24 September 2016, Lagos — As the federal government mulls its new war strategy code- named ‘Crocodile Smile’, it has been reminded that the use of force rather than dialogue would be counterproductive on the long run. The advice was given by Engr Misbau Opeyemi Aminu, a member of Coren, Council member of Nigerians British Chamber of Commerce.
The Esan ethnic nationality in the Edo Central Senatorial.
The nation’s economy is suffering because of several challenges; from the low sale of crude to sabotage of oil installations in the Niger Delta and outright war in the North-east.
Engr Misbau Opeyemi Aminu, an MBA graduate from Lagos Business School, with vast experience in community engagement, believes there is a way out, particularly in the Niger Delta.
According to Aminu, who addressed a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, “War will do no good in the Niger Delta. Resources for war may be adequate to provide a holistic solution. Planning for the proposed solution can be done within six months while genuine implementation may span 10 years.”
The Engineer, who said he has successfully managed some very volatile situations through citizen engagement, recommended that the federal government can resolve Niger Delta crises by employing dialogue; special education programme; compensation; infrastructure development; and militarisation of the region.
He explained that the Niger Delta needs genuine dialogue that would involve tender of apology to the disadvantaged people, analyse past grouses, address immediate concern and promise a rewarding future for the alleviation of their pains.
According to Aminu, a member of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Niger Delta people have undergone; denial of livelihood; oppression and persecution.
He said, “These base inhuman conditions have changed everything about the Niger Delta; have remoulded average minds and brains in Niger Delta to lose trust in the leadership, lose trust in the nation, become suspicious of every move, defensive in nature and rebellious as a group etc.”
Aminu said genuine complaints were raised on oil spills by environment movements like MOSSOP, Human rights group, late Gani Fawehinmi, among others. “What did Nigerians, through our then leaders like IBB, Abacha, Abdulsalami did ? We persecuted Kenule Saro-Wiwa and others agitators in the name of criminals; what follow is better experience today. The country is almost shut-down, with GDP declining to almost half the value, one and half years ago.”
He stated that, over time, the people of the Niger Delta “tasted the Black Gold, and found it was sweeter than fishing and farming. What cannot be gotten legitimately has been accessed illegitimately? Pipelines have been tapped for illegal refineries or transported in small barges into awaiting heavy ships on the high sea. Huge money is being realised, Mansions are being built, parties are being held, and lives have become ostentatious. It is now difficult to spit out the honey for bitter kola (farming and fishing).”
Niger Delta brothers, he said have realised the relevance of oil and gas to the nations revenue (85%); relevance of Niger Delta region to electric power generation. “Our primary source of energy for electricity – gas account for almost 75% of the total source and it has become a weapon of negotiations.
“Lastly, the truth may be bitter, don’t blame Niger Deltans but look back into the struggle against environmental degradation and neglect – livelihood denial, oppression and persecution.
“Their mentality, social behaviour and social structures have to be destroyed over a long time. Restoring their trust, mind and brains to the Nigerian project will take a while. The lifestyle destroyed over the years cannot be corrected through the barrel of the gun.”
Aminu listed what he called their pain points as; destroyed farmland, destroyed aquatic life, polluted environment, inadequate or selective compensation, systemic inequality that’s favour non-oil producers to have more and juicy oil wells, while the bearer of wells lingers in poverty, lingering joblessness among the youth, and lack of meaningful development/dearth of infrastructure, among others.
According to him, a lot of contracts were awarded to different contractors, such as; roads, hospitals, schools etc by the Federal Government, NDDC, IOC, Banks, Corporate organisations,, etc either as developmental programme or as Corporate Social Responsibility projects that were financially mobilised but unexecuted due to the attitude and frustration from the people.
He said, “Many contractors have vowed not to attempt projects in the Niger Delta area. Years ago Julius Berger was chased out of the terrain in spite of their clout and connection with Governments and Security forces.
“Contracts are executed at double the actual amount under spurious conditions and time liability. Many businesses that would have brought immense economic opportunities have moved out of Niger Delta due to the confusing demands, general attitude or hostile nature of the people.”
