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An Analysis of the Nigerian Niger Delta Conflict

Conflict resolution as a defined field of study was proposed in the 1950s and 1960s. Conflict is disagreements between people that pursue goals of interest. It could be intra psychic, interpersonal, intragroup, intergroup, intra national and international, and intra state and interstate.  At the height of the Cold War, when the development of nuclear weapons and the conflict between the superpowers seemed to threaten human survival, propositions on how to
resolve, manage and prevent a conflict from escalating began to emerge. A group of pioneers from different disciplines saw the value of studying conflict as a general phenomenon, with similar properties whether it occurs in international relations, domestic politics, industrial relations, communities and families or between individuals. They saw the potential of applying approaches that were evolving in industrial relations and community mediation settings to conflicts in general, including civil and international conflicts.

A handful of people in North America and Europe began to establish research groups to develop these new ideas. They were not taken very seriously. The international relations profession had its own categories for understanding international conflict and did not welcome the intruders. Nor was the combination of analysis and practice implicit in the new ideas easy to reconcile with established scholarly institutions or the traditions of practitioners such as diplomats and politicians. Nevertheless, the new ideas attracted interest, and the field began to grow and spread. Scholarly journals in conflict resolution were created. Institutions to study the field were established, and their number rapidly increased. The field developed its own subdivisions, with different groups studying international crises, internal wars, social conflicts and approaches ranging from negotiation and mediation to experimental games.

Conflict resolution ideas were increasingly making a difference in real conflicts as at 1980s. In South Africa, for example, the Centre for Intergroup Studies was applying the approaches that had emerged in the field to the developing confrontation between apartheid and its challengers, with impressive results. In the Middle East, a peace process was getting under way in which negotiators on both sides had gained experience both of each other and of conflict resolution through problem- solving workshops. In Northern Ireland, groups inspired by the new approach had set up community relations initiatives that were not only reaching across community divides but were also becoming an accepted responsibility of local government. In war- torn regions of Africa and South- East Asia, development workers and humanitarian agencies were seeing the need to take account of conflict and conflict resolution as an integral part of their activities.

By the closing years of the Cold War, the climate for conflict resolution was changing radically. With relations between the superpowers improving, the ideological and military competition that had fuelled many regional conflicts was fading away. Protracted regional conflicts in Southern Africa, Central America, and East Asia moved towards settlements.
Our main point of discussion here is on CONFLICT IN Niger Delta, NIGERIA.

The history of the Niger Delta region is one characterized with violence and disharmony of various dimensions from ethnic to religion, economic to political patronage and accommodation. The escalating state of violence between the Niger-Delta youths and the Nigerian government is that of the politics of access to the oil fund. The crisis over control of oil resources has assumed different dimension over time, with the state of youth restiveness in the Niger- Delta region. Historically, the search for crude oil in Nigeria goes as far back as 1903 when the mineral survey company began mineralogical studies. Oil spillage was discovered in Araromi (Okitipupa area) some 300km east of Lagos, attracted by this sign, a German company obtained license from the Government in 1908 to exploit the oil deposits. 

The pioneer efforts unfortunately did not last long and the company stopped its operations at the outbreak of the First World War (1914 – 1918) having drilled 15 “wells dry”. Three decades later another major exploration effort was undertaken, the Anglo- Dutch consortium, SHELL D’Arcy (the fore runner of the SHELL Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) commenced exploration activities in 1937. Having being granted the sole commission right for oil exploration in Nigeria but did not go before the second world war (1939 – 1945) broke out and aborted their operations, the company now decided to limit its operations to the tertiary areas. After having over 80million, SHELL hit oil deposit in commercial quantities at Olobiri (now in Bayelsa state). In 1950, the company started production at the rate of 5,100 barrels per day and this doubled in 1959. 

The scale of monopolistic concession policy was abrogated in 1959 and replaced by exclusive exploration rights which accelerated the place of oil exploration by encouraging the participation of other companies. For instance, being inspired by success of SHELL- BP, Mobil, Chevron Texaco were later jointed in the late sixties(60s) and early seventies(70s) by a few indigenous companies like Henry Stephen, Delta Oil Resources in the search of oil, Department of Social Science Education Delta State University, Abraka. The resultant effect of the exploiting activities of these multinationals in the region is multiple environmental disorders, devastation of the ecosystem and most importantly deprivation through gas flaring and spillage, these coupled with non-sustainable resources and unjust federal fiscal policy which favors non-oil producing ethnic majorities. On the basis of equalities of the state and population in reaction to this, a counter force to the states action, youth movement emerged to confront the governments and the multinational companies. Notable among the youth movement are Movement for the survival of Ogoni people (MOSOP), Movement for the survival of Ijaw ethnic nationality in the Niger-Delta, Movement in preparations of Ogbia Ogbesu youths. These youth organizations in Delta State embarked on series of protest and demand against environmental degradation and total neglect thereby causing insecurity. They demanded for accelerated development of their area from oil generated revenue accrued to them; and accusing the government of economic disempowerment and handling of environmental consequences of oil exploration with levity hence they sorted to violence. 

