ABUJA—The European Union, EU, has warned against the “militarization” of the restive Niger Delta region, contending that while it is necessary to punish those who break the law, military option alone is not the solution to the crisis.
Head of EU Delegation in Nigeria, Ambassador Michel Arrion, gave the warning, weekend, when he visited the Executive Chairman, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, in Abuja.
His admonition came as the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Development Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, also spoke in the same vein.
Clark, who spoke in a separate interview with Vanguard in Abuja, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration must understand that Nigeria was not in a military era, saying the use of force in the Niger Delta would be disastrous and counter-productive.
According to him: “The Federal Government should realize that we are not in a military regime. We are in a democracy. Therefore, armed conflict would be disastrous. It will not help anybody. It will not help the government and it will not help the Niger Delta people. That is why we are advising that let us dialogue. When we dialogue, we will know where the differences are and we will know how to come to an agreement.
That is our advice to Mr. President and he should not sit on our demands for too long. These things must be attended to as soon as possible. We may not have this opportunity (of meeting him) again. If nothing is done for some time and you ask Niger Delta people to go and see Mr. President, they might not go and that will be very dangerous.
E. K. Clark
So, my advice is that, one, when the Federal Government threatened the Niger Delta with force, that they would go into the area, oil production fell to about a million barrels per day. The Minister of State for Petroleum said the other day that since we have been talking to our “boys”, and since we have been trying to discuss with the Federal Government, the oil production has gone up to about 2.1 million barrels per day.
So, that is the present position now and with the fall in oil prices, you need the quantity to make up. So, if the Federal Government decides to take the other way round of trying to attack people, occupy our community and kill people, it would be very disastrous. It will not be in anybody’s interest. The oil production will go down while innocent people would be killed. So, we advise Mr President to treat this matter as a priority.”
The EU, on its part, said the Niger Delta issue deserved a multi-pronged approach situated within the global context.
Arrion said a combination of economic, political and military response was the best panacea to militancy.
He said: “I believe that what is happening in the Niger Delta deserves a global response and a global approach. I do believe that ‘one size does not fit all’. I don’t think a military response or an economic response or political response alone would be sufficient. We need probably the three components of the global response. So, as EU, we are involved in all those dimensions of the Niger Delta issues, politically, economically and also socially.
We are at the disposal of the Nigerian authorities to support any kind of political process. We are also here with external assistance and in the longer term to look at the possibility of European investment in the region. But no investors will come where there is insecurity, without roads or electricity. So, we need all those things fixed in consistent manner. I was really delighted to hear from the chairman (of NDDC) that one of the priorities is to look at the masterplan.
We will see it. What is the plan and how can we work together to transform it into an action-plan where Nigeria will play the first role? The international community can support or complement that.”
10 yrs on, N-Delta Master Plan yet to be implemented —Ndoma- Egba
Responding, Senator Ndoma-Egba lamented the non-implementation of the 15-year master plan of the Niger Delta even 10 years after its implementation was supposed to have begun.
“I believe you were here when I mentioned to his Excellency (Arrion) that the master plan that we have for the Niger Delta region is 10 years old and it has a life span of 15 years. It was envisaged for 15 years. Ten years into the plan, it has not been implemented. So, you need to first either revalidate or update, or you come up with a brand new plan.
But there needs to be a framework for stakeholder engagement because all stakeholders must be part of that plan. The annual budget of the Niger Delta should just be an incremental step towards realizing an overall plan. But for now we have annual budgets that are not part of any plan. So, we must go back to a master plan. What kind of region do we envisage? What kind of region do we want to see in 10 years, in 15 years? And we begin to benchmark whatever we do to implement the plan,” Ndoma-Egba said.