Niger Delta has witnessed a high rate of militancy and insecurity starting from 2006. In this article, we identify some of the causes of militancy and insecurity in Niger Delta to include, economic deprivation and marginalization of the indigenous peoples of Niger delta, environmental degradation, bad governance and inconsistent policy framework, as well as the divide and rule policy of the oil companies.
Nigeria, in addition to being the world’s most populated African country, is also the largest producer of oil and gas in Africa. Militancy in Niger delta Nigeria is resulted from the consciousness of exploitation being perpetrated by the Nigerian state against the indigenous people, and the struggle to change the status quo.
The Niger Delta covers the greater part of the South-South region and some part of the South East region of Nigeria. It derives its name from the River Niger. Available data indicates it is Africa’s largest delta and one of the largest deltas in the world; and probably the third largest on earth. The region is regarded as one of the nine most difficult deltas of the world comparable to the Mekong, the Amazon and the Ganges. Niger Delta has a population of about twenty-five million people, as reported by the 2006 national census and more than forty ethnic groups including Ibibio, Ijaw, Efik, Edo, Igbo, and Oron.
It is rich in both renewable and non-renewable natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas, bitumen, etc, accounting for 95% of the total revenue for the Nigerian government, generated from oil and gas exploration and 80% of national wealth. Niger Delta is constituted by nine states of the Nigerian federation, namely; Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers as comprising the Niger Delta.
Before the discovery and exploration of oil and gas resources in the Niger delta, the main occupations of the indigenous people were fishing and farming. Unfortunately, years of oil exploration and exploitation by several Oil corporations in the region has destroyed the subsistence economy of the people. Environmental degradation caused by oil spillage has made life extremely difficult for the locals.
The massive destruction of farmlands, fishponds and rivers had radically altered the economic life of the once self-reliant and productive region in negative ways.
Sadly, Niger Delta has been grossly socio-economically backward and under-developed and plagued with poverty despite the immense oil wealth owing to systematic imbalance in the production exchange relationship between the Nigerian state, the multinational oil companies and locals. Vast wealth had been derived from oil export but the area has been subjected to severe land degradation, socio-economic dis-organisation, increasing poverty, misery, military occupation and bloody violence.
Oil extraction activities, over time, has impacted disastrously on the physical environment of the Niger Delta oil-producing communities. This has threatened the fragile subsistence peasant economy and bio-diversity and hence their entire social livelihood and very survival. Despite over forty-five years of oil production in Nigeria and hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenue, the inhabitants of the Niger delta region especially the riverine (creeks) remain in abject poverty. Poverty level is about 80% while unemployment level is about 70%. They live without even the most basic amenities such as pipe-borne water and electricity.
Unemployment is very high among the people of the Niger delta. The youth from the Niger delta do not benefit from the presence of the transnational corporations especially the oil companies operating in their communities. Less than 5% of the people from the Niger delta work in the corporations. Those employed by the oil companies are from the non-oil producing parts of Nigeria.
From the oil spills to the gas flares and effluents from industrial wastes, the fragile ecosystem of the Niger Delta is under constant assault. The unbridled exploitation of crude oil and natural gas beneath the lands of the Niger Delta has caused indescribable and irredeemable ecological devastation of the Niger delta land. Indeed, the environmental impact of the oil industry in the Niger Delta include land deprivation, soil quality damage, destruction of aquatic ecosystem and air pollution.
A major environmental damage done on Niger Delta, by oil spills, is the destruction of aquatic ecosystem. This affects the locals significantly because it constitutes a major threat to a hitherto economic hub of their lives-fishing. In the process of oil exploration activities, materials such as drill cuttings, drill mud and other fluids used in stimulating production are discharged into the environment and most end up in the streams and rivers. These chemicals sometimes kill fishes; or make them unhealthy for human consumption.
This is another environmental problem that Niger Deltans endure. It is an environmental condition that is caused by a collection of oil exploration and exploitation activities such as construction of flow lines and trunk line networks, terminals, digging of location waste pits and barrow pits, oil spillage either from equipment failure, human error, corrosion of pipes due to age and sabotage. Compounds from the numerous petroleum wastes contain organic chemicals such as phenol cyanide, sulphide-suspended solids, chromium and biological oxygen that leave destructive effects on the land and water.
Gas flaring is a primary source of air pollutants in the Niger delta. The oil companies flare gas constantly, day and night. In fact, some flare sites are believed to have been burning for over thirty years, thereby resulting in the release of hydrogen sulphide and other toxic gases into the atmosphere. The chemical emissions from the flaring contribute to acid rain, which triggers skin diseases and causes corrosion to home roofing.
Together, these factors brought about the issue of militancy in Niger Delta. The effects of militancy on nation-building in Nigeria has been devastating.
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