This is the official blog of the Nigeria-based Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a human rights organization which promotes, protects and projects the rights of Muslims. This group condemns terrorism and all acts of violence. Its motto is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'
Saturday, September 10, 2011
DEVELOP THE NIGER DELTA NOW
11th September, 2011
DEVELOP THE NIGER DELTA NOW
Protests in the Niger Delta either by ex-militants or ordinary citizens are becoming a daily occurrence. This is alarming in view of Nigeria's past experiences with the Niger Delta phenomenon.
In spite of the fact that the Niger Delta region is the economic gold mine of Nigeria, it has suffered undue neglect spanning decades. Peaceful approach adopted by activists from the region had been met with brutal elimination and repression. A good example of this brutality is the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa, an activist from the region, by the Abacha military junta. This gross neglect coupled with the government's Gestapo tactics in the Niger Delta region was responsible for the militarization of its youths.
Nigeria's oil industry suffered severe losses during the violent confrontations between Niger Delta militants and Nigerian soldiers. Oil pipes were blown up. Both foreigners and Nigerians working in the oil industry became targets for kidnappers. There was nationwide feeling of insecurity as militants from the Niger Delta threatened to strike anywhere. They actually struck at a Lagos oil base.
This situation was only brought under control after the Yaradua administration adopted a diplomatic approach. Militants were granted general amnesty and an empowerment programme was put in place for them. The Federal Government also promised an aggressive development programme for the region.
The protest last week by Niger Delta militants followed by another peaceful protest yesterday by ordinary citizens including women and elderly people from the area portends a danger signal. It means that the impact of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is not being felt by the people. There is therefore an urgent need for the Federal Government to move at a faster pace. This region and its people have suffered for too long and simple palliatives may not do the magic.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) believe that more direct and palpable actions need to be taken. Something is definitely wrong with us if people living in the region producing our wealth have no access to ordinary drinking water, food, shelter and other basic necessities of life. We affirm that Government can do better than this.
The Federal Government may also involve international bodies like the Red Cross if it cannot handle this alone. Government should regard these urgent steps as conflict-prevention strategy. The high cost should not deter government because failure to do so may result in war with its catastrophic human and material losses.
To start with, the Jonathan administration should declare the whole region a disaster zone. Relief materials, including such amenities that can make life more comfortable, must be drafted to those places. We must put smiles on the faces of every community in the Niger Delta. Finally, we suggest that the Federal Government should open liaison offices in every local government in the region.
Dr. Is-haq Akintola, Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) 234-818-211-9714