SDN has been engaging with the Federal Government, international community, and others, over some immediate priorities for development in the Niger Delta that could help avoid regional violence, loss of life, and disruption to the oil sector following the 2019 general elections.
The Federal Government should commit to acting on the following priorities within three months of resuming office on the 29th May, as part of a longer-term and comprehensive response to the complex challenges of the Niger Delta, to benefit everyone living in the region.
1. Dialogue with Niger Delta actors:
- Commit to open, structured, and regular dialogue with groups representing key actors and civil society in the Niger Delta to find out their priorities for the region.
- Hold the first meeting with all key groups within the first three months of resuming office, and in that meeting, develop a plan for continued engagement and tracking of agreed targets and priorities.
2. Enacting a coordinated development plan for the Niger Delta:
The Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) addresses key development imperatives in the Niger Delta, including many priorities of those in the region. It also has a structure for its implementation, via the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Niger Delta, chaired by the Vice President. The Government should commit to:
- Ratifying its adoption by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
- Updating it and making the first year’s plan public within three months.
3. Ensuring the success of HYPREP in the Ogoni clean-up and restoration:
Contractors have been selected and allocated to the first clean-up sites but there are problems with release of funds and concerns about contracting processes. The government must ensure:
- Funding is released for HYPREP’s activities.
- Progress is carefully monitored to ensure contractors deliver to a high standard.
- A timetable for funding and progress is published.
NOSDRA is funded to conduct its own monitoring of the clean-up and restoration, augmenting HYPREPs own monitoring.
4. Passing a key Bill to prevent further environmental damage:
The NOSDRA Amendment Bill passed in the National Assembly but the President declined to assent to it. The current draft Bill would have empowered NOSDRA to inspect oil and gas infrastructure – a first step in working towards infrastructure improvement and reducing environmental damage from oil spills. The National Assembly should:
- Work together with the President to ensure the bill can be passed.
- Maintain the Bill’s provisions to strengthen NOSDRA’s remit to ensure the prevention of, and prompt response to, oil spill pollution.
5. Finalising the timetable for petroleum industry reform:
- Develop and commit to a timetable for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
- The timetable should plan for the passage of the Bill within 12 months, and contain concrete commitments to include meaningful input from civil society representatives from the Niger Delta during the drafting process.
6. Reform of the Niger Delta Development Commission:
Clear early signs of reform at the Commission would show strategic commitment to the region and ensure far better use of the largest Federal fund impacting the region. With new appointments due there is an opportunity to appoint reformers not aspiring for political office.
Prior to the 2019 elections, risks to stability in the region were already elevated due to limits on progress in the region since 2016 and polarized politics in key states. Risks to stability have been exacerbated by challenges seen during the elections, especially in Rivers state where state elections were postponed due to violence and other interference.
Previous elections have seen a cycle of agitation and militancy, as actors in the region disrupt the oil industry to draw attention to their grievances, and force their inclusion at high-level discussions on the Niger Delta. In 2016 Nigeria’s oil production was nearly halved to 1.1m bpd in the space of a few weeks. The resulting negative impact was felt across the Nigerian economy, and in the everyday lives of those living in the Niger Delta.