“NigerDelta: Beyond Resource Control – Burdens and Realities of Transformation”:Being text of A lecture delivered by His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel EwetaUduaghan at Business Hallmark public policy forum, at Events Centre, Asaba onthe 24th August 2012
I read theorganisers’ intention in selecting this topic as an expression of their concernover what becomes of the Niger Delta beyond resource control. In other words,how can the Niger Delta region march on with or without controlling their famedoil and gas resources?
If I were tointerpret this further, I might assert, can the Niger Delta region succeedwithout controlling their resources? The poser can be expanded. Can Nigeriasucceed without controlling Niger Delta resources? I shall provide myperspectives in the course of this presentation.
Resource controlbecame a political term from the efforts of Niger Delta peoples to get a fairershare of their God-given resources and more say in their own affairs inrelation to the rest of Nigeria. Resource control in that sense therefore, hasbecome a rallying cry for the long-suffering peoples of the Niger Delta regionand understandably subject to various interpretations depending on theindividual’s stand in the country’s often fractious socio-political andeconomic debates.
If the demand forresource control has remained trenchant, it is simply because our peoples havefor long lived with the stark evidence of a mindless exploitation of the oilresources in their land. They have lived with the despoliation and degradationof their environments without concomitant benefits to them as a people and totheir communities where these resources are.
As it eventuallyhappened, the wheel turned and they found their voices and are demanding forjustice and for their rights, much to the shock of those who want theexploitation to continue unchallenged. Surprisingly, some have made anenterprise of justifying the suffering in the Niger Delta, in a provocativemanner that tends to take the peaceful nature of our peoples for granted.Thankfully, our people have ignored them as we continue the search for justicein the matter.
Dr JD Ikechukwucaptured the devastation of the region succinctly in his article on the NigerDelta crises in Peace Studies andConflict Resolution in Nigeria, when he noted that,
“The oil which has brought so much wealth tothe multinational oil companies and the Nigerian State has at the same timebrought to the people of the Niger Delta untold poverty, disease, persistentpollution, ecological and environmental degradation.”
Sad, as thispicture may look, the Nigerian economy has largely depended (85 per cent) onearnings from crude oil sales. On the strength of this single point, it is easyto see the fundamental importance of the Niger Delta region to the Nigerianeconomy and its oil to global energy resource. Sadly, that importance does notreflect on the treatment the region gets from the federation.
As a rankingexporter of crude oil, Nigeria’s supplies from the Niger Delta region play acrucial role in maintaining global supply stability. On the other hand, findingthe delicate balance in the well-being of the Niger Delta region, the demandsof the Nigerian economy, and the global community’s energy needs, is at theheart of the complexities associated with issues emanating from and concerningthe region.
In a sense, I seemto have answered my second poser, which was, if Nigeria could survive withoutcontrolling resources of the Niger Delta region. Current reality dictates otherwise, from astandpoint of national economic survival, the stability of Nigeria as well asits ability to exercise influence as a sovereign state in the internationalpolitical system.
If Nigeria derivesall these benefits from the resources taken from the Niger Delta region, themoot question is, what would happen tothe peoples of the Niger Delta, when oil and gas resources finish, as they mustone day. This, to me, is the more compelling question, which we must urgentlyaddress.
Having this in mindtherefore, what should a transformation agenda for the Niger Delta look liketoday? There are two cardinal points, I envisage in this. One, get the most youcan from oil now as you transform to a post-oil era; because, like it, or not,that era must come. Two, develop other sources of revenue and diversify youreconomy to optimise available options or create them. To do the latter, youmust revive agriculture and invest in agro-allied industries, enhance ruralindustrialisation, revive and deepen manufacturing, clean up the environment,develop human capital and upgrade infrastructure.
Ladies andgentlemen, for the first leg of the struggle I would say since the return todemocratic governance in 1999, these points were not lost on the politicalleadership of the zone. Let me in this regard salute the pioneering works ofour past governors, especially my predecessor, Chief James Ibori and the formergovernor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, who especially championed thecause of achieving a better and more equitable allocation of resources to theNiger Delta region. That era gave resource control life. The battle, as mostwill recall, was not easy, as they were often deliberately misunderstood andtheir leadership questioned. Thanks in large measure to them, the argument fora fairer allocation of federal oil revenue to the Niger Delta region though notwon, has become a progressive issue on the national agenda.
