The Niger Delta is the host of multinational oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria. It supplies about 90 per cent of the crude oil and gas resources of the country, which form the bulk of Nigeria’s mono-economy.
Since Shell struck oil in Oloibiri in 1956, the region has been riddled with caustic degradation, and the people are being confronted by catastrophes in spite of the region’s contributions to the economic viability of Nigeria as a nation.
And since the intensification of oil exploration and exploitation in the region, several oil-producing communities have been visited by grave consequences, including the lack of basic social amenities for human survival. Precisely, the oil-producing communities have only known poverty, misery and sorrow.
It is so pathetic that despite the natural disasters that plague the Niger Delta, there are also the ecological disasters resulting from the activities of the oil and gas companies, which include earth tremor via seismic activities, dredging and oil spillages emanating from equipment failure, maintenance errors, pipeline corrosion or engineering errors and gas flaring. As a result, we’ve had the pollution of farmlands, fishing streams and ponds. All these pose great health hazards to the people living in the oil-producing communities.
More than ever, the oil belt conjures a magnified picture of instability occasioned by poverty, stagnation, unemployment, criminal neglect and environmental degradation.
Therefore, it is imperative to gain this acquaintance that what is happening in the Niger Delta should be perceived as the accumulation of years of frustration. Let us accept the fact that gross negligence breeds frustration, and frustration breeds desperation. The incontrovertible fact is that both the Federal Government and the multinational oil companies were grossly negligent for too long about the welfare of the people and the communities of the oil-producing areas of the region.
Curbing youth restiveness, however, is an enormous task that must embrace all stakeholders in the region; without the oil companies meeting with their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and being responsive to to the plight of the people, instead of raising tension in the area and branding youths as been restive, the fundamentals of meeting the demand of curbing youth restiveness in the region will be difficult. The oil and gas companies should see the host companies as partners in progress, while their rights should not be infringed upon.
The Federal Government should tackle the problems of deprivation, neglect and poverty in the area with all seriousness in the quest to totally eradicate the perennial case of youth restiveness in the region.
The Federal Government, in its furtherance for peace seeking, should urgently re-examine its youth policy and positively implement it.
It should also effectively implement all environmental protection laws. In an utmost exhortation, the NNPC/EPNL (ELF Petroleum Nigeria Limited) Joint Ventures and other oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta region should bring the lessons of global best practices home by engaging in sustainable environmental practices in their operations and activities. By this, our environment would be made pollution-free.
The Federal Government must involve the people of the Niger Delta region in decision-making processes so as to avail them wide choices and opportunities of influencing the socio-economic and political agenda of the region. There should be adequate and functional training and orientation programmes for the youth.
Also, the Federal Government needs to exhibit the political will to implement policies and programmes that will address the problems of the Niger Delta.
In addition, there should be an upgrading and enhancement of the health facilities, education, housing and water supply infrastructure of the region, and also the provision of support infrastructure for water, rail and air transportation of people and goods across the region.
Also, the abrogation of all obnoxious laws and the practice of true federalism, resource control and self-determination should be underscored.
Then, for the youth, violence, acrimony and confrontation is not the way to solve problems of this magnitude. Youths should be all embracing and seek legal means in articulating their intentions. No doubt, if neglected for too long, one would want to exhibit some level of stubbornness, but be that as it may, we should try as much as possible to follow due process in the pursuit of our fundamental rights.