Nigeria’s Delta and Security Challenges: Using the Delta Beyond Oil strategy, a governor’s approach
Being a paper presented by Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan,CON, at the School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, Washington, USA last week
INTRODUCTION: I am greatly honoured to be here today, in the midst of professionals who have committed their time and resources to steering a formidable think-tank that fosters important global issues. In a very special way, I will like to express my profound gratitude to Professor Peter Lewis and, through him, to the entire leadership of the School of Advanced International Studies, SAIS, Johns Hopkins, Washington, DC for inviting me to speak at this august event.
Your invitation was a most welcome one. Besides the fact that it provided me the opportunity of reflecting once again on a subject that is most dear to my heart, your invitation also helps to keep the dialogue going. Today, I will be sharing my perspectives on the Security Challenges within Nigeria’s Delta State and the conscious steps my administration has taken to substantially address the challenges of public safety and security in Delta State, one of the oil-producing States in Nigeria. In doing so, I shall approach the subject with some preliminary and background comments.
DeltaState, located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, was created in 1991 out of the defunct BendelState in the former Mid-Western Nigeria. It is one of the nine Niger Delta States. A multi-ethnic State, Delta has a geographic spread of approximately 60 per cent land and 40 per cent water with a population of over four million people.
At the investiture of my administration, in 2007 we articulated a three-point agenda: Peace and Security, Human Capital Development and Infrastructure Development. At the core of this agenda is the attainment of economic growth that will guarantee a peaceful, stable and safe atmosphere in DeltaState.
Delta State as at 2007: Broad challenges on ground: Fourteen years ago, Nigeria as a country returned to constitutional and democratic civilian rule after prolonged years of military dictatorship and authoritarianism which destroyed most vital public institutions in the country. The entrenched, institutional and endemic abuse of basic rights and freedom under the Military culminated in bottled up agitations, tension and pent-up emotions, especially in the Niger Delta where agitations for control of natural resources graduated into criminal activities. This expectedly escalated under civilian, democratic rule.
Like all Governors in the Niger Delta, this was one complex challenge I met upon assumption of office in 2007, which my administration had to address frontally during my first term (2007-2011). Thus the challenge of public safety and security was quite evident as at the time I assumed office in 2007. There were other problems confronting the young administration ranging from political conflicts following my victory at the 2007 Governorship elections, to violent youth conflicts, armed insurgents, to ferocious ethnic rivalry amongst the various ethnic groups in DeltaState. This was aptly captured by Professor Michael J. Watts who co-authored The Curse of the Black Gold when he noted that “the Delta is awash not only in oil but in ferocious intra and inter-community struggles…”
Magnitude of the challenges
Perhaps, to appreciate the magnitude of the challenges of public safety and security at that time, it might interest you to know that within 48 hours of my inauguration in 2007, I had to embark on an unsolicited visit to the “creeks” in the Niger Delta region at the time, to free some foreign nationals working with a multi-national oil company, who were kidnapped as hostages. This was necessary because attacks on vital oil installations and armed insurgencies in the Niger Delta region were already threatening to cut national oil output by significant percent.
There were other challenges which were not totally peculiar to DeltaState but cuts across the constituent States of the Niger Delta but their scope and seriousness, however, vary at that time. These include challenges of public healthcare system, lack of requisite infrastructure necessary for stimulating growth and development, absence of a functional and effective educational system, social problems and broad issues relating to the proper functioning of government in a democratic setting. Though the administration before mine tried to tackle some of these problems, there was still a long way to go when I came in. We shall come back to this later.
The past few years was fraught with various security challenges including kidnap of foreign nationals, key government and political office holders, armed robbery attacks and assault on strategic government infrastructure such as oil pipelines by suspected militants. The Federal Government of Nigeria on its part, through its Amnesty programme, helped ameliorate and substantially quelled the effects of militancy in the Niger-Delta region.
The Delta State Government adopted a holistic approach to addressing the challenge of public safety and security. At the outset of my administration, we designed a strategy that set out to (1) identify and eliminate the root causes of such crimes and their criminal agenda, and (2) determine our policy responses to help prevent future occurrences.
