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Niger Delta Region; Still a Body without Soul

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Niger Delta region

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) on Monday, August 16, 2021, after years of back-and-forth movement, an Act which provides legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry and development of host communities, my recent ‘sojourn’ in the creeks of Niger Delta region, South-South geo-political zone, Nigeria, in the past one month or thereabout has strengthened my belief that nothing has changed.

Aside from raising consciousness that the poor level of infrastructural and socio-economic development in the region is an indication of sustained poor management of revenue accruing to the region, my documented experience firmly explains that this poor management is traceable to a combination of factors ranging from poor governance to outright embezzlement by the region’s leadership.

I have also come to a sudden but painful conclusion that the region will remain a body without a soul until the government and other Nigerians begin to see the problem of the Niger Delta as a national one and not restricted to the region.

A telling example of the above assertion is the deplorable state of some communities visited in Warri Southwest Local Government Areas of Delta state. These communities include but are not limited to Azuzu, Bennett, BATAN, Aweregbene, Egwa, Ekpogbene, Okerenkoko, Pepeama, Kurutie, Ubafan, Kunukunu mkma, Inikorogha and Azama. Others are Opuama, Polobubo, Ogbudugbudu, and Ogbinbiri communities of Egbema kingdom, Warri North Local Government Area.

From the above communities, evidence indicates that when one juxtaposes the level of development with the amount of funds that have been disbursed through the federal allocation and 13% derivation received by crude oil-bearing states, it shows a lack of concerted development efforts on the part of federal, state, local governments and other interventionist agencies/commissions.

The situation in the region is made worse by the destruction of agricultural prospects in rural communities through irresponsible oil operations, which of course, is an indirect violation of the right to life and the right to a safe environment and also a negation of the policy of economic diversification.

According to a report, “the relationship between agriculture and oil production is like a clash of two sectors. The use of land for oil exploration and production has implied the destruction of agriculture and the rural economy. This is a war of opposites. As much as the government derives more revenue from oil than agriculture, its reluctance to protect land resources for agricultural purposes increases.”

Without a doubt, the region, in my view, is faced with interminable socio-economic and environmental challenges, which prove to have no single answer, but one thing is sure. Niger Delta is troubled but not despondent-a situation that makes it easy for them to be managed and contained.

To develop the region, there is an urgent need to find solutions to the challenges created by the ability of the Niger Delta Development Commissions (NDDC), and that of the Presidential Amnesty handlers to live up to their statutory responsibilities.

To explain this point, the coastal dwellers have in recent times perceived and referred to NDDC as ‘a city boy’ that has nothing to do with coastal regions, a challenge that goes beyond the non-appointment/constitution of the NDDC board. The Amnesty Programme, on its part, appears to have completely deviated from its primary objective.

Even the new Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Major-General Barry Ndiomu (rtd), recently acknowledged this fact during a courtesy visit to the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, at his palace in Oporoza town, Delta State, where he lamented that the scheme has been “hijacked” by “a few criminals”, who have “short-changed” lots of youths in the Niger-Delta.

He said: “As I speak to you, there are many people who are not even Niger Deltans that have been awarded scholarships. There are instances where people who are not Niger Deltans bribed their way with N750,000 to N1 million to get PAP’s scholarships. If the scheme is working as was intended by the government, a lot of the complaints by the youths will not be so as the resources which the government has directed to the scheme will get to them.”

While wrestling with this major concern, the Ogoni land cleanup is another thorny challenge that the Federal Government must tackle with sincerity. The truth, as it presently stands, is that to the watching world, the clean-up really holds the success key of this administration. The reason is simple. Apart from failed promises in this direction by the current administration, any effort by the Federal Government to re-engineer prosperity in the region without first cleaning the Ogoni Oil spill will amount to an attempt in futility because of the international attention that particular degradation has elicited.

For example, the African Commission’s decision on a communication submitted by the Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) in close collaboration with the New York-based Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) found the Nigerian government culpable of glaring environmental injustice mated to the people of Ogoni land and other Niger Delta communities.

Titled Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) Vs Nigeria) with suit Number 155/96 before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the then Federal Military Government of Nigeria, the communication asserted that the wild spread contamination of soil, water and air, the destruction of homes and the climate of terror visited upon the Ogoni communities constituted a violation of their rights to health, a healthy environment, housing, and food.

As a response to the communication, the Commission, in October 2001, gave a well-considered rule finding the Federal Republic of Nigeria in violations of 2, 4, 14, 16, 18(1), 21 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and therefore recommended a total clean-up of the polluted Ogoni and other adjourning communities in addition to taking preventive remedial and compensatory measures to improve economic and social outcomes for the Ogoni community. But close to two decades after that judgment, the Ogoni and other communities are still waiting for the FG to implement the directive from the same commission that they are a signatory to, a development that is considered bad for morals.

