THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION’S APPROACH TO INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE NIGER DELTA REGION OF NIGERIA
1.1 Background to Study
Oil was discovered in Nigeria in the late 1950s in the Niger Delta Region (NDR); since then the country has been faced with many challenges such as infrastructure development, environmental degradation and struggle for resource control. During the oil boom of the 1970’s, Nigeria joined the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and billions of dollars generated from production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. As oil production and revenue rose, it became the main earner of foreign exchange and driver of the economy. The government focused on the oil industry and neglected other sectors of the economy making her an oil dependent State. The region accounts for 40% gross domestic product (GDP) and 80% gross revenue for the country. To date, Nigeria is the largest oil producing country in Africa and 12th in the world with a capacity to produce over 2 million barrels of oil per day (bpd).
The NDR enriched the Nigerian State but its people became poorer. Exploitation of crude oil in the region has been going on for over 50 years with no form of development commensurate with wealth accrued to the national coffers. Rather, the people of the region live in abject poverty, unemployment, lack of basic amenities, environmental degradation and hopelessness. A large portion of the wealth generated from the region has been mismanaged and invested in white elephants by corrupt past military dictators and politicians.
The situation in the NDR is unlike other world oil regions. Firstly, In Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, most oil facilities are sited away from human habitation and these governments have well established environmental protection laws. In the Niger Delta, farmers with farming tools meander through pipelines crossing farmlands; communities live close to the flared gas and are at the receiving end of the negative effect of oil operations. This has severely affected the easiest source of livelihood for the people: agriculture. Secondly, the Niger Delta is made up of mangroves, swamps and rainforest posing a difficult and fragile terrain which has made development possibilities in the area a serious challenge (Thomas 2001). There is a problem of accessibility to the creeks
of the region due to poorly developed transportation networks including waterways, roads and bridges.
The genesis of the problem in the Niger Delta can be tied to government’s legislation promulgated by the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo which enacted the controversial Land Use Decree of 1978 and the Petroleum Act. The Decree vested the ownership of land in the country on the Governor of the State who would hold such land in trust for the people. With such a Decree enforced, it denied the communities the right to claim royalties from oil sourced from their own land and multinational oil companies were under no contractual obligation to develop these communities.
The Federal Government has attempted several times to address the needs of the region through establishment of development agencies but too many times have these bodies failed to live up to expectation because of government’s strong involvement, inadequate and irregular funding, official profligacy, corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, and high overhead expenditure. These claims are addressed further in the course of this research. On December 21, 2000 the Government officially inaugurated the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with a vision to offer a lasting solution through addressing the development of social and physical infrastructure, ecological / environmental remediation and human development.
Government’s neglect in paying special attention to the developmental needs of the region over the years has evolved to restiveness in the area giving birth to insurgents, vandalizing of oil pipelines, kidnapping of expatriates, upsurge of violence all to get government’s attention. To bring calm to the region, President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated a committee to develop a 15 years development master plan for the region under the NDDC and the present administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua created a Federal Ministry of Niger Delta