The success criterion of this strategy was to improve our overall effectiveness in consolidating peace and development within the State. To effectively tackle and address the Challenges I met on assumption of office in 2007, my administration articulated a three-Point Agenda; Peace and Security, Human Capital Development and Infrastructure Development. At the core of this agenda, is the attainment of economic growth that will guarantee a peaceful atmosphere.
Public safety and security: My administration’s response: No serious discussion of insecurity or challenges of public safety and security problems is complete without referring to the socio-political and economic environment because security challenges do not occur in a vacuum. Thus, the state of infrastructure, education, employment, social sector, healthcare and the overall economic well-being of the citizenry have a direct and indirect correlation with the level of public safety and security.
Public safety and security
The social, political and economic environment often times, can explain the proliferation of crimes. According to the United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network, “no matter what part of the world, over a five year period, two out of three inhabitants of big cities are victimized by crime at least once.”
The UNCJI network further stated that, “the risks of being victimized are highest in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.” This begs the question of what commonalities exist between the two regions. The crime rates in these regions have been reported to be inversely proportional to their development indices. Social, political and economic development can, therefore, be said to be inextricably linked to security. Approaching the subject of insecurity from a different perspective, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), in its 2009 report, pointed that “looking back over the past 60years, at least 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts can be associated with natural resources”. This again implicates the Delta region of Nigeria. And the situation in the region has global economic and political implications as well as dimensions.
Also, in one of the revealing studies carried out by the United States Institute for Peace entitled “Bringing Peace to the Niger Delta”, the author, Kelly Campbell argues that there are three perspectives in looking at the challenges of insecurity in the Delta region. The author listed them as lack of good governance, absence of social and economic development and unnecessary militarization of the area.
With these postulations as well as other practical experiences in mind, my administration set out to vigorously pursue Human Capital and Infrastructure Development, two planks of its three-point agenda, as a springboard to attaining the third plank – Peace and Security. This might appear to be a misnomer to a divergent school of thought which holds the view that human capital and infrastructure development can only take place within a secure environment. This other perspective was supported by the World Bank Report (1997) which noted that “sustainable economic development cannot occur without the basic guarantees of security provided by the rule of law.”
This school of thought implies that one action (security) has to occur before the reaction (development) but neglects to factor in the distinct peculiarities of different societies. We have reasons to believe that the situation in DeltaState tends to favour the deployment of investments as panacea to insecurity and not vice versa. After many years of military rule, marked by series of unfulfilled promises to the Nigerian people and in particular, the people of its oil producing states, the stage was set for distrust between the Government and its citizens.
As living standards declined, the struggle for survival exacerbated and the breeding ground for the crimes we experience today was set. Citizens sought economic ways of providing for themselves, and this further led to the increase in quick-money crimes such as oil theft, robbery and kidnapping.
Robbery and kidnapping
Having identified the root causes, my administration concluded that massive government investment in infrastructure, eliminating corruption at all levels and a sustainable improvement in the general standard of living of the electorate would significantly help to arrest and ultimately eliminate the spate of insecurity.
Earlier in 2003, the Human Rights Watch 2003:2, had reached a similar finding when it published, “the corruption of Nigerian political process that has left the oil mineral-producing communities of the region poor and underdeveloped has produced an unintended consequence: It has created a large class of young men who have no hope of legitimate work that would fulfil their ambitions, and are easily recruited into violence.”
To address this, we adopted a strategic approach. First, within the first few weeks of my administration, I quickly empowered the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), an interventionist agency set up to address the challenges of under-development in the Oil Producing Communities of Delta State, to go down to the rural, Oil-producing communities to create jobs, stem the growing army of unemployed youths and provide the much-needed infrastructure in designated host Communities. 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation accruing to the State or about approximately $222.5million annually is passed on to the Commission. Having ensured that this Commission effectively took-off, remained focused and committed to its mandate, we thereafter constituted the Delta State Waterways Security Committee, to help gather intelligence and information that would assist in crime prevention and detection.
