According to Patrick Naagbanton, Coordinator, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), ‘in some assemblies, the deltaic crisis, out of sentiment, is considered irrelevant for mere discussion’. He further posits that ‘some downplay on the enormity of the crises by corrupting efforts aimed at resolving it and rather use the conflict as a money-spinning venture’. He, however, observed that there are a few open-minded, detribalized nationalists who subscribe to the fact that the Niger Delta basin needs a special attention in terms of development, in addition to finding a lasting solution to the resource-driven conflict plaguing the region.
Observers have posited that beyond insincerity and neglect by previous governments to develop the Niger Delta is the collapse in strategic leadership at family, religious, traditional and political levels. Again, it is the failure to build peace at these levels, which gives impetus to absence of the needed ambience to curb militancy in the area. The situation in communities in the Niger Delta is that of total breakdown of traditional, cultural norms and values, abysmal lawlessness, in addition to the obvious degradation. The effects and outcome of the militancy in the area, however, are those of social disruption, investment and capital flight, poverty and under development. Also glaring is the failure of past governments at federal, state and local, to intervene in social and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region. Equally disturbing is the lack of integration in national consciousness with its concomitant impact in National Planning and Development.
A popular school of thought opines that militancy, youth restiveness and resource control agitations heighten in a circumstance of a weak, corrupt and irresponsible government controlling such enormous oil resources as in the case of the Niger Delta. It also holds that at the roots of the crisis in the belt is resource mismanagement, corruption and lack of transparency at the sub-national level. It describes a situation where a handful of perfidious cabals squander state resources with utter disdain and contempt for the people without providing any form of intervention on the environment or the people, let alone, commit themselves in the provision of basic amenities to the communities on whose soil oil and gas resources are exploited.
A review of pre-colonial Niger Delta indicates the same resource-propelled conflicts as being experienced today. It will be recalled that the Royal Charter, which was granted to the United African Company in 1886, and which empowered the company to govern the area in which, it hitherto had extensive trading interests, was the result of the efforts made by Sir Goldie, to create those conditions which would enable it to exploit the economic resources in the region to its best advantage. A military force approved by the British home government was established by the RNC to protect its interests through the force of arms, and the excesses of British merchants. That, in itself, engendered a major conflict between the people of Brass and the RNC. Subsequently, the frosty relation between the
British company and the local inhabitants deteriorated resulting to bloody arms conflict between the locals and the European business allies.
In all shades of opinion, strategic leadership is sacrosanct to issues of good governance and peace building for effective social and infrastructural development of any society including the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
It is vital to holistically review the leadership question in family, traditional, religious and political institutions in the area and recommend strategies that will promote sustainable peace building in the region for national development and integration.
Eyiboh is a member of the House of Representatives, representing Eket Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State.