Some of such violence activities include kidnapping and the armed insurrection against the Nigerian State was formally launched. After the 1998 Kiama Declaration, comprising mainly of ethnic militias of which over 70% are of the Ijaw ethnic origin, the youths accused the state of systematic looting of their God-given resources and marginalization (Onoyume 2007). The youths have therefore militarized the struggle to develop their backward environment and to secure greater control of oil revenue derived from the region, this led to the establishment of armed groups operating under such names as Egbesu boys, Meinbutu, Arobgo Freedom Fighters, Joint revolutionary council and most especially the dreaded Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger- Delta (MEND) and the activities of this militant groups have serious implications to peace and security in the region. Based on this oil exploitation, national revenue profit and other derivatives the country is facing numerous threats such as blowing up of oil wells, kidnapping of expatriates and oil workers thereby causing political instability and insecurity, most times the insecurity and crisis in  in Niger Delta region is alarming. Youth restiveness is a phenomenon that has attracted both national and international attention in recent time. 

Against this background, successive government and civilian alike have battled with Niger- Delta crisis with the accompanied monumental loss of human and material resources, and yet lasting solutions seems intangible. Youth restiveness and security in all its ramifications possess a serious challenge to the nation. Consequently, every successive government had introduced one measure or the other to curb, control, minimize and manage youth unrest in the Niger- Delta and the latest measure taken by Yar'Adua/ Jonathan civilian government to curb the menace was the introduction of “Amnesty” programme where ex-militants and armed youths who have lived as fugitives in their country of birth are encouraged to lay down their illegally acquired arms and ammunitions to get rehabilitated and reabsorbed in to the Nigerian society as free born citizens. 

Once again it is obvious that the refusal of the Nigeria state to respond positively to the pens and placards of the Harold Dappapriye and the Saro- Wiwas’ era has created an environment of anger and desperation, more so, the dialogue option has equally failed because the Nigerian state have refused to adequately implement numerous blue prints for development in the region. Nigeria is the jewel in the African oil crown, but oil, militancy and insecurity in Delta and in general the Niger - Delta has become a subject of discussion just like the British weather, whereas the oil produced in the Niger-Delta is the life blood of the Nigerian economy. Oil has failed to translate to national prosperity development in the Niger- Delta. The region has become a hot bed of crisis because the problem of neglect and marginalization has been pushing the people to resist deprivations, intimidation and domination, hegemony politics and injustice. From the dialects of violent agitations (militancy) in Delta state, the Niger- Delta, two arguments appears a discernable one, that violent oil agitation is as a result of the Nigerian government application of force in unveiling non-violent agitation protests of Niger- Delta against the state of gross under-development of that area that arose from the neglect of both federal government and multinational oil companies operating in the area. 

We must reiterate the fact that the tremendous amount of oil revenue derived from the Niger- Delta costs the people their farmlands, fishing rivers and a host of other health hazards (like acid rain) due to the enormous environmental degradation caused by oil production activities of petrol business. Reference are usually made to government’s violent actions such as the incarceration and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists of 1995, the Aloibiri Demonstration crisis 1997, the Kiama Declaration crisis of 1998, the Opia/Ikiyan invasion of 1999, the deployment of naval war ships to Warri by the federal government to quall the Ijaw- Itshekiri crisis over the revocation of Warri-south local government council headquarters from Ogbe-Ijoh and Ijaw town to Ogidegben an Itsekiri town, the arrest and detention of Asari Dokubo, Diepreye Alamieseigha, Henry Okah, etc (Oweila 2009). The second state of argument asserts that militancy in the Niger- Delta and Delta state in form of hostage taking, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, hijacking etc is a result of frustration due to lack of education, poverty, unemployment, idleness of the youths in the region, therefore contends that militants are not fighting for socio-economic and political emancipation of the region but simply to enrich themselves (Ibeanu 2000, Koroye 2007, Akanfa 2007, Igini 2008n Bariagh Amange 2009). The fundamental question that begs for answers is one which sides of the argument ' does the truth lie?’

We shall be considering four major factors as the causes of Niger Delta conflict.
Political Factors
From pre-independence, members of the Ibo and Yoruba ethnic group have dominated the people of the Niger Delta. By virtue of their population, the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta became a minority in relation to the two dominant ethnic groups in the two regions (Naanen, 1995; Obi, 1997). Since regional politics was basically primordial and often defined in terms of ethnicity, competitive communalism flourished, with the consequence that the Niger Delta minority ethnic groups suffered neglect under the rule of the two major ethnic groups. They lacked basic socio-economic and developmental infrastructure that could be considered to be at par with that in other parts of the region. For example, the Ogonis were so embittered that the chiefs complained to the Governor of Nigeria during his visit to the Eastern Region in 1956, that they were being denied access to scholarships, jobs, important positions, and other socio-economic opportunities. Naanen (1995) described this scenario as a case of 'internal colonialism'. Similarly, minority status within these regions meant the people of the region suffered political exclusion. It is on this basis that one can fathom why at independence, they clamored for a region of their own, out of fear of further political marginalization and socio-economic exclusion. This agitation lead only to the setting up of the Wilkin Commission in 1958, which conducted a study and reached the conclusion that the region was poor, backward, neglected and a harsh terrain to live.