In addition, we believe that a functional educational system could serve as great armour against crime. Consequently, my administration quickly re-opened, equipped and rehabilitated 42 high schools that were closed down in Warri and its surrounding towns and villages during an inter-ethnic conflict in DeltaState; a move which accordingly helped to engage some of our young boys and girls in productive endeavour. This ensured that they were no longer available to be recruited for criminal activities. To consolidate the gains of this initiative, we introduced Free Education Policy State-wide. The implication is that the Delta State Government is fully responsible for the payment of all fees associated with what is called the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, and NECO.
The WAEC and NECO certificates are among the requisites for admission into higher institutions of learning, including Universities. We are also awarding scholarships to thousands of University students for graduate and post graduate studies. Our star scholarship scheme, however, is the automatic scholarship for any Delta child that makes a first class to study anywhere in the world. By so doing, we are assured of a pool of highly trained human resources. We have also aggressively improved on the infrastructure in our schools by renovating dilapidated schools and building and equipping new ones. We also improving the quality of teachers by training and retraining.
Again, as part of our strategic approach, we began implementing our holistic strategy by conceptualizing the brand identity, “Delta Beyond Oil”; a concept we believed would appeal to every Deltan. In its simplest terms, this perspective attempts to bring to the attention of the people of DeltaState, government officials and private sector operators, the need to understand that Oil and Gas are finite assets and exhaustible resources that cannot be permanently relied on to continually sustain the states that are dependent on it.
Correspondingly, we conceived and designed a new comprehensive economic development framework with investment strategies and approaches that ensured that other sectors of the economy in the state are brought on stream. The idea was to expand and complement oil receipts as alternative income sources and focus on Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) to fund the operations of government, the provision of social services and provide for development investments in Delta State.
This new comprehensive economic development strategy recognizes that the state is endowed with other vast reserves of agricultural, solid mineral and human resources. Therefore, it focuses on diverse sectors including commerce and industry, manufacturing, infrastructure development, Information and Communication Technology, education, Healthcare, culture, tourism and hospitality as potential sectors for private sector participation.
In the Health sector, we embarked on free maternal Healthcare Programme. Our objective was to build a healthy, sound and resourceful women population as well as reduce the rate of infant mortality. During my first term, we had an average of 1,641 deliveries monthly while about 12,240 pregnant women attended our ante-natal hospitals monthly. On the whole, an average of 4,612 women booked monthly for the free maternal Healthcare scheme in our hospitals across Delta State.
Within this comprehensive economic development framework, and in furtherance of our related development strategy, we embarked upon a broad range of programmes to pursue our economic diversification and empowerment programmes. They include the development of physical/transport infrastructure, industrial infrastructure, power infrastructure, human capital, SME development and micro or cottage enterprises development programme through a nationally acknowledged and acclaimed micro-credit scheme.
Some of our direct government investments aimed at catalyzing state-wide development include the completion of an InternationalAirport in Asaba, the State capital and the on-going expansion of an existing airport at Osubi, near Warri, the commercial hub of DeltaState. The Asaba airport is the most modern airport in Nigeria today. Taking advantage of the huge economic activities in Onitsha market, which is about 15 minutes away, it has the potential of being the busiest airport in Nigeria.
In addition, the state government invested in the construction of new roads/bridges, the renovation and expansion of existing roads and the d ualization of a network of strategic roads that link rural to urban areas; urban to urban areas as well as roads that link Delta state with other states of the Niger Delta. The transport infrastructure is intended to facilitate easy movement of goods and services within and outside the state and boost economic activities in the state through their multiplier effects in the transport service sub-sector.
Recognizing the need to partner with international development agencies and citizens of DeltaState in the diaspora, my administration launched an outreach programme in 2009 in New York under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Walter Carrington, a former United States (US) Envoy to Nigeria. We believe that there are eminent Deltans in the diaspora who have both the technical expertise and the web of contacts to bring to the table for the overall development of Delta State.
In fact, Deltans in the US have been most supportive. The success story of India, China and many Asian countries is a clear testimony to the fact that when properly harnessed, the diasporans are a great asset.