We cannot forgetalso the great efforts of Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River infocusing his State as a tourism destination of choice. It was no surprise then,that when the State lost 76 oil wells in a Supreme Court judgement, GovernorLiyel Imoke reminded his people that there was life without oil. He stressed themore important contributions of human resources and tourism to the growth anddevelopment of the State. He was not talking out of emotion. A foundation forthis has been laid, and he is building on it.
There is indeed,life after oil, and the current leadership of Niger Delta region is immenselyaware of this fact. On our part, my administration since inception in May 2007has made it a covenant with the people to look beyond oil. We have set for ourselves, a three-pointagenda of peace and security, human capital development and infrastructuraldevelopment. In my article of October 2007, titled, “Delta Without Oil – TheChanging Global Economy”, I pondered the question of Delta survivingwithout oil. While acknowledging thedifficulty, I submitted that,
“This administration from the beginning hasthought in that direction. We do not work for the money that comes from oil. Itis easy money; it has changed our orientation about hard work. Our young peopleare growing up in expectation of an easy life from oil.”
I am happy toreport that five years on, we have succeeded to some extent, in changing ourpeople’s fixation on oil money. Our first strategy was to return peace to ourState, especially as the turmoil was related to contentions over easy money fromoil. Without peace and security very little else can take place. Given the longyears of military rule and the upsurge in militancy in the entire Niger Deltaregion, no thanks to the divide-and- rule strategy which was often employed tokeep our peoples apart, restoring peace and security to our State was not theeasiest assignment to undertake. Our strategy of persistently engaging thedifferent peoples and interests in our State has ensured peace for evendevelopment.
Commenting on thisage-long security challenge, Democracy in Nigeria: Continuing Dialogue(s) for Nation-building, noted on the NigerDelta in Chapter 11,
“We may characterise the history of thedemocratic struggles of the people of the Niger Delta as consisting of two maindirections: resistance to European pacification, domination by ethnicmajorities, and most recently, military authoritarianism. At the heart of thisresistance lie the control of resources and livelihoods. Initially, it was therich trade in commodities on the Oil Rivers; now it is the control of the richpetroleum resources of the Niger Delta.”
Obviously, thesecurity challenge is enormous and complex, but with security and peace top onour agenda and the huge resources we have deployed to their attainment, a lot hasbeen achieved in maintaining the peace which we now enjoy.
We have alsoinvested heavily in human capital and infrastructural development of theState. As I have often done, I am goingto reiterate some of the highpoints of our programmes which are geared towardsbuilding our vision of Delta beyond oil.
Delta State with aland area of 18,050 square kilometres, substantial portions of which areriverine, marshy and underdeveloped is challenging, but not impossible todevelop. What it demands is enormous investment in money, energy and time. Weare compelled to develop remote areas as many of our people have opted to liveon their ancestral lands—which in many cases are locations of oil facilities,flow stations and pipelines. We believe they should get the best from theproceeds of the resources taken from their land. That, to me, is the fair andjust thing to do.
I also sense thatmany people outside these areas have no understanding of life in the creeks.They are not concerned that our people living in those parts should be treatedas equal and are entitled to enjoy life as others. As an administration, we do not share suchcynical attitude which, I might add, is a major source of anger and frustrationfor our people in the oil producing areas and other parts of rural Delta.
Our administrationis sincere and determined to change the landscape of the riverine and oilproducing areas. It is therefore the singular reason we are perhaps the onlyState that is heavily funding its agency for that purpose. The Delta State OilMineral Development Commission, DESOPADEC, has since its creation beenreceiving 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation to support stategovernment’s own programmes in developing the oil producing and impacted areasof the State.
The funding ofDESOPADEC is huge and accounts for the decline of funds at the state level, butwe are not deterred. We believe that from whom much is taken, much should alsobe given. If Nigeria were to embrace similar principle, the peoples of NigerDelta would feel justice done to them with respect to their contribution to thewealth and growth of the country. This is especially important as the terrainthey live in is an extremely difficult one to develop.
In many areas weare developing, we have had to build schools, hospitals, access roads, bridges,electricity and clean water from zero. We have had to contend with oil pollution and its environmentaldegradation, which has left many of our peoples without sustainable means oflivelihood.
For ouradministration, it will be unconscionable to overlook this state of affairs.Our intervention is to rescue our people who are facing destitution, povertyand squalor. It is unacceptable not to speak out on their behalf. We have to betheir voice, otherwise they are voiceless. The whole struggle of resourcecontrol is about our people, such that when oil finishes or loses its globalrelevance, we would carry on with life with minimal disruption to our revenuesources.
