By Michael Eboh

The Niger Delta crisis, prior to the Federal Government’s intervention, had cost Nigeria trillions of naira over the years in lost investments, production shut-ins, pipeline vandalisation, crude oil and petroleum products losses and loss of human lives.

Prior to the introduction of the Presidential Amnesty Programme by the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure, the country’s crude oil output dropped to as low as 500,000 barrels per day from its target of over two million barrels per day.

Niger-Delta

The crisis subsided after the introduction of the Amnesty programme, but resurfaced after the 2015 elections, with hostility spearheaded by the Niger Delta Avengers, as well as other militant groups forcing crude oil output to drop to around 600,000 barrels per day.

In addition, illegal refineries and illegal bunkering became widespread across the region, leading to a further destruction of the environment.

The massive decline in Nigeria’s crude oil output, brought about by the Niger Delta crisis, coupled with the low price of crude oil in the international market, plunged the Nigerian economy into recession.

The crisis in the Niger Delta region stems from decades of neglect and environmental despoliation, which brought about anger across the region.

Specifically, data obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, revealed that from 2012 to 2016, the corporation recorded pipeline crude oil losses of N132.418 billion, and from 2007 to 2016 it recorded product losses of N228.161 billion.

However, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru, had a couple of months back, stated that from January 2016 to October 2016, Nigeria lost N2.1 trillion to the activities of militant groups and oil pipeline vandals in the Niger Delta region.

This does not include the value of investment deferred over the period of the crisis; amount used in the repair of vandalized pipeline and production deferred during the period.

In his latest podcast, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed that the sheer amount of problems the present administration inherited from the Niger Delta, means that literally, nothing was done.

According to him, the country was getting crippled, no money for investment, no money for infrastructure; and no money to run the budget; forcing the government to move in very rapidly with the support of the President.

Kachikwu argued that unless environmental issue of the Niger Delta is addressed, no amount of investment would get the buy in of the people.

However, calm appears to have largely returned to the Niger Delta region, thanks the efforts put in by the present administration, through its ‘Big Win 5’, in its ‘7 Big Win’ programme.

Specifically, Kachikwu said the various interventions of the Federal Government had brought about an increase in Nigeria’s crude oil output from 800,000 barrels per day to 2.2 million barrels per day.

To address the crisis in the region, Kachikwu noted that the government dealt with three fundamental issues, focusing mainly on environment and security issues.

Kachikwu added that on behalf of the Federal Government, he had gone ahead to set up state technical committees with representatives from the Federal and state government, and representatives of oil companies to address burning issues in oil-producing communities.

He noted that the government had also begun a program to engage the Ogonis when there is a substantial problem to get the community buying, to get the community participation.

He said such meetings which would be extended to other communities to see how the government can get people to believe again and have faith in the processes it is rolling out.

Again, he said the president is completely committed to the success of this engagements and actions, adding that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is working with the Ministry of Environment to continue the Ogoni cleanup.

According to Kachikwu, President Muhammadu Buhari had just directed that funds necessary for the cleanup programme should be released within a very short period of time to ensure that the exercise moves from the drawing board to actual practical realities.

“And I have called on the NNPC and oil companies to fund it sufficiently for us to move forward,” he added.

In addition, Kachikwu said the Federal Government was currently working on a framework for community-based participation in the protection of oil and gas pipelines and assets.

“How do we get communities to take ownerships of these pipelines; protect them and ensure efficient delivery without complications and also ensure, that in the future, they get the benefits from some of the economic interventions that come out from all these?” Kachikwu said was the essence of the framework.

In the issue of illegal refineries, Kachikwu said the Federal Government had inculcated the illegal refiners into the modular refineries programme and significant success was being recorded in the programme.

As a result, he said the Federal Government has granted licenses for the setting up of 10 modular refineries, while two are already beginning to construct.

According to him, hopefully within one year, they will be able to deliver results, especially as the Federal Government is pushing for the other eight.

He added that “the area where I think we have done a lot of work is in capacity building and economic empowerment. The greatest problem with the Niger Delta has been that, it is not because money has not gone in; inter-agency researches that we have done shown that over $40 billion have gone into the Niger Delta in a period of over 15 years.

“So what we are trying to do is working under the office of the Vice President, we are working in conjunction with the Ministry of Niger Delta and Ministry of Environment and NDDC, NNPC, oil companies and everybody.

“We are able to show the sheer amount of amount over a period of money that has gone and over a period of time that is available to go in. And that led to the very integrated work that produced the report that enabled us to see what everybody’s budget was and what we needed to do. It ran into trillions.

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