we blame military rule, President Buhari, Hausa-Fulani conspiracy, or integrity challenged political leaders of the state? In terms of social infrastructure, economic development, SDG implementation, job creation, etc. the Niger Delta has grossly underperformed vis-à-vis its revenue stream.
Not like the Nigerian state is any better seeing that the South-South region is a microcosm of Nigeria, but as Niger Deltans, it is time to question our leaders and hold them to account. This is not a time to blindly support politicians based on clannish considerations. Incompetent leaders cut across ethnic divides, political parties, gender, and religious beliefs.
Has the economy of Niger Delta states fared better within the last 20 years? How has Kaduna been able to improve her IGR by over 300% and Bayelsa can’t do 20% within the same period? While it’s understandable to dislike the fact that people from outside our region are making similar demands of our leaders albeit hypocritically, we must nonetheless focus on solutions. In Bayelsa for instance, politicians are trying very hard in separating us into Non-Ijaw and Core Ijaw camps as long as it furthers their kleptomaniac agenda and ensures their stronghold on power. We must resist the urge to let them win.