BidVertiser

Saturday, 5 January 2013

CRUDE OIL: A BLESSING OR CURSE TO NIGER DELTANS?



Since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in 1958 in a village called Oloibiri in Bayelsa State and subsequently in other parts of Niger Delta, things have not been the same. In 1959, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) discovered crude oil in Ogoni Land, at a town called Bori. The company eventually built a flow station. Subsequently, other multinational oil companies such as: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total Finaelf, Nigeria Agip Oil etc, came on board.

Thus, many oil wells were sucked in various parts of Niger Delta. All these oil wells produced about 20 million barrels of crude oil daily. The estimated 20 million barrels of crude oil produced daily in the Niger Delta, when sold in the international markets, the revenue from the sale is more than enough to enable every Niger Deltan live comfortably. So, 95% of the revenue of this nation is derived from the Niger Delta region. But despite this huge sums of money coming to the country through the Niger Delta, the people of the region are living in abject poverty. They have no good things to show for the abundant money that come to the country through their lands.

Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria and Abuja the present capital of the country were all developed to the enviable state they are today, with the money derived from the sale of crude oil . All the Niger Delta people have are poverty, pollution, environmental degradation and unemployment etc.
All their farm lands have been taken over by multinational oil pipelines and wells. They have no more lands left for farming which was their second means of  livelihood after fishing. Their aquatic lives have all been destroyed due to regular oil spillages. Most people in the Niger Delta have contacted asthma and other related diseases due to air pollution from industrial discharge. Other illness such as tuberculosis, rashes, headache, poor eye sight are common features with the Niger Delta People .

During the first Republic, the resources of this country were shared between the Federal Government and the regions from where such resources were derived on 50% - 50% bases. Then the major sources of revenue were groundnuts and cocoa. At that time, the groundnuts and cocoa farmers sold their produce to their regional governments and the regional governments in turn exported the produce. Thus, the regional governments received 50% derivation from the sale of the cash crops. The cocoa farmers in the Western region were able to send their children to schools from the money made from the sale of their produce. This is why the Yorubas are the most educated people in Nigeria today. It may interest you to know that the groundnuts and cocoa farmers’ lands were not seized from them by the Federal Government because they were generating revenue for the government as it is in the Niger Delta today. Today, in the Niger Delta, once crude oil is discovered in a piece of land, the owner will be driven away from the land in the guise that all lands belong to the Federal Government . But during cocoa and groundnuts, all lands did not belong to the Federal Government, they belonged to the farmers that owned them. Is this not oppression?
Because of oil exploration  and exploitation a lot of people in the Niger Delta, have been rendered homeless because crude oil was discovered near their houses. There are instances in which a whole community was sacked because crude oil was discovered in almost every part of the community. Does it mean the Niger Delta people do not have the right to life because of the crude oil God blessed them with? Just as the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo said. “I was a Yoruba man before I became a Nigerian” The Niger Delta people were Niger Deltans before they became Nigerians. They became Nigerians by the “mistake of 1914”. It was Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Region that called the amalgamation of the southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 as the “mistake of 1914”. The amalgamation was a political fiat effected by Lord Lugard who was the Governor General for both protectorates at that time. 

As mentioned above, during the First Republic, the sharing formulae was 50%-50% between the Federal Government and the Regions from where the revenue was derived. But during the Nigerian civil war, the military government headed by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) abolished the 50% derivation formulae and put all resources under the control of the Federal Government in order to prosecute the war. The civil war had ended long ago, but it was not reversed to the old order. This practice continued until the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari who set up a committee headed by Aboyede to work out a new revenue sharing formulae. That committee recommended that the mineral producing areas should be entitled to one percent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account. This recommendation did not please the Niger Delta people. Even with that recommendation, the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari refused to pay the one  percent recommended by the committee.
However, the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd)  increased the derivation to three percent. He also established the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) to administer the funds. But OMPADEC could not meet the needs and aspirations of the people because it was starved of funds. The people of the Niger Delta became tired of the neglect and injustice visited on them. That was how the demand for resource control started.

Though, the demand for resource control started in the early sixties by late Isaac Adaka Boro, it became intensified during the regime of late General Sani abacha. Isaac Adaka Boro was killed because of resource control. The multinational oil Companies employed divide-and- rule among the Niger Delta people. This division brought internal rancour among the Ogonis. This rancour led to the killing of prominent Ogonis such as Mr. Albart T. Badey, chief Samuel W. Orage, his brother, Engineer T.B. Orage and chief E.N. Kobami. The list did not end there. The agitation for resource control caused the death of those four great Niger Deltans. After that murder, Late General Sani Abacha set up a Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal to try about 20 Ogonis suspected to have committed the murder. Out of  20 people tried, nine were hanged. Prominent among those hanged was the former leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro – Wiwa, a renowned environmental and minority rights activist, author and playwright.
Since 1999, the innocent blood of the Niger Delta People has watered the womb of the earth ceaselessly. In 2001, some youths in Odi community in Bayelsa State crashed with some police officers. During that crisis, many youths lost their lives, while about 12 Police Officers also died in the process. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo then ordered Soldiers to fish out the killers of the 12 Police officers. After the soldiers had completed their assignment, Odi laid desolate. Houses and cars were set ablaze. Human beings were not spared as about  3,000 people were dispatched to their early graves in that raid. All these killings took place during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

One would have thought that all that killings and wanton destructions of property would go with the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But it was not so, as President Umar Yar’Adua ordered another group of soldiers into Gbaramatu Community in Delta State. Why were they sent this time around? They were set to dislodge militants that were operating in the creeks. But how can militants that operate in creeks be found in the towns and villages? As this article is being written Gbaramatu community is completely destroyed beyond recognition. Many lives were wasted during that raid. Property worth unspecified sums of money were destroyed. The most painful of all the property destroyed was the magnificient palace of the Gbaramatu King, His Royal Majesty (HRM), Pere Bebemibo, Ogeh Gbaran III. That splendid palace was completely razed down recently.

But how long will the Niger Delta people be made to go through this kind of harrowing existence? Why should they live in poverty in the midst of plenty? Why should their lives and property be wasted because of the abundant natural resources the Almighty God blessed them with? Enough is enough for this oppression, the Niger Delta people deserve a better living conditions from the multinational oil companies and the Federal government.

1 comment:

  1. The Niger Delta people have been going hell since the discovery of crude oil in the area. Only God can deliver them from oil spills and pollution.

    ReplyDelete

Dear readers, please leave your comments. We appreciate them.