Home Key issues facing the Niger Delta Today

Key issues facing the Niger Delta Today

Energy poverty and access to energy

Despite the enormous energy reserves of the Niger Delta, government and private enterprise meet less than 10 per cent of the energy needs of the region. The high cost of running generators and lack of sustainable alternatives is a significant obstacle to economic diversification of the Niger Delta. This energy poverty reinforces unemployment, limits social mobility and fuels militancy. For the people of the Niger Delta this is particularly grating as vast amounts of oil and gas are taken daily from beneath their feet and gas flares burn billions of dollars worth of useful gas over their heads that could easily provide electricity.

Oil theft and illegal oil refining are seen by many as simply fulfilling domestic demand for fuel products that would otherwise be shipped abroad.

Poor democratic institutions and practices

The democratic transition in Nigeria remains incomplete. Weak and dysfunctional institutions lack legitimacy, while the vast majority of citizens in the Niger Delta are structurally excluded from democratic participation.

Unaccountable politics and lack of capacity of institutions to deliver development, protect justice, ensure due process and security have resulted in collective public frustration that at times contributed to cycles of violent conflict.

Oil spills and gas flaring

Poor operating practices, weak law enforcement and an active illegal oil economy contribute to hundreds of oil spills a year in the Niger Delta. This environmental disaster destroys traditional livelihoods, breeds mistrust and resentment and undermines the operational security of oil companies and Federal Government.

Gas flared every day in the Niger Delta is equivalent to the daily gas consumption of Brazil. This multi-billion dollar waste not only leaves communities without effective energy solutions, but is the single, biggest contributor to CO2 emissions in Africa.

The utilisation of waste associated gas has the potential to address Nigeria’s acute domestic energy crisis and stimulate economic diversification and growth in the Niger Delta.

In addition, the utilization of flared gas to address energy poverty is an important part of creating an enabling environment in the Niger Delta. Provision of localised and reliable electricity will also reduce one of the primary drivers of illegal oil refining.

Poor governance and service delivery

Essential services such as power, sanitation, healthcare and primary education have not been delivered to communities.

Corruption, patronage and weak governance have led to underdevelopment and significant unrest. Over past decades, government has failed to meet the most basic needs of communities. A dominant patronage system ensures that government representatives do not have to rely on citizen led accountability or their own performance to remain in office.

Hundreds of billions of US dollars of oil receipts have been squandered with limited public scrutiny and accountability. Governance failure has resulted in the substantial resources being squandered for personal gain, rather than used to improve health, education and developmental infrastructure.

The patronage system, lack of transparency and accountability also affect private contracting and frontline service providers which results in corrupt practices around contract implementation and poor quality of services delivered. Performance of frontline professionals is plagued by high absenteeism, low motivation and insufficient quality.

Land clearances and displacements

79% of Nigeria’s urban population live in slums. ‘Slum clearance’, leading to mass displacement and social dislocation, is too often the government’s response to the complex challenges of cities.

SDN’s Urban Justice programme brings together communities, planners and politicians to create sustainable solutions that move away from policy based on mass clearance and demolition towards partnership-driven development.

Subjugation of women

Women in the Niger Delta suffer from many forms of discrimination and exclusion. Their inequality in political, economic and societal sphere prevents them from achieving their full potential in promoting peace and acting as constructive agents of change at all levels of society. This is despite their unique and proven talents as peacemakers and community developers.

In line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Niger Delta can become more stable if obstacles are removed that prevent the participation of women in decision-making and peace building processes and their needs, perspectives and experiences are considered in policymaking and incorporated into all stages of programming.