RESTORATION OF RIGHTS AS BASIS FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE NIGER DELTA REGION
By Nwokedi Nworisara
The major challenge facing conflict resolution and sustainable development efforts in the Niger Delta is how to convince the average citizen why he /she should allow and encourage oil exploration and production in the region when it would mean a certain limitation of his/her rights to self determination and environmental purity. For governments through out her history, value reorientation padded with carrots is the answer in face of mounting conflicts but it barely scratches the surface and such strategies have left wider wounds inflicted on the region.
Today with militancy growing from mere demonstrations to throwing stones down to the present era of blowing pipelines,the time has come to review the present approach to conflict resolution in the region in order to build sustainable peace and development. It is important we go back to drawing boards,and evolve a process of dialogue not by militants and government as presently appear to be the case but with civil society,and all other stakeholders. The mere process of working out a way becomes the necessary mobilization and educational input vital for sustainable development of the coming era. It also becomes the necessary value orientation ,capacity building and structural reforms needed to sustain a new Democratic Nigeria. It is because these targeted exercise has been lacking that brings such despondency that calls up separatism as a viable option.
We should know by now that the resolving the Niger Delta question can resolve the wider Nigerian problem even faster. This is a truism because the Niger Delta remains the economic backbone of Nigeria. At least seventy percent of the nations GDP comes from crude oil sales. To this end,the influence of the industry over livelihood of the people is so high that literally we have moved from our rural areas into cities to live the oil mode of life. Look at the trend since 1970 and you do not need to be a researcher to know that the oil boom has also taken away our agrarian lifestyle as well as productivity and brought us to the monthly revenue sharing culture. What it means is that we can correct whatever is "corrupt " in the Nigerian lifestyle by bringing justice and equity into the resolution of the Niger Delta question as well as the management and handling of our oil resources.
So if you want a Democratic Nigeria,then bring about a democratic Niger Delta. If you are yearning for transparency,then be transparent in handling oil resources. As soon as justice and equity takes root in the Niger Delta,militancy will be a thing of the past. After all it was so at the beginning when such conditions existed during colonial times.
You cannot bring equity by disregarding history. This unsavoury trend I have watched in Nigeria with dismay. Look at it closely. All documentary evidence that Nigeria existed beyond military advent are being systematically destroyed. Where is Daily Times newspaper? What of the National archives? Where are research and development arms of Nigerian Ministries? Any where there is record is attacked and destroyed so that no one can cite them. So it is with the Niger Delta question. I remember the loads of conferences ,Seminars ,workshops already conducted with valid solutions but where are they today?
It was in Brass about 2009 that the warning was given that the carrot approach to solving the Niger Delta question can only breed bigger militancy when the next round of negotiating begins. Despite Amnesty militancy is increasing and as we speak more groups are emerging. Yet the problem is so simple to solve but no one wants to understand that basic rights are what is needed to be guaranteed to the Niger Delta man and woman,commensurate with what you do to other Nigerians and he or she will discharge his God given duties to protect National wealth when it also becomes his wealth.
WHY RIGHTS MATTER
To further explain why preservation of rights is central to the resolution of the Niger Delta question, let us understand human nature itself. Human nature because it is what precedes community and nationhood. The various levels of development begins with the individual then extends to the group. Success of the individual translates to those of the group. So let us examine the nature of the individual as a critical step to understanding the group and nation.
Man was created by God to fulfil his purpose on earth. Like every true leader , the Creator had to empower man to do his bidding. Remember that He is the true Landlord here. So man was born only into that soil that will help him establish the basic requirements for his ultimate role. So man is born into a place ,into a property he can through exploring his inherent talents will become his springboard to success. The property gives him food and shelter. In most communities,everyone has a piece of land to his name either provided by inheritance or later by community where land is communally owned and administered. The basis of belonging to the community is being an individual. So the individual ,the person has to have property to help fulfill his mission or at least nurture it at early stages of life. It is one of the most important of human rights in development studies. Now coming to the Niger Delta question,this is why granting of rights to property is the easiest way to reach the people at once and the best Amnesty anyone can grant them now.
Rights cannot be given partially except where it was given by individual consent. It is true that belonging to a State has its own obligations but it derives from individually given convent. Yes you can argue that we the people gave certain level of rights at Independence to build a nation,yes but fundamental human rights are never given away without the harm to the individual,community and nation in terms of sustainable development and psychological balance. To further protect these rights from being limited by the various nation States the United Nations has established declarations and commissions to get the States collective consent and so most constitutions begin with commitment to their preservation. The Global body knows that the whole idea of a State is indeed to make man human,to further his welfare,and this is achieved by preserving his rights not by taking them away. This is also why these rights are never really suspended even when coups happen because it may indeed results on the long run in the suspension of the State.
On the strength of the above, therefore,those who want to develop the Niger Delta,and stop current conflicts do not have to share food or carrots as they say or even money to militant or jobless youths but just give them right over their ancestral land. This right to property will immediately make them responsible citizens overnight for they have indeed something to care for. It will give them jobs where they have comparative advantage. It will give them a sense of belonging and responsibility.
As you respect their right to property,you develop a community of citizens who are committed to the State. Now you can demand from them their obligations to the State as agreed to by their forefathers and fathers and they are bound to accept it. Yes you have oil in your land but the State has invested to tap it into usable commodity at high cost to the tax payer and therefore this is your obligation to the State. To cover the cost of developing your oil well over the years,the State will retain 90℅ of proceeds for the next 50 years. After which we shall sit down with your lawyers to renegotiate based on prevailing situation. From your 10℅ you are obligated to perform social responsibility to your community to protect oil exploration and development. Congratulations. And the Niger Delta question is resolved.
...To be continued