The Ogonis must be saved from these excruciating pains. This should be done not merely for political consideration but from the views of national development and the sustenance of our democracy. Using the minimum components of the right to a healthy environment-Ogoni community as a baseline, the environmental condition of the coastal communities in the Niger Delta region can best be described as not only deplorable but graced with non-development, poverty and extreme lack of government presence. This particular revelation calls for action.

Another key point that may guarantee a fast-tracked development of the region is the immediate relocation of the headquarters of (both private and government-owned) organizations to the region. It will not only add to a new relationship but soaks up the existing tension.

Specifically, Nigerians have, in different times and places, argued that government agencies such as the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), and its subsidiaries have no business being in Abuja since the chunk of its responsibility is in the Niger Delta region.

The federal and state governments should take practical steps to empower communities to protect their environment through policies and legislations that obligate oil companies to apply best practices and grant communities the right to determine how and when oil operations are compatible with human conditions in the communities.

Most importantly, the Federal Government must desist from the current non-participatory approach to development in the region and rather embrace a broad-based consultative approach that will give the people of the Niger Delta some sense of ownership over their issues.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Itsekiri And Ijaws’ Creation of Hyper-Modern Path to Peace Via Football Tournament

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Itsekiri

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Benikrukru Community field, Gbaramtu kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, the kickoff venue of the Ijaw/Itsekiri peace and unity football competition initiated by Chief Sheriff Mulade, Ibe-sorimawei of Gbaramatu kingdom and National Coordinator/CEO, Centre for Peace & Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), was on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, filled to capacity and moderately dotted with imposing banner conspicuously positioned with screaming but familiar inscriptions that emphasise on the importance of peace and unity to humanity.

The ambience at the venue was refreshing as merrily dressed guests strolled in. Community members of Ijaw and Itsekiri origins were relaxed in their sitting positions. They were entertained to the rhythms from the stable of Ijaw and Itsekiri traditional dancing maestros.

Their humble and friendly dispositions complimented each other and made it very easy for non-indigenes to be at ease in their presence, even as that was the maiden visit to the community.

Aside from having in attendance former Super Eagles players, Christian Obodo and Sam Sodje, among others, the event was also graced by courageous Niger Deltans, who have met resistance from their own government in the past but refused to give up in their quest to build a better Niger Delta region and Nigeria by extension.

But of all that I observed, the gathering acknowledged what has been on the mind of Nigerians.

Fundamentally, it frontally demonstrated a strong conviction that non-discrimination, justice and fairness are the foundation for peace, unity, stability and economic prosperity of any nation. From the love that existed among the two ethnic groups on that day, at that time and in that place, it was obvious that building a nation where all citizens of the country shall not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, birth or other status is possible.

Essentially also, from the way the two teams entered the field with a stride of confidence and fair play, the competition provided Ijaw/Itsekiri with an opportunity for introspection by the two ethnic groups on the journey so far. Some gave the ‘union’ kudos for the tremendous progress it has made in forging unity and peace and riding the area of hatred and hostility, while others felt that the new challenge before the two ethnic nationalities is to transform into a strong economic bloc in order to position for the challenges of the 21st century as it patterns Niger Delta region.

To assist readers in appreciating this current journey to sustainable peace by the two ethnic groups via football tournament, it is important to underline that the district of Warri in Delta State, going by reports, has been the scene of ethnic and territorial conflicts between the Itsekeri and the Ijaws since March 1997, when ethnic violence broke out between the Ijaws and the Itsekeris following a government decision to relocate the headquarters of the Warri south local government council from an Ijaw community to a community belonging to the Itsekeris.

Though the hostility was overtly arrested and brought under control, covertly, it has remained a zone where fierce war has been raging between ethnic and social forces in Nigeria over the ownership and control of oil resources. And as a direct result, a long dark shadow has been cast on efforts to improve the well-being and economic development of the region’s individuals, peoples, and communities.

Without a doubt, the Ijaw/Itsekiri hostility is not only telling evidence of the numerous problems facing the people of the Niger Delta region, but largely an expose of unwillingness by the government over the years to address problems which possess the potent capability to affect the stability of Niger Delta as a region.

The above claim, in my view, becomes more telling after listening to Mulade, who spoke on the sidelines in the kick-off match, where he stated that ‘’The essence of this tournament is to try and reduce the hostility among us. Some years ago, we had some misunderstandings. That led to what is known as the Warri crisis. So, what we are doing is building the relationship. So, for you to join us is to support this celebration of peaceful co-existence.”

