The National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Centre for Peace and Environmental justice, Comrade Sheriff Mulade says that although there is relative peace in most oil communities, the Niger Delta is still largely comatose, ravaged by environmental degradation, harassment by security operatives and lack of sustainableself-development.
Additionally, he believes that the military operations in the Niger Delta should wear a human face and not infringe on the rights of the people; that the $1 billion that the federal government intends to collect from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) should not be used to fight insurgency alone in the North, but should also be used to develop the Niger Delta and equip the police to provide security for all Nigerians, among other issues. OBI OTESIRI was at the press briefing and provides the excerpts:
How do you see the state of the Niger-Delta at the moment?
The Niger Delta is still in a comatose state, ravaged by environmental degradation, harassment by security operatives and staved from sustainably developing itself. However, there is relative peace in most host oil communities and that should be applauded and appreciated by the government and oil companies.
Would you attribute the gradual economic stability being experienced by the nation to PANDEF’s intervention?
PANDEF has done a lot and is doing a lot to maintain peace and growth in the economy of the Niger Delta and this translates to bigger economic development for Nigeria in general. PANDEF is committed to peace and sustainable development of the Niger Delta and Nigeria and, therefore, will continue to intervene positively.
Do you think Buhari is committed to Niger Delta development and peace?
The visit by the Vice-President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo some time ago, indicated a positive direction or, say to say,Buhari’s commitment to a peaceful Niger Delta including approval for take-offof academic activities at the Maritime University,Okerenkoko. However, more should be done and the security and military operations in the Niger Delta should wear a human face and not to infringe on the rights of the people
How do you rate the current NDDC board? Do you see them alleviating the plight of the people of the Niger-Delta?
I have not seen any significant achievement by this current Board as to rate them high. To rate them appropriately, a lot still needs to be done. I charge them to look at the development index and blueprint of the Niger Delta and go back to re-jig the system for meaningful development. They should concentrate on projects that have direct impact on the lives of the people and then the plight and sufferings of the people will be drastically reduced.
How do you the move by some persons in the Presidency to extend the tenure of Victor NdomaEgba-led board of the NDDC?
That is politics. What does the Law establishing the Board and Commission say and what has been the precedence? These can guide us to make informed opinions on this.
Can we really say that the Niger Delta is enjoying the dividends of democracy?
Dividends in terms of free expressions and grassroots politics–yes. A lot is yet to be done in terms of economic dividends. It is not yet uhuru for the Niger Delta
There has been clamour for restructuring of Nigeriaas a way out of the current political problems confronting the country. Do you concur?
We need economic and political restructuring in terms of carrying every group along. The unity of the country is non- negotiable.
Are you really convinced that Nigeria is making positive impacts under Buhari?
The fight against corruption is making positive impacts. Government and elected officials are now careful because they know that the people will hold them accountable.
How do you see the Federal Government’s plan to collect $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight Boko Haram insurgency?
The money should not be used to fight insurgency alone in the North; it should also be used to develop the Niger Delta and equip the police to provide security to all Nigerians and not to fight Boko Haram alone.
What is your take on resource control and devolution of power?
The Niger Delta has clamoured for resource control for years now. States should control their resources and pay an agreed sum to the central government. Equally, oil-producing communities should have a set percentage from proceeds from the resources in their communities, which they can use to develop based on their priorities and needs. Local government autonomy is imperative. When power is devolved to the grassroots, development is faster and more impactful.
One Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), what is your take on this issue?
My take is that the Bill should be passed in such a state that it will be a win-win for all stakeholders including oil host communities and in such manner that it promotes and upholds transparency.
In what way can we address Nigeria’s security challenges for sustainable peace and development?
A true democracy will guarantee freedom, liberty and equity as well as enhance security of lives and property. These will eventually promote the culture of peace and engender sustainable development. Patience and continuous dialogue, respect for individual rights and a cordial military (security)- civilian relationship with mutual respect invariably will ameliorate the security challenges and then, peace will reign.