This article seeks to shed light on the crisis in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria, the root causes of youth unrest within the region, and to advocate for the establishment of a workshop in the post peace-building phase.
The discovery of oil in the Niger Delta should have been a blessing for both the region and country as a whole. However, its discovery has, in reality, translated into a curse for the country. Local communities within the oil rich region of the Niger Delta have been exploited by transnational oil companies operating within the region, and harbour sentiments of political and socio-economic exclusion. Populations within the region have to grapple with issues of poverty, hunger and disease on a daily basis. The reasons for local populations’ outrage can be explained by the fact that they are perpetually confronted with issues of flaring gas and environmental degradation resulting from acid rain, noise pollution, and intense heat from gas flaring notwithstanding oil spillages. These instances of environmental degradation have resulted in the destruction of the local populations’ farmland and sea water on which their livelihoods depend, and have had dire consequences on the affected populations’ health and living conditions.
Oil exploration results in social problems whereby outraged communities vent their frustration against oil companies. Anikpo (1998) posits that the glaring unequal relations have exacerbated and prolonged existing conflicts; all of which have left the youth destitute. Furthermore, their socio-economic rights have been violated, as they are unable to participate in their development, even though the right to development has been enshrined in international legal instruments such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in article 22 which reads:
- All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind.
- States shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.
Anikpo (1998) argues that the key feature of the crisis within the region can be attributed to unlawful oil exploration and unequal distribution of wealth accrued from oil. In this light, we postulate that the acquisition of vast acreage, clearing of sites, and the introduction of new cultural patterns into host communities of which the majority do not correspond with the values and traditions of the host communities fan the flames of the current crisis.
Infrastructure development, youth empowerment, wealth creation, scholarships to attend institutions of higher learning along with the provision of borne water, and power supply form part of the responsibilities which need to be upheld, respected and fulfilled by oil companies vis-à-vis local communities. The sobering reality is, however, that oil companies operating within the Niger Delta have fallen drastically short of their corporate social responsibilities towards the afore-mentioned communities. Consequently, the populations’ basic needs have been neglected by both government and the oil companies. Local populations are left to grapple with issues of human security and underdevelopment. This explains, in part, why the youth of the Niger Delta resort to violence as a means of making their voices heard which include, but are not limited to: halting oil companies’ activities and kidnapping expatriates in exchange for a ransom.
The Peace Building Initiative is a new innovation aimed at appealing to the consciousness of the youth to discourage them from resorting to violence and opting, instead, for peaceful initiatives through a more holistic approach aimed at creating a platform for interface and dialogue with host companies. The process will include a multi-stakeholder approach to engage companies in an attempt to encourage them to adhere to the terms of agreement whilst compelling them to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities. One of the ways in which these problems may be alleviated would be through an innovative approach which will include: the use of social media, town hall meetings, and documentaries on the effects of violence along with other peaceful strategies.
In conclusion, the current climate in which the disenfranchised communities live is characterised by civil unrest, and an overall feeling of hopelessness. Peaceful initiatives are required to create an environment in which the affected youth’s political, socio-economic and environmental emancipation is ensured. In this light, this is the kind of a workshop we intend on establishing in the follow up to the peace and security conference.
- Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor, Executive Director, Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD)
Plot 101 jubilee Road, By Mosque Street, 1st Floor,Front, Aba,Abia State.
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL OFFICE:
Plot 11/13 Ezillo Avenue,Independence Layout,Enugu,Enugu State;
Skype: comrade Nelson Nwafor.Fenradnigeria