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Niger Delta Peace Plan: Locals Run Out Of Patience With Nigerian Government | The Precision

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The
Nigerian government’s efforts to secure peace in the oil
heartlands of the Niger Delta are empty promises, community
leaders say, threatening a return to violence that would derail
any broader recovery in the crude-dependent economy.

With Africa’s biggest economy mired in recession,
delegations including Acting President Yemi Osinbajo have held
talks since February with community leaders in the restive
oil-producing states in Nigeria’s southeast.

Oil exports are now set to exceed 2 million barrels per day
(bpd) in August, the highest in 17 months, from as little as
just over 1 million bpd at certain points last year. That is due
to a steady decline in attacks on pipelines, providing a
much-needed injection of cash into Nigerian government coffers.

But ex-militants and local chieftains say that since those
“town hall” discussions, little has been done – the government
has not followed up on issues raised, is stalling on key demands
and has not even appointed a full-time negotiating team.

If the Niger Delta people continue to feel Abuja is ignoring
their needs, leaders say they will resort to the only tactic
that has ever yielded results: attacks on oil facilities.

“The people of the Niger Delta can hold this government or
any government to ransom because we are the people feeding the
nation,” said Godspower Gbenekama, a chief in the Kingdom of
Gbaramatu.

“This peace is a graveyard peace,” he said. “Nobody can
assure anybody that nothing will happen in the Delta.”

A spokesman for the acting president rejected suggestions
the government was not doing enough.

“The government has not reneged and will never renege on any
agreement,” he said, pointing to more spending on an amnesty
programme for ex-militants and progress on a clean-up project.

He added it was just a matter of time for other agreements
to come to fruition, such as the planned opening of a flagship
university in October and of small-scale refineries with
community ownership in the fourth quarter.

An inter-ministerial group met regularly with Mr Osinbajo to
discuss the Niger Delta and a “technical committee” liaised
between the government and affected communities, he also said.

Some locals, however, are in no mood to wait. In a sign of
their mounting frustration, groups such as the New Delta
Avengers and the Niger Delta Marine Force have formed in recent
months.

“Call for resuming attacks when the government is diligent
in actualising the terms of the agreements and requests made
will not help matters,” said the acting president’s spokesman.

“ALL ABOUT REVENUE”

That the Delta needs help is not in dispute.

Roads are pitted and scarred. Holes gape in the walls of
school buildings and playing fields are flooded. Ramshackle
stalls crowd the streets, standing in pools of muddy water and
blocking traffic.

Every ten metres are signs offering hope of a different
nature: Communion with God; Redemption Ministries; Hope Centre
Parish; Success Education Centre; High Flyers House of Bliss
Ministries.

But the communities of the Niger Delta also have more
earthly demands.

Some want environmental clean-ups from oil spills that have
devastated swathes of forest and waterways; others want roads
and better power supply; others jobs and the regional
university.

Many in the Delta are cynical about the government’s stated
desire to improve the region’s lot.

The peace talks are “lies and deceit,” said Annkio Briggs, a
leading activist in the southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt.

“This latest Osinbajo move … is all about revenue. How do
we get the Niger Delta calm enough that we can continue to
derive revenue to sustain our budgets?”

Others are also bitter that the government only appears to
respond to violent action, while peaceful activism and protests
have historically achieved little.

The government “is treading on a path that is disastrous…
setting a precedent that they will only negotiate with the Delta
when they start blowing stuff up,” said Richard Akinaka, who
represented the youth in Rivers state for a meeting with
Osinbajo.

He dismissed the meeting with one word – “bogus”.

The communities have also asked for ownership of oil blocks,
and for all states in Nigeria to become fiscally independent – a
move that would see oil revenues pooled in the southeast.

The problems of the Delta may not be easily solved: enmity
runs deep between locals and the federal government, violence is
often the answer and some of the demands may not be as
attainable as community leaders hope.

“We don’t have a very big agenda,” said Gbenekama, the
Gbaramatu kingdom chief. “The general agenda of the Niger Delta
people is the political and fiscal restructuring of this
nation.”

 Reuters

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