Certainly, there are grains of truth in the above position. The tournament has not only brought out something different and fundamentally new that will help shape the relationship between the two ethnic groups. Rather, it has assisted in providing health and vitality of peaceful co-existence, rededicating commitment to peace, promoting unity and intensifying harmonious development of the Niger Delta region.

The facts are there and speak for it.

On Monday, November 7, 2022, it was reported that the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, while playing host to Chief Mulade Sheriff and members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) who paid him a courtesy visit in his palace, gave his endorsement and royal blessings to the peace and unity football event. The Olu applauded Chief Comrade Sheriff Mulade for initiating such a laudable programme and promised to liaise with Mr Amaju Pinnick to bring his wealth of experience in football management to support the process.

In a similar style, members of the LOC, on November 11, 2022, were received by Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba of Gbaramatu Kingdom in his palace at Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the kingdom.

In his response, the monarch appreciated the organizer’s initiative and implored him to continue preaching and spreading the need for peaceful coexistence because peace is not negotiable. He also enlightened the LOC team on the importance of peace to attract development to Delta, particularly Warri and its environs. He encouraged the untiring contribution of the LOC towards uniting Ijaw/Itsekiri, the importance of which is crucial to harnessing the dividend of development and opportunities to our people.

While this piece celebrates the feat, there are, however, accompanying beliefs in my views that the Ijaws are a truly peaceful set of people.

The first such example is a recent statement by an Ogbe Ijoh-based political pressure group, the Independent GrassRoots Liberators (IGL), where the group, among other comments, pleaded with the Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s led Delta State Government to immediately settle the communal disputes between Ogbe-Ijoh, Ijaw ethnic nationality of Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta state and Aladja, an Urhobo community in Udu Local Government Area of the state, adding that they want to live in unity as they have been living before. “We don’t want to be killing ourselves anymore,” they said.

The second has to do with the recent comment credited to Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, at his palace in Oporoza, the ancestral headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom while he played host to Mr Ali Muhammad Zarah, Managing Director, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), on Sunday, November 13, 2022.

The first-class monarch, according to media reports, said; “This is Gbaramatu Kingdom, and we are very peaceful people. If you come closer to the people, you will know the kind of people we have here. Some people can castigate our names or tarnish our image, but we are not like that. We know who we are.”

Waxing philosophically, the Monarch said, “We want to say, if the children are happy, definitely the father is happy too. Recently, I told some senators that instead of staying in Abuja and speculating about what is happening in the Niger Delta region, they should take a trip to the region for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. If they come, they will know how the people are, but staying far from them, you cannot know how they really are. So I am very happy for people like you visiting our Kingdom.”

As the author of this piece, while I commend the efforts of the tournament organisers, the piece, on its part, thinks that there is a lesson government must draw from the above words of the revered traditional monarch.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Makeup Through the Years

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makeup

From a very young age, girls are taught that makeup is a way to enhance their natural beauty. There are endless tutorials and tips on how to apply makeup. The reality is that most women don’t wear makeup for the sake of looking good. In fact, many women wear makeup as a form of self-expression or as a way to boost their confidence. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there are certain makeup essentials that every woman should have in her beauty arsenal. These include a good foundation, concealer, powder, blush, mascara, and lipstick.

With these products, you can create various looks, from a natural daytime look to a glamorous evening look. While some women are content with a minimal makeup routine, others enjoy experimenting with different products and looks. If you’re someone who loves experimenting with makeup, then you’ll need a wider range of products, including eyeshadow, eyeliner, and bronzer. No matter what your reasons for wearing makeup are, there’s no denying that it can be a lot of fun. So go ahead and experiment with different products and looks to find what makes you feel your best. When you figure it out, it’s a 22Bet bonus!

Makeup Updates

As the years go by, makeup changes with the trends. In the early 1900s, makeup was used to accentuate the features of the face and was seen as a way to enhance beauty. Women would use rouge on their cheeks, kohl around their eyes, and lipstick to accentuate their lips. This was seen as a way to attract a husband and was seen as being very important for a woman’s social status.

However, in the 1920s, makeup became more about individuality and self-expression. Women would experiment with different colors and looks, and it was seen as a way to be creative. Women were also starting to wear more makeup in public, and it was seen as a way of empowering women.

The start of the “glamorous” look that was popular in Hollywood was in the 1930s. In the 1940s, makeup was used to create a more natural look. Women would use foundation to even out their skin tone, and they would use powder to set their makeup. They would also use rouge on their cheeks and lipstick to accentuate their lips. This was seen as a more sophisticated look, and it was also seen as being more appropriate for work and other public places.

In the 1980s, makeup was used to create a more polished look. Women would use foundation to even out their skin tone, and they would use powder to set their makeup. They would also use eyeliner and mascara to define their eyes. Today, makeup is used to create a variety of different looks. It is up to the individual to decide how they want to use makeup to express themselves.

