THESE days the people of the Niger DeltaÂ are more frustrated at the little they get in return for their peace efforts. There is impatience at the pace of the authorities in Abuja in addressing the challenges of living in environments which oil and gas production has despoiled for more than 50 years.
Fatigue has set in for talks. People want to see the gains of amnesty translated to economic developments, and infrastructure comparable to what they see when they attend meetings in Abuja. Development indices in the region are below the national averages, poor as they are.
Places like Abuja have been transformed within decades to modern cities while settlements in the Niger Delta are dying. The most annoying thing is that Niger Delta people know that Abuja, and many parts of Nigeria depend on proceeds of oil and gas to develop.
Why must the Niger Delta be the exception? There is no time to listen to the usual excuses and blame sharing. â€œWe are tired of attending these meetings. The way and manner we have been attending meetings, I am aware that from 2007 till date, we have exhausted whatever is needed to be said and we are beginning to wonder why we accepted having this meeting,â€ Dr. Chris Ekiyor, President of the Ijaw Youth Council, said at a meeting last November.
â€œThirty days after our people surrendered our arms we have not seen any progress. We are tired of having these meetings. Today you call this group, tomorrow you call another group and nothing concrete is being done.â€
If only one month after the amnesty so much was expected, what are the expectations five months after? The Movement for the Emancipation of the Delta, MEND, in January called off its ceasefire. MEND had stopped bombing oil installations since last October 25.
Newer and more annoying issues have cropped up on derivation, one of the agitations of the Niger Delta. A new definition of oil producing states includes states through which pipelines for evacuating crude or refined products pass. They are to become beneficiaries of funds for oil producing communities. This position would reverse progress made on several other issues.
Government should be more interested in sustaining the relative peace from the amnesty instead of playing politics with derivation. The conditions in the Niger Delta have not improved. The injustice that places peoplesâ€™ lives below the comfort of the authorities equips the populace for life of indifference to the common good.
Impressions that government deceived militants into surrendering their arms are rising. What is governmentâ€™s response?
We support dialogues but government must act justly and quickly on them.
Justice as the people understand it, means giving them back their lives now without the shackles of oil. We cannot blame their impatience â€” their patience bore no fruit.