Oil & gas: the issues informing the narratives and behaviours in the Niger Delta

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Nigeria is the largest producer of oil in Africa. It also has the 2nd largest oil reserves in Africa, next to Libya. Nigeria’s oil is of high quality and favoured by refineries around the world. Nigeria accounted for 3.9% of the world’s crude oil exports in 2017, making Nigeria the 8th highest oil exporter.

Oil is so important to the Nigerian economy. Nigeria depends almost entirely on oil exports for foreign exchange earnings. The yearly budgets at federal, states and local government levels are very much dependent on oil revenue. A drop in oil output and price, can send huge shocks to the Nigerian economy.

Most of the oil that Nigeria and its private sector partners produce, is from the Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta is ethnically and culturally diverse. It is rich in flora and fauna and hosts amazing biodiversity. The Niger Delta depends on its unique ecosystem, supporting fishing and farming, to sustain families, communities and its local economy. The Niger Delta needs the sustainability of the natural environment for survival and existence. Poor environmental practices in the oil and gas industry contaminates the environment and threatens their very existence.

This is why the Niger Delta is clearly a region for special attention and need, as it continues to contribute to the Nigerian economy. Indeed, encouraging and enforcing better environmental protection and management practices by oil companies; opportunities for the involvement and engagement of Niger Deltans in the value and supply chains in the oil industry; and enhancing social investments in host communities by oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, would reduce the negative impact of the oil & gas industry on the Niger Delta.

There is however, the broader issue on how policies and decisions, at state and federal levels, that determine how the earnings from oil is shared and spent in Nigeria, are made. Is the revenue from oil and gas wasted on the wrong policies, projects and programmes to benefit a few privileged Nigerians? Or, is the revenue invested to expand pipelines of opportunities to all Nigerians to justify the sacrifice of the good people of the Niger Delta?

The evidence suggests that:

  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when corruption is responsible for the irony in which the largest exporter of oil in Africa, becomes one of the largest importers of petroleum products in the world, subsidised by the Nigerian government. And, Nigeria fails to rally private investment to develop the mid and downstream sector of the petroleum industry to expand economic opportunities to all Nigerians.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when corruption steals away investment, and is responsible for poor supply of electricity, fuels and water; and poor transportation, to support industrialisation and job creation. Nigeria and Nigerians continue to pay ‘a high price’ for depending on imports for the supplies of basic goods that we could comparatively produce in Nigeria.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when corruption steals away investment in education, healthcare and social housing to improve the life of Nigerians; and to equip Nigerians with the right skills needed to diversify and build an inclusive economy.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when its sons and daughters (like millions of young Nigerians) cannot access jobs, and the investment that they require to take their ideas to market. A Nigerian environment that promotes entitlement; and receding the “distance to frontiers” on “ease of doing business”.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when access to political power continues to determine the mal-distribution of our collective wealth. Our country is captured by a few who continue to divide and misrule us. And fail to improve security and public safety in the midst of threats from insurgency and terrorism.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when the money that should have been invested in Nigerians, developing all parts of Nigeria and securing Nigeria, is stolen. We face threats from insurgency and terrorism, at great costs to Nigerians and our country.
  • the Niger Delta bears double burden and painfully so, when our country is so divided.

The Niger Delta is therefore uniquely positioned to ask the following tough questions:

  1. Are we sacrificing for a better Nigeria or a country in which corruption and regressive policies undermine; and ordinary Nigerians are continuously worse off?
  2. Are we sacrificing for national success or failure?

The Niger Delta needs to join in, and champion the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It should make the case, that it cannot continue to sacrifice so much for the corruption-drain. The sacrifice of the Niger Delta must mean something: a Nigeria where every Nigerian is empowered to thrive. This should be the narrative. This is the change that we need.

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ANN Strategy and Public Enlightenment Unit www.alliancefornewnigeria.org 

Good governance │ Uniting Nigerians │ Investing in Nigerians │ Building Nigeria

Article by David Kieghe