There is no gainsaying in the fact that Nigeria ’s oil rich Niger Delta region has been a thorn in the flesh of our national life. Made up of seven states of Rivers, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa, Edo and Akwa Ibom, the region has over a period of time provided the much needed revenue in foreign currency that has till date been a major factor in oiling the country’s foreign reserve.
In consideration of the strategic need to give the region the attention it deserves, Vice President Atiku Abubakar in his policy document tagged ‘from reform to prosperity’ as part of his presidential aspiration under the banner of the Action Congress, AC, issues of the Niger Delta region formed part of his national emergencies which he hopes to give prime attention as soon as he was sworn in as Nigeria’s President come May 29, 2007.
The state of the Niger Delta region had till today remained as a scar on the conscience of the Nigerian nation. Over the last 5o or so years oil has been exploited in commercial quantities and exported, resulting in significant revenues accruing to governments at all levels but with little commensurate development in the oil producing region to show for it.
The federal and state governments are squarely responsible for this sad situation of the region. The problems are overwhelming, while the state and local governments, leadership and industry operatives in the areas have proved incapable of providing workable solutions to the plight of the citizens and oil services operators.
Despite the enormous wealth created in the region, critical issues that continue to rear their ugly heads are mainly abject poverty, environmental degradation/despoliation, low level of economic activity, limited access to opportunities, feelings of inequitable and unjust treatment, clamour for retention of greater share of oil revenues, general insecurity and break down of law and order arising from the arrests of foreign oil workers and the increase of school drop outs.
The only presidential candidate who rolled out an elaborate plan to take out the region in particular and the country in general out of the doldrums is Action Congress Presidential candidate and also Vice President of Nigeria until May 29, 2007 courtesy of an Abuja appeal court judgment, Atiku Abubakar.
He has presented an all encompassing and all embracing package to give the Niger Deltans a sense of belonging to the country Nigeria and restore hope to the citizens and assure all oil and other workers safety of their lives, property and investments in the area.
According to the AC candidate, the issue of addressing the Niger Delta problems requires a collaborative under what he called 3G partnerships, ie federal, state and local governments. Under this plan, the governments will come together in order to ensure a region wide solution. The failure of past attempts was that emphasis was placed on cash transfers at the expense of developmental initiatives that have wide ranging impact on the lives of the people.
An ac government under the stewardship of Atiku as President come May 29, 2007 will treat the Niger Delta region as a National Emergency Project deserving a ‘marshal plan’ to be monitored and supervised at the highest level of government. Although the federal government will play an active role, the ultimate solutions will be community based with a multi-layered system from ward to local government to state to federal government to focus attention ensure development and improve the capacity to deliver services.
Under the Atiku recipe for a prosperous Niger Delta region, Atiku has planned to reduce the pervasive conflict to 50% by 2009 and by 80% by 2011. This, he hopes will accelerate the attraction of private sector investments and thus enhance job opportunities in the area.
Other targets of the Atiku master plan for peace and prosperity in the Niger Delta region include 80% reduction in violent intra and inter communal conflicts within 10 years, 70 % reduction in conflicts between communities and oil companies within ten years, reduce environmental degradation by 85% by 2015and promote oil companies’ commitment to social responsibilities by 50% in 2009, 70% by 2011 and 90%by 2015 among others.
The most fundamental question that is likely to be asked by the citizens in general and the Niger Deltans in particular is how does the AC candidate intend to achieve these mouth watering targets? Atiku’s recipe among others include promotion of peace building and reconciliation programne, creation of high level advocacy and awareness on rule of law and promotion of justice, resolution of revenue allocation impasse to accord higher value to derivation, demilitarization of the region, increasing employment/productivity of poor persons income, promotion of environmental sustainability, major environmental clean up and active private sector participation in enhancing youth empowerment programmes.
Most importantly, an Atiku administration will accord the promotion of civil law enforcement and policing a key priority attention towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis region and a sustainable Niger Delta policy that should situate human development and security as its core function.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Atiku policy on transforming the Niger Delta region as the most violent free, lucrative and peaceful place to live and do business is incontestable. No other candidate has offered a solution to the region than Atiku. The Niger Deltans must not allow this unique opportunity offered to them by Atiku to slip off their hands. They have a lot to gain from the package.
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