The security and stability in the Niger Delta region is still being maintained with the same patronage and transactional means adopted by previous administrations, a new report says.
The report – Niger Delta Dilemmas: Buhari and Nigeria’s South-South Zone, was released on Thursday by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
It urged the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to pay attention to the corrupt practices that had entangled the Niger Delta environmental cleanup and revamp plans.
It said, “Contrary to the anti-corruption focus of the administration, Niger Delta issues have been managed through processes that are entangled in corrupt practices. Governance in the Niger Delta has not seen any significant shift since Buhari’s emergence as President of Nigeria in 2015.
“Security and stability in the Niger Delta are still maintained using the same patronage and transactional means adopted by previous administrations.
“There is an urgent need for President Buhari’s administration to make concerted efforts to address the challenges of peace, security and development in the Niger Delta.”
According to CDD, positive strides can be achieved if the government executes the strategic implementation work plan, reforms security and finalises the forensic audit and completes the projects initiated by Niger Delta Development Commission (ND
It explained that environmental pollution still persisted in the region alongside selective anti-corruption campaigns, unending presidential amnesty and lack of coherent policy process for the region.
The oil-rich Niger Delta region has been a policy and political challenge to successive administrations in Nigeria since the 1960s. Between 1999 and 2015 it featured prominently in the policy priorities of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which controlled the Federal Government at the time.
This has not been the case with Buhari, whose election in to office in 2015 was based on an overarching promise of ‘change’, with a specific focus on tackling insecurity, corruption and youth employment.
There was no clear-cut policy agenda for Nigeria’s Niger Delta region at the beginning of Buhari’s administration in 2015. But the challenges that made the Niger Delta a policy priority to previous governments remained much the same as they always had.
The oil industry continued to be the primary source of public revenue for the Nigerian government.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua initiated the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) to facilitate the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of armed militants in the Niger Delta region.
This was ongoing along with the infrastructure and human capacity development needs that NDDC had identified but failed to tackle. As a result, Buhari inherited a development and security conundrum in the Niger Delta, the report noted.
The presentation of the 16-point agenda led to the creation of two main policy frameworks. The Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) for Development in the Niger Delta (2017 – 2019) and the seven Big Wins of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum.
While SIWP was focused mainly on the Niger Delta, the Seven Big Wins, initiated by the Petroleum Ministry, had only one “big win” dedicated to the Niger Delta. And this focused on environment and security, infrastructure interconnection, capacity building and economic empowerment.
In the absence of any clear election manifesto commitments, the outcomes of the SIWP and elements of the seven Big Wins, both policy initiatives of the government, provide a useful framework to assess Buhari’s performance in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region since 2015, CDD added.
Achievements in the Niger Delta
The CDD report also highlighted some achievements in the region over the years. The first, it emphasised, was the cessation of militant hostilities.
In August, 2016, negotiations between the Buhari administration and stakeholders in the Niger Delta led to the cessation of militant activities by Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
It also supported Nigerian Content Development Board (NCDMB), improved the administration of the NDDC and executed some environmental remediation, the report stated.
The Buhari administration, through NCDMB, has contributed to the development of the local oil industry in the Niger Delta. The agency has invested in the development of a small scale (modular) refinery in Bayelsa State, the report stated.
Early in his administration, Buhari gave priority to improving the administration of NDDC by taking steps to address the endemic corruption that has plagued the institution since its inauguration in 2001.
The administration has also committed itself to sustain the Ogoni environmental clean-up initiated by the previous administration, CDD added.