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Does Nigeria Have a Problem or a Situation?

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Nigeria's budget deficit

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

In 1845, Karl Marx jotted down some notes for The German Ideology, a book that he wrote with his close friend Friedrich Engels. Engels found these notes in 1888, five years after Marx’s death, and published them under the title Theses on Feuerbach. The eleventh thesis is the most famous: ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it’.

The most widely accepted interpretation of this thesis is that, in it, Marx urges people not only to interpret the world but also to try and change it. However, we do not believe that this captures the meaning of the sentence. What we believe that Marx is saying is that it is those who try to change the world that has a better sense of its constraints and possibilities, for they come upon what Frantz Fanon calls the ‘granite block’ of power, property, and privilege that prevents an easy transition from injustice to justice.

Nigeria is a very strange place. In Nigeria, we debate what is real, and imagined, what is fantasy and what is reality.

In Nigeria, we are problem-focused. We always have problems, our politicians, our leaders, the systems, our structure, our past, our present and future, our people, our democracy, and our elections. Everything has a problem. Everything and everyone is a problem.

You leave Plateau state to Bauchi to do an MRI scan because there is a problem with the problem. The prestigious and renowned University College Hospital Ibadan where it was said the Saudi royalty once upon a time came for their healthcare, currently has barely a twenty-bed ICU. See problem!

The governor of Abia has done a lot, including getting an eatery to establish an outlet in the state, the same Abia boasts of Aba, considered one of the dirtiest cities around and also one of the most industrious and neglected by the government. Solution and problem joined together!

Tell me the state and I will show where the people are drinking multidimensional pove-tea from all strata of government. Daura in Katsina hasn’t produced an exceptional student in any exam, even as the president’s homestead and the state continue to be plagued by insecurity.

Fake teachers from Abeokuta, the cradle of knowledge, to Jos, the land of natives and non-natives.

What are we committed to, what are we sacrificing for and to, what does Nigeria mean to us? Let’s break it if that’s a solution, so pedestrian and easy, I will remind us when the arm dealers are sealing and dealing with The Nupe Warlords, Anaguta freedom fighters, Fulani Miyetti and Hausa Aggrieved Warriors or Rare Igbo Union, it won’t be funny.

Welcome to Nigeria, in Nigeria, we don’t have problems because we are the problems, no. We don’t have problems; we have situations. If your wife catches you with a neighbour’s wife, you don’t have a problem, you have a situation. Problems are had to solve; situations can be solved. If your girlfriend is spending more time with another guy, if you don’t have money, all these are situations. Change your girlfriend or change your mindset, your work or something.

Nigeria as a whole, as a country, or nation, as a people have a situation we have gotten to that point on several occasions, we were there, and the civil war broke out, our several ethnographic-ethno religious conflicts have taken us there, the menace of herdsmen and farmers, bandits and politicians keep taking us closer to the precipice.

The powerful not only control social wealth; they also control the public policy discussion — and what counts as intellectually correct. Good ideas are never sufficient. They are not believed or enacted simply because they are right. They become the ideas of our time only when those who come to believe in their own power, which use this power to struggle through institutions and advance their ideas, wield them.

Nigeria is in a situation, will men of a good conscience and patriots stand up to be counted? There’s no structure or system to build upon. Yet we must sit and talk about who we are and how we want to live, our current situation provides yet another opportunity for us to look forward, and understand where we are coming from, and take a leap with understanding what needs to be done according to each peculiarity.

I end with this story.

So, I went to a mental institution and wanted to send one person home. So I am going to ask a simple question. I asked the first person 3×3, and the fellow scratched his head, and he answered 164, I said to him, go back. Then I asked the second person the same question, and he smiled, looked up and then responded after a while Tuesday. Sorry. Wrong answer. Go back to your room

I almost gave up, until I went to the last person and asked the same question, if you can answer this question, I will let you go. He looked back at the other two who had left and smiled and said doctor, it’s 9. Right, and I gave him the release papers, and he started running to the door. But before he ran away, I said I need you to tell me something; your two friends did not come up with the right answer. How did you manage it? He said it’s so simple. I multiplied 164 by Tuesday, and I got 9.

Nigeria may get the right answer, but is the thinking correct? Nigeria finds answers often at the last minute, but truth be told, ‘the country has been interpreted in various ways that only capture problems, without a change in thinking, we won’t solve it, we must see our present circumstances as situations that can change with a different interpretation, and better thinking.

We must, as a people, want to try and change our situation despite the sense of the constraints and possibilities of the ‘granite block’ of power, property, and privilege that prevents an easy transition from injustice to justice. We must want to try, we must want to change, we must want to solve, and must want a new narrative. Are we in trouble or in a situation where there are solutions? Only time will tell.

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