SIR: The dialogue on Niger Delta Economic Discourse Series which has as a theme: Presidential Amnesty Program and Modular Refineries: Towards sustainable human capital relations,” deeply appraised the programs and came up with useful recommendations. It was organized by a Warri-based newspaper, GbaramatuVoice, supported by critical stakeholders comprising of Niger Delta region ex-agitators, policymakers from both state and federal levels, agencies and commissions, development professionals, media professionals, traditional rulers from the oil producing communities , representatives of different security agencies and apparatus in the country among others.
The discourse again raises the questions as to why Niger Delta region challenges have become an unending commentary that have defied every solution proffered in recent past by individuals, specialized groups and professionals? Is it not an absurdity of the sort that instead of shared prosperity and national cohesion, oil has brought Nigeria conflict and poverty, inequality and oppression, dependency, recurrent economic recession and environmental dilapidation? How do we explain the fact that despite the abundance of oil and gas, hydro and energy resources, guarantees for the most part, Nigerians live in darkness and businesses atrophy for lack of power supply?
Is the Niger Delta region situation a case of resource curse (Dutch Disease), also known as the paradox of plenty or the poverty paradox, where countries with an abundance of natural resources having less economic growth, less democracy, or worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources?
Aside from dwelling in details on sustainable actions that could consistently be taken by the Federal Government and other interventionist agencies to project Niger Delta region in good light, some particularly agencies Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) have in recent times provided platforms for all to ventilate their Concerns about the now extended Presidential Amnesty Program as well as the Federal Government proposed modular refineries to be sited in the Niger Delta region. But successive administrations in the country viewed these propositions as a prank.
Regrettably, failure to adjust, adapt and incorporate these calls by the nation’s policy makers have characterized the region, in the estimation of the watching world, as an ”unfinished project,” worse than a ”work-in-progress,’ ‘ This has gone so bad that even at 62, no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria. Over the years, myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality and peace.
To move forward, the present administration must recognize that any personality who wants to grow in leadership must almost always scale and be open to learning. They must be molded by new experiences to improve their leadership.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the program coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.