Ethnic politics at the national level also gave little or no room for issues concerning the people of the Niger Delta to be addressed. Rather, such issues were relegated to the background of the national agenda or at best recommendations were made but never implemented. The politics that shrouded the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Board in 1960, and its eventual demise in 1966, attest to the disdain treatment of issues concerning minorities at national level in Nigeria.
With growing frustration, bitterness and a widespread sense of powerlessness, public protest became a viable means for the people of the Niger Delta to vent their grievances. Unfortunately, such expressions of grievances were not only worsening the legitimacy crisis of the military government, but also became a threat to their personal wealth accumulation schemes. 

The Nigerian-petrol-state saw the stakes in such agitations as too high for any kind of retreat, because it would totally erode the basis of its rule, legitimacy and continue production (Obi, 2001). Hence, due to its militaristic tendencies, the state continually used the armed forces to snuff out opposition that effectively ensured the militarization of the Niger Delta region and fuelled the breakdown of state society-relationship (Frynas, 2001).  The predominance of military rule in Nigeria was therefore one singular political factor that drove the people of the Delta to express their grievance through violence. The inability of the Nigerian state to maintain internal order with minimum use of force, and its inability to meet its social responsibility to the people has been said to be one of the root causes of this conflict.

Economic Factors
Economic factors engendering the conflict can be thought of in terms of two nexuses (i.e. political-economic and the economic-environment). The political-economic nexus to the conflict in principle rests squarely on oil revenue allocation, which directly heightened the sense of relative deprivation among the people of the Niger Delta. For example, Obi (1997; Obi 1999) and lbeanu (2000) affirmed that the bulk of the oil revenues generated from the region should be returned back to the region on the basis of fairness, compensation and self-determination is at the heart of the Niger Delta struggle. Other politico-economic factors include the renter status of Nigeria (Yates 1996) as well as the national economic crisis of the 1980s. As far as this write up is concern the reinter-predatory status of the Nigerian state contributed to the conflict in the Niger Delta in two main ways.

First, the reinter status, with the associated effect of 'Dutch disease', allowed the various state and local governments in Nigeria to become heavily dependent on the federal government for economic sustenance. Khan (1994) made allusion to this, when he stated that the state governments abandoned any pretense of a productive identity and relied unashamedly on federal government handouts. Given that competitive communalism had already taken a strong hold on Nigeria politics, issues of oil revenue allocation became a hotly contested terrain. Oil revenue was effectively a 'relatively accessed goods' such that the amount that accrues to any actor depends on the amount that accrues to its competitor. 

The relative accessed nature of oil revenue, among the tiers of government made increases in access to oil wealth for the people of the Niger Delta extremely difficult, which within the context of marginalization, gave room for the development of a 'worse off' feeling among the Niger Deltas, in relation to other major ethnic groups in Nigeria. The abnegation of the principle of derivation meant that the five southern oil-producing states that accounted for 90 per cent of oil revenue received 19.3 per cent of allocated revenue, and the five northern non-oil producing states conversely received 26 per cent of the allocated federal revenue (Ikporukpo, 1996). Despite its vast oil resources, the Niger Delta region still remains poor, with its GNP per capita and educational levels below national average, and 70 per cent of its people living below the poverty line (NDDC 2004). 

The second contribution of the predatory-reinter status of the Nigerian state arises from its inability to perform its traditional role of mediating conflicting and competing interest among the various strata of society as an unbiased umpire. Olojede et al. (2000) noted that since the Nigerian state is enmeshed in the crisis of accumulation, it could not extricate itself from social antagonism because the state, by implication, cannot be an impartial arbiter as it is a direct stockholder. In turn, this undermined the credibility of the Nigerian state within the polity of the Niger Delta. In the Niger Delta, Nigeria is seen as a privatized entity that has been parceled out as a means of production serving ethnic, personal and other interest at the expense of the people of the region (Obi, 1997).

The above perception is underpinned by the fact that for over 40 years, oil wealth has brought nothing to the people of Niger Delta, except ecological catastrophe, social deprivation, political marginalization, and a rapacious company capitalism in which unaccountable foreign oil companies are seen to be granted a sort of state immunity (Watts, 1998). Given the perception by the people of the Nigerian state as biased against their interest, the chances of the state being able to manage internal contradiction without recourse to force were significantly diminished. 

The economic-environmental nexus to the conflict relates to the role of poverty, the geography of oil and the economic impact of environmental degradation on host communities. Watts (1998) noted that insofar as oil is state property, then the relationship of oil producers (and citizens in general) with the state becomes an object of debate. In other words, oil as a subterranean and territorial resource that is highly centralized and a property of the state necessarily channels claims over nature ('our oil') into a sort of right talk. As Obi (2001) points out, the location of oil in the region of the ethnic minority gave the people leverage provided by 'economic power' to adopt an oil-owning identity and claim special rights. Hence, 'oil' minority rights reversed the perceived political and economic insignificance of the Niger Delta people by increasing the bargaining power of the people vis-a-vis the state. This sense of ownership of oil strengthened the peoples' resolve and provided the impetus for