He said projects are usually executed in other parts of the country because the people are more accommodating. “For instance, Federal Government Girls College was being built in my community called Ajura, Obafemi Owode Local Government of Ogun State, and as a community leader, I approached the contractor for job opportunities for our youth.
“Our youth were said to be lazy and expensive, hence the contractor decided to ‘import’ artisans from the northern part of Nigeria and neighbouring town. Today the school is completed awaiting usage.”
Aminu said in Niger Delta, such a contractor would have been harassed and thrown out of the community and that he would be lucky to demobilise with his tools. “That would have been the end of the project and financial mobilisation.”
On special education system
Stating “We need to design a special education system that offers basic education and addresses the mind and soul of the Niger Delta people.
“The education programme can be segmented into three: Education system for the pupils in; Nursery, Primary and Secondary School. While giving basic education, a lot of emphasis will be placed on re-orientating minds for constructive future.”
He also recommended a modified amnesty programmes for the youth between ages 18 and 55 that would encourage special education (basic and mind education), skill acquisition, entrepreneurship, welfare packages and rewarding stake within the industry.
He said the majority of the elders of 55 years and above suffer the consequences of environmental degradation and as such deserved “huge compensation, psychological appeasement or using opinion moulders to address their mind-set. It is obvious that we will need the mind, body and soul to build our nation.”
The people of the Niger Delta, he said needed to be compensated after a meaningful dialogue, noting that “the Nigerian economy bleeds profusely with the crises.
Over N500 billion is lost monthly, which would have fulfilled election promises, and grow the economy. We are just pretending or ignoring the causes of our economic recession.
Economic Recession is majorly caused by a shortage in the supply side of our economy – lost associated with Niger Delta crises and drop in oil prices in International market.
Nigeria losses one million barrel of oil a day to Niger Delta crises. Prices of oil in the international market hovers between $45/barrel to $52/barrel in the last 4 to 6 months. Using an average of $48/barrel we are loosing $48m or about N500b a month. “Losing 46% ($48m/day) of our daily revenue ($106/day) is huge. This has incapacitated the Government at all levels. Continuous shortage on the supply side of the economy is causing a shortage of FX, continuous devaluation of the naira and low industrial utilisation. So much value has been destroyed, our GDP and per Capital income has plummeted.
Negative growth is resulting from the crises, Nigerians are living in pain, poorer than they were in 2014. The inflation, unemployment rate and misery rate are hitting the roof with occasion job loss and decimating businesses.
We can sit down to discuss Niger Delta demand, negotiate, compensate and move forward as a nation.
The trend in the world is no longer “hard stance”but negotiations to resolve crises.
“For instance, the United State recorded an oil spill in 2010 and the company responsible for it, British Petroleum, responded to the negligence by “negotiating, compensating, cleaning the environment and paying fines” of about $61.6 billion, according to the Managing Director of British Petroleum.
“In other negotiation circumstances, US government relived the world of Iranian nuclear enrichment by negotiation, relieve the world of Syria chemical weapon by negotiation.
US released $400m cash to Iranian Government in controversial circumstances because some citizens called it payment of ransom for US prisoners in Iran. Issues are better negotiated and resolved.”
he said the federal government, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and other government agencies only have the capacity to initiate, fund and supervise projects but that they cannot implement.
“A lot of projects have been awarded to different companies, but the contractors could not execute these projects in the Niger Delta. It has resulted in abandoned projects or loss of government funds. The people will rather impose impossible conditions on the project or collect cash from contractors than allow smooth execution of projects.
“Once we dialogue, compensate and educate, then meaningful projects will evolve in the Delta and it would soon become another Texas or Dubai.”
Aminu said it will be imperative to have a military deployment in the Niger Delta to keep the peace after “negotiations and compensation”. Their mission should be clear; to prevent a breakdown of law and order – peace mission.
War in Niger Delta, he said, “Will cost a lot of financial resources (for soldiers and ammunitions), destruction of lives, properties and billions or trillions of dollars oil installation.”
He said, “If the above suggestions are implemented, we would have addressed short, medium and long-term development of the Niger Delta. This will take our country further in peace and development.”
*Bennett Oghifo – Thisday