By Oscarline ONWUEMENYI, Abuja
A former military president of Nigeria , General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) has called for an improved well-being for people in the oil producing areas of Niger Delta, even as he lauded the amnesty programme initiated by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to end the militancy in the region.
Babangida said this on Thursday in Abuja at the launch of the book entitled, Participation in Petroleum Development: Towards Sustainable Community Development in the Niger Delta, written by Dr. Aseme-Alabo Edward Bristol-Alagbariya.
Babangida who spoke through a representative, Chief Jasper Jumbo, noted that he did his utmost during his tenure to â€œameliorate the adverse effects and challenges of petroleum development in the Niger Delta region.â€
According to him, â€œThe crises in the Delta region became serious in the 1990s, and these called for more proactive and reconstructive measures in the oil producing communities. The incumbent Federal Government, led by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, has therefore done very well considering its amnesty programme.
â€œMay I equally recommend that Nigeria should move further to improve the wellbeing of the oil producing areas and their people as well as those of other major natural resources producing areas of the country, such as the solid minerals producing areas.
â€œThis should be done in compliance with the identified international standards and practices, in our march to achieve sustainable development in the interest of all the areas and regions of NigeriaÂ and our entire citizens, especially our poor citizens.â€
IBB stated that the introduction of the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) by his administration was a step taken to jumpstart the development of the Niger Delta.
His words: â€œOMPADEC was established to ameliorate the adverse effects and challenges of petroleum development in the Niger region. The Commission was established under Decree No. 23 of 1992, following the announcement after my tour to Rivers State (earlier in that year), which enabled me to see the realities on ground”.
â€œMy administration established OMPADEC to physically and economically develop and rehabilitate the Delta region, and thereby make better impact in the region and its people than the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) which had at the time gone moribund.
The guest speaker at the event, Prof C.P Wolf who is past president of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) and director, Social Impact Centre, New York, U.S., posited that application of the philosophy and methodology of impact assessment can and, â€œwill serve to facilitate bringing â€˜equity, prosperity and tranquilityâ€™ to the Niger Delta region and to the nation and beyond.â€
The author, Dr. Bristol-Alagbariya explains that the book sets out to prove that extractive industrial operations like exploration of oil and gas, mining and mineral resources impede sustainable development.
However, he said, these activities can also contribute to sustainable development if they are embarked upon in strict accordance with the principles sustainable development.
According to him, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 should be harmonized to reflect the internationally accepted standard.
He said, â€œFor instance, the mere allocation of Sustainable Development (SD) oriented duties and responsibilities to the Minister without the realization of the requisite government regulatory measures expressed, for instance, in Article 29 of the Johannesburg Declaration on SD, 2002, cannot guarantee SD in the solid minerals producing areas of the country.â€
He called for amendment to the PIB presently before the National Assembly, he argued that it is ironical that both the PIB and Minerals and Mining Act though deal with the same extractive exploration but have wide gap between them which the National Assembly will do well to correct before the passage of the bill.
He berated some traditional rulers for diverting funds, compensation, development projects and funds accruing to their people in the course of petroleum development in the regionâ€™s communities.