The large-scale and sustained crude oil and gas exploitation in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, and lack of adequate and effective environmental protection measures have undoubtedly affected the sub-region’s environmental quality hence the livelihood of millions of Nigerians out there who depend on subsistence fishing and farming, and who rightly lament the successive governments’ insensitivity towards their plight particularly over the past two decades. Now that the change-oriented Buhari administration is confronted with the renewed challenge of violent militancy in the sub-region, which a new militant group calling itself Niger-Delta Avengers is currently conducting, there is a general expectation that, unlike what obtained in the past; the federal government would be seriously committed to solving the crisis this time around. Because, among other things, the persistence of such attacks on oil and gas infrastructure especially with the current increasing tempo, scale and intensity will certainly undermine and indeed frustrate whatever economic reforms the federal government is pursuing.
After all, as a result of these so-called Niger-Delta Avengers’ attacks on oil installations and pipelines, and according to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the country’s crude oil output per day, which was approximately two million two hundred thousand barrels per day has dropped drastically to one million four hundred thousand barrels per day, representing a reduction of eight hundred thousand barrels per day. This, in essence, deprives Nigeria of the benefit of the recent rise in crude oil prices in international markets, which also put further pressure on the country’s already pressurized finances and struggling economy.
Obviously, under these circumstances, President Buhari’s dilemma can’t be overestimated, especially considering the fact that the increasingly impatient Nigerians have, rightly or otherwise, apparently grown too desperate to understand the actual magnitude of the challenges of operating under the sway of such frustrating circumstances, hence they hardly accept any excuse to justify President’s inability to live up to their maximum expectations, even though some of these expectations aren’t realistic, in the first place.
Besides, even though he has been performing impressively in terms of tackling the monumental corruption in government having, for example, managed to significantly blocked revenue leakages and considerably stopped massive and blatant plundering of public funds, which continue to reflect positively on the country’s earnings, yet he is helplessly constrained by the frustrating challenges that have persistently bedevilled his presidency, e.g. the drastic fall in crude oil prices in international markets, which has exposed the country’s profound economic vulnerability and indeed exposed the country to unprecedented economic hardship, and the current renewed organized militancy in the Niger-Delta that continues to sabotage the country’s crude oil output and indeed threatens to completely frustrate his administration.
By the way, the last-minute cancellation of his scheduled official trip yesterday where he was supposed to launch the implementation of the United Nations recommendations for environmental clean-up in Ogoniland and elsewhere affected by crude oil spillage in the sub-region was probably due to security related concerns, after all.
In any case, while the federal government tackles the militants in the Niger-Delta militarily, and continues to re-strategize in its commitment to address the legitimate grievances of Nigerians out there, the federal government shouldn’t limit itself to this conventional approach only.
The nature and the circumstances of the militancy in the area, as well as the dimension it has taken underscore the necessity of adopting appropriate security measures and non-security related initiatives to tackle it. This is because apparently some influential elites and other vested interests in the sub-region and their accomplices in different government institutions including security agencies have turned the plight of the affected people of the Niger-Delta into a tool for blackmailing the successive federal governments and the multi-national oil companies operating in the area, for their selfish individual and collective interests.
This is even though they fail to justify the economic advantage their individual states in the sub-region enjoy e.g. the already disproportionate oil revenue concession of the 13% share that each oil-producing state gets from the total proceeds of the amount of crude oil derived from its territory, and the other economic concessions, which have not translated into proportional socio-economic development in the sub-region.
There is urgent need to tackle this vicious situation in a much more effective way. The federal government, in this regard, should, adopt sophisticated intelligence-based strategies to identify and address the dynamics, individuals and the vested interests behind these subversive activities, because those who conduct the attacks in the creek aren’t actually its main beneficiaries, after all. In other words, for President Buhari to deliver in this regard, he needs to confront the deep-rooted and indeed cherished culture of impunity and other factors driving the persistence of the militancy in the sub-region. Though I am not so naïve to assume that this task is easily achievable, in view of the sheer influence of the individuals, groups and other vested interests involved in crude oil related criminal activities in the area, yet it must be done anyway, period.
Meanwhile, the federal government and indeed the state governments in the sub-region should adequately address the environmental issues and other economic related challenges that such vested interests capitalize upon to manipulate the circumstances. In the meantime also, the military should intensify its campaign against the militants and tackle them the same way they are currently tackling the Boko Haram terrorists in the north-east.