Overall, we havenot been deterred in our pursuit of developmental programmes – challenging asit is. The vision to build a Deltabeyond oil, is a daunting one, but clearly conceived in anticipation of the daywe will not depend on it entirely or the day oil will be one of the many otherrevenue streams of the State, not its only main revenue stream. All over theworld, feverish effort is being made to end oil’s dominance of the energybasket. We will be foolish not to prepare for the end of the oil era.
To prepare us forthat day, this administration has been implementing systematic plans to protectthe State from the shock by building infrastructure that will supportdiversification of the economy. Our infrastructure is both human and physical;we are in a hurry even though our vision spans a 50-year period. We believethat the thinking, planning, and implementation have to begin today.
Our plan is simple- do that which we can with an abiding concern for the future. We leave whenour time is up. When we hand over, it will be a State, which others can buildon because we have laid a solid foundation for its future, something that issometimes difficult for our critics to understand. In that regard, ourobjective was never to finish all the projects we began, though we aredetermined to ensure most are completed or at irreversible stages ofdevelopment.
I am satisfied thatthe State is moving in the right decision. If this process continues, I foreseea future in which the State will earn value from all the investments we aremaking. The journey we have embarkedupon is a difficult one, but as I said in a recent presentation,
“I am rather pleased we had the confidenceand willpower to even begin it at all. Future generations will, I am sure, lookto this moment and salute our courage.”
In building a Deltathat will prosper beyond oil, we reckoned it was important we had the followingcritical infrastructures – Oghareki power plant, Asaba International Airport,upgrade Osubi Airport to international standards, industrial clusters, (KokoIndustrial Park, Warri Industrial and Business Park, and Asaba ICT Park). Wethought we should harness our people’s entrepreneurial skills through our MicroCredit Scheme and nurture SMEs.
Our success withMicro Credit Scheme is spectacular. We have won three consecutive CBN awardsand we have about 100,000 beneficiaries of the scheme whose stories are asenthralling as they are varied. Other States are understudying the Delta Statemodel because of its acknowledged successes.
We have as much aspossible partnered with big private investors in co-funding projects such asthe multi-billion Naira OFN/Delta Farms, the N40 billion Delta Leisure Park,which on completion will make the Delta the tourist destination of choice. Someof these projects are the foundations of our hope of a better future in whichother opportunities can become relevant in stimulating the prosperity of ourState.
From what we havebeen doing, the picture of Delta State that is emerging is one that should giveus great optimism and belief in the State and ourselves. For that reason, Ifeel as I said the other day that we should take pride in our infrastructureprogramme that has seen us construct 252 inter/intra city roads. I am confidentthat with the dualisation of major roads that include 148 kmAsaba-Ughelli, 33 km Ugbenu-Koko,Effurun-Osubi-Eku, 7.2 km Ughelli Artery, PTI/Jakpa, Old Lagos/Asaba amongothers, we are gradually eliminating bottleneck in movement of goods andcreating major network grids to link all the corners of the State.
The results of ourhuman capital programme have been remarkable. We are making progress inaddressing maternal and child mortality rate in the State. Our performance iscommendable. There is a steep drop in maternal and child mortality rate in ourhospitals. New health care facilities are being constructed or upgraded, but ofnote for me is the progress of Oghara Teaching Hospital as a centre ofexcellence. With current efforts, soon, Oghara Teaching Hospital would become acentre of note in Africa. I am sure with Oghara Teaching Hospital we willcontribute to reversing the search for healthcare treatment outsideNigeria.
We are investingheavily in infrastructure upgrade and modernisation of our public schools forour children, teaching and non-teaching staff facilities. So far about eighteen thousand classroomshave been built, renovated or upgraded. We will still do more. Withcollaborative efforts and keeping to standards, the physical condition of ourschools can compare with any in the world, in a few years.
Through our liberalprogramme in education, we are giving our brightest youth with first classdegrees, a head start in life. Our offer of scholarships, up to PhD level,tenable in any university of their choice, is a deliberate investment in thefuture.
These youths areprized assets who will look back with pride the support they received fromtheir government. In a knowledge driven world, we are positioning our best andbrightest not to be left behind. We are also sending a message to our otheryouth to step up and enjoy similar opportunities. We have also been consistentin payment of our bursary to augment financial investment made by parents inthe training of their wards.
Ultimately, ourinvestment in human capacity in particular in our youths will stand out asperhaps the wisest investment we have made as an administration. I hope futureadministrations will sustain this programme of creating generations ofknowledgeable youths, committed to the future of Delta.
Making our youthsknowledgeable and competitive is certainly another step in widening the optionsavailable to Delta State, when oil becomes irrelevant.
Since this lectureis about the Niger Delta region and what its current crop of leaders envisionsfor the zone, I want to repeat the point I made last April at the 2ndSouth-South Economic Summit, which I hosted here in Asaba. I said then,
“I amproud of what we are doing in Delta State as well as in my sister Niger DeltaStates. When we as governors of the South-South States came together threeyears ago to create the South-South Economic Summit with the BRACED Commissionas its driving force, we were deliberately taking steps to leverage on areas ofour core competences and to optimisesame for the benefit of all, knowing fully that we are not all equally endowed.I am confident therefore in the future of the Niger Delta and the South-Southregion as we seek new ways of collaboration with our sister States and acrossthe regions both within and outside the country.”
In several ways, wehave shown aggressive commitment towards economic integration and partnershipin the zone. The BRACED Commission isenvisioned as a strategic vehicle through which we can deliver on our expectations.It is our hope that in due course we can become the country’s new economicpowerhouse.
Furthermore, I amconfident about this because at individual level, the various States are makingsignificant progress. Rivers State is taking giant strides in its renewalefforts with great things to show in its update of the public school system,health care and general infrastructure revamp. I can say the same for AkwaIbom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Edo, notwithstanding the latter being a non-PDPState.
For us as governorsin the Niger Delta region there is a near unanimity of opinions on what ourpriorities should be, no matter the differences in resources available to theStates. Our human capital development rests on the simultaneous pursuit ofeducation, provision of healthcare, especially primary healthcare to the young,vulnerable and the aged, the upgrade of existing infrastructure and provisionof new ones; reviving agriculture and expanding the economic base as well asprovision of sports and recreational facilities. These are some of thepriorities of our administrations.
A major concern forus also and why we must look beyond resource control and indeed oil, is thedevastation of the environment. As I have noted earlier, there are globalconcerns about the future relevance of oil and the need for cleaner sources ofenergy. We in the Niger Delta region and Nigeria, as a whole, must share inthese concerns. We are aware of the effect of the exploration activities of theoil companies in the Niger Delta region over the years and how that hasaffected our lives forever. The fact that worldwide huge investments are beingpoured into developing and commercialising low carbon energy options forcleaner energy only tells us that the days of resource control as it relates tofossil oil are numbered.
Even as we livewith the damage already done to our environment, eco-system, economy and totalwell-being, I have been very concerned about these issues because I also knowthese damages can be reversed. Our environment can be restored. We can mitigatepollution; the oil industry operators can apply best practices in technology asthey do abroad. I have in this respect sought collaboration and partnershipboth at home and abroad on how to achieve a better treatment of theenvironment; I am keen that our peoples can have access to cleaner andsustainable energy.
It is a matter ofurgency, something in the realm of an emergency. I have often wondered if theNiger Delta environment cannot be reconstructed now, with its vastcontributions to the economy what will happen when oil ceases to flow. Wherewould Nigeria find the resources and political will to clean up theenvironment? This is probably a more important, though more ignored aspect ofresource control.
Despoliation of theenvironment of the Niger Delta has far-reaching global consequences than theimmediate suffering of its peoples. Gas flaring and the wasting of the NigerDelta’s rain forests are contributing to global warming, destruction of aquaticlives and their replacement with a wasteland that would displace millions ofpeople.
That is why asGovernor, I have linked up with Governors and regional leaders across the worldto float R20, an international non-governmental organisation committed toglobal promotion of green economy and environmentally sustainable economicdevelopments.
High constructioncosts in the region – a result of its marshy soil, its disparate islands, andcreeks – means that the region cannot be developed within the funds currentlyallocated to it. There is still need for more intervention, specifically onprojects likes the East West Road that would open the Niger Delta to moreeconomic and social activities than oil and gas exploration. These matters rankhigh in our concerns about the region but they are too often lost to the loudervoices in the contests for shares of national revenue.
Study after studyhas shown the imperative of the East West Road, and the economic potentialsthat it bears, not only for the Niger Delta region, but also for other parts ofthe country that can be connected at various spurs in the road’s designs byfurther developments like railways. Major projects like the coastal road wouldopen up numerous inaccessible parts of the Niger Delta regions and connect themto the numerous opportunities Nigeria has to develop for her people.
Yet I want tocaution that no one should be deceived, the neglect of the Niger Delta regionover the years is serious even if the peoples bear the brunt with a waningequanimity. The level of degradation with all the attendant consequences on ourenvironment resulting from oil and gas exploration and production activities iseven more serious. The resources required for a total revamp of the Niger Deltaregion are enormous, far more than the present 13 per cent derivation can everaddress.
That is whyresource control, though we are looking beyond it, will not die. Ikechukwu in the same article citied earlierreferred to the Niger Delta region as “a prime example of deprivation directlytraceable to the absence of true federalism.” The rest of the federation must do what is right to the Niger Deltaregion. We must go back to what served us well at the very beginning of thisnation. There must be fiscal federalism. People must benefit from what theyproduce. No one is by this saying that the peoples of this federation do nothave a responsibility to one another. We must remain our brothers’keepers.
I accept that someof these matters are constitutional, but I also believe that they are issues ofequity and fairness. Since we are in the process of amending the Constitution,it is time our legislators looked at justice, equity and fairness in addressingthese issues. We cannot continue supporting the destruction of the Niger Deltaregion – which is what our silences and inactions represent – while the peoplesare dying and the future of their forebears compromised.
My position is thatone way we can be assisted to address the myriads of challenges that we faceand to compensate for the violence and despoliation visited on our environment,is a modest increase to 50 per cent derivation. It is entirely in order. My appeal is that as leaders andrepresentatives of our peoples we should not stop engaging others and reaching outat our different fora to press our case. One such forum which has served us very well is the Governors’ Forum. Wewill continue to seek all avenues for a better understanding and fairerrepresentation of the issues affecting the peoples of the Niger Delta region.As we have seen from the recent intense militancy, which enveloped the entireNiger Delta region and made security of lives and oil production difficult, awound to one is a wound to all. To putit mildly, it was a double jeopardy, the worst of which we must put behind usforever.
I want to add thatit is not all a gloomy picture in the Niger Delta region. We must put on recordsome gains that have accrued to the Niger Delta region. The Amnesty Programmestarted by the administration of late President Yar’Adua and sustained by the present GoodluckJonathan administration has helped secure more peace in the region and freedmore resources for development. As at the last count, over 5,200 ex-militantshave undergone or are undergoing training in various institutions at home andabroad. The salutary effect on the Niger Delta region and the entire nation isthere for all to see.
The creation of aseparate Ministry of Niger Delta at the centre can only mean a willingness toshow more understanding of the peculiar problems of the region. It must notstop there however. The Ministry must be properly funded and repositioned tocarry out its mandate as there is presently cause to worry about its relevanceand direction. There is also the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,which continues to impact the various communities of the Niger Delta. Our hopeis that it will continue to re-invent itself to meet its set mandate better.
What the peoples ofthe Niger Delta region would want to see are more profound programmes thatwould save their environment and open up their areas for economic activities,especially away from oil and gas. The opportunities abound and are waiting tobe explored. Agriculture is one such area and the favourable climate of theregion creates room for commercial practices from palm oil, cassava, yam,maize, and poultry to the more traditional fishing. More elevated linkages likepreservation and packaging of these products for export, industrial and homeconsumption, will create more sustainable and environmentally friendly economicactivities than oil and gas production.
In closing, Icannot be more optimistic. Democracy holds a lot of promise for the Niger Deltaregion and indeed, Nigeria. Not too long ago, it was almost inconceivable thatour country can elect a president without him being from particularextractions. Now we have a president from a minority section of the country. Itis one of the beauties of democracy that we can pass that bridge.
We did not onlyelect a minority, but one from the Niger Delta region! The message is not loston our peoples. What this means is that we only have to be patient with ourprocesses. The parties are evolving through internal democratic mechanisms. Theelectoral process, given time, is bound to be more accountable as the votescount more. The laws and institutions of the country will evolve and bestrengthened through reforms and amendments. They will hopefully take us, atthe end of the day, to a Niger Delta region and country of our dreams.
As I have pointedout throughout the course of this presentation, the road is paved with thorns,sweat and blood, but the end will justify the challenging means.
Once again I thankyou all for your attention.
God bless you usall.
Office of theGovernor
Asaba, Delta state
MariamIkejiani-Clark, ed. (2009): Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution in Nigeria,Safari Books (Export) Limited, Channel Islands, United Kingdom, P 548
InternationalInstitute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (2000): Democracy in Nigeria:Continuing Dialogue(s) for Nation-building, Bulls Tryckeri, Halmstad, Sweden, P241