Nigeria: Government to spend oil income on Niger Delta amid fears of siphoning

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The Nigerian government has agreed to spend 10% of oil revenue directly in the communities of the Niger Delta, as part of a plan to stop militants from attacking oil installations in the delta. However the authorities are thorn on how to disseminate the funds so as to achieve the desired goal.

“The idea is for the benefits to flow directly to the delta people. Every community, whether blind or deaf or dumb, every citizen will say: ‘I own a part of this business,” Emmanuel Egbogah, Presidential adviser is quoted by the UK’s Financial Times, adding that the money would go directly to the various communities, bypassing powerful state governors. Concerned Nigerians, however, believe that local officials would systematically embezzle the money.

According to reports, more than $338m is expected to be put into the Niger Delta communities in the first year of the plans’ implementation. And although the plan has been has been greeted as a welcomed development by some observers, given the fact that rebel factions claim to be fighting for a fairer share of oil wealth for delta residents, some however say that the allocation of Nigeria’s oil money, though strictly governed by the constitution, is likely to face stiff opposition from the regions outside the delta, because it would mean reduced revenue for them.

The Niger delta militants in the name of grievance have resorted to killing and kidnapping, and funding their activities by virtue of oil theft. The Nigerian government conversely embarked on an amnesty program and has persuaded a number of leading militants to hand in their arms in exchange for education, rehabilitation and cash, raising hopes of an end to the unrest which has severely curtailed oil output in Nigeria. But it is widely believed that the rebels have not given up their entire arsenals – albeit the significant quantities of weapons dumped. In fact, the lack of independent monitors verifying what happens to those weapons is provoking concern.

According to local reports, there are no neutral observers collating the serial numbers of guns, for example, or formally witnessing weapons being put beyond use; in its place, that job is being done by officials in local government. The siphoning of some of these weapons is feared.

Oil companies

Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil society group has given the Nigerian government seven days ultimatum to commence collection of overdue revenue from six multinational oil companies including Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) or face legal action. “Under international law, Nigeria is obligated to use its maximum available resources to achieve economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens. Implicit in this obligation is the responsibility of the government to exercise due diligence in the collection of all due revenue. The more resources a state has the greater its ability to provide services that guarantees economic, social and cultural rights, said Mr. Femi Falana, solicitor to SERAP.

Oil and natural gas in Nigeria is reported to have led to reprehensible corrupt practices in the country. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average Nigerian community. A Nigerian pre-independence political leader, Obafemi Awolowo, once said, since independence, our governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others.

Some writers also have posited about the different potential causes of flagrant and graft that exists in the country: many blame greed and ostentatious lifestyle as a potential root cause of corruption. Nevertheless, a modern practical approach to leadership and political relationships has gradually taken a prominent role in the political process. The necessity for practical inter-dependence and cooperation is at the forefront of yearnings for good governance in the country.

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