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Towards arresting restiveness in Niger-Delta

By Sunmola Olowookere

Water, water everywhere but none to drink” is an old, tired cliche that has been used overtime to capture the situation of events in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria. What came as a blessing to the nation seemed to be a curse to the people as the environment became terribly polluted and their natural habitat became almost in habitable. Their water became undrinkable and the fishes died off.

Hence, It is also no longer news that the people’s way of life became eroded following the discovery of oil. The discovery had attracted huge business concerns and oil magnates to the area. However, as the area developed, the same thing cannot be said about the living standards of the people whose traditional source of making a living was yanked out of their grasp.

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is made up of: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States. According to UNDP report of 2006, they constitute the third largest wetland in the world.

The region is characterized by: rivers, creeks, estuaries and swamps, as well as other natural resources like: palm oi and kernel. fish, oil and gas. The economic pre-occupation of the people of this region has been farming and fishing, salt making, hand-dug boat making and distillation of local gin. The availability of ol and gas in this region attracted several oil and gas Multinational Companies such as Chevron, Shell and Mobil producing (Exxon Mobil) to its major cities like, Port Harcourt, Warri, Yenagoa and the rest.

 Despite the presence of these conglomerates, the people especially the youths lament lack of employment opportunities, failed promises and unmet expectations.

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In any society, unemployment is an unwanted social trend and its effects on the aggrieved youth of the Niger Delta are geared towards crime. This chronic sense of grievance was created by the highly unequal distribution of resources to and within the Niger Delta region exacerbated by negligence on the part of oil multinational companies and government with respect to environmental protection and a failure on the multinational companies to create local employment as well as support local entrepreneurship.

 This has resulted to the levels of violence driven by criminality, impunity and corruption in the Niger Delta. Despite the attempts made by successive administrations to manage unemployment and youth restiveness in the region, the issue continue to generate more attention.

 Crime types that were not existing in the region before now such as kidnapping and hostage taking, pipeline vandalization, youth restiveness to mention a few came on board and spread to other parts of the country which indicated that the youths were restive.

The youth restiveness has led to the intervention of government in addressing some of the problems in Niger Delta region through the creation of Ministry of Niger delta, establishment of Niger Delia Development Commission and establishment of National Amnesty Programme. Also, those government strategies such as implementation of National Amnesty Programme.

Non governmental organizations are not left out of the race for the betterment of the people living in the Niger Delta region as many non state actors express concern about raising the people’s standard of living.

At the forefront of this initiative is a foundation which seeks to mobilize various actors in the peace and security sector in the Niger Delta, to ensure coordination among stakeholders that are influential to peace, security, and development in the region known as  Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND).

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 The PIND foundation through its 2024 first quarter Niger Delta Peace and Security Network (NDPSN)}meeting called upon stakeholders in the Niger Delta of Ondo state  to put in place mechanisms to arrest restiveness and promote relative peace in the area.

As part of efforts in achieving this, the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND) embarked upon massive youth empowerment programmes in a bid to engage the youth and achieve regional peace in the region.

Sharing this during the first quarter meetingg held at Sunview Hotel, Alagbaka, Akure last week was the Facilitator for PIND, Stella Ikeokwu.

While speaking with The Hope, she said that there had been a series of conflicts in the Niger Delta over land issues, water boundary clashes, and inter-cult clashes which have contributed to the restiveness in the region.

According to her, this has led the government and other concerned organizations to focus their attention on promoting peace, improving security, and supporting economic development in the region.

Ikeokwu explained that the restiveness in the area also informed PIND ‘s drive towards peace-building and improved livelihoods in the region, through its peace-building and economic development programmes.

She maintained that it was time to look beyond using only security agencies to keep peace in the region and engage civilians in driving the peacekeeping objective of the Foundation.

Her words “It is cheaper to prevent conflict than to manage it. Therefore we have engaged people from the religious bodies, traditional rulers, civil society organizations, and the media to form a synergy and bring up strategies that would help in preventing conflicts from arising.

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” In riverine areas of Ilaje/Eseodo, there have been reports of inter-cult clashes that lead to loss of lives sometimes over trivial matters. We were able to wade into the matter through the help of uniform servicemen. We have also engaged the youths in learning alternative means of livelihood apart from the one they are accustomed to. We have had ex-militants and former members of cult groups denounce their membership of such groups. And we are now using them to reach out to other youths in the Niger Delta states”.

Also reacting, the National Coordinator Partners for Peace in The Niger Delta, High Chief Pius Akomolafe said that the foundation is responsible for maintaining peace in the Niger Delta states.

He stated that they identify various stakeholders in driving the peacekeeping in the area such as the families, organizations, communities, artisans, security agencies, and traditional rulers.

He informed that the meeting was to institutionalize a structure coordinating peace and security mechanisms in the state in order to mitigate conflicts in the region.

In furtherance of its objectives, the Foundation further called for dialogue with relevant stakeholders to enhance the effectiveness and coordination of interventions that are designed to reduce conflict or to prevent the start or resumption of violent conflicts in the Niger Delta.

The goal of the network was to address the underlying drivers, neutralize potential triggers of violence, create a societal expectation for peaceful conflict resolution, or stabilize the society politically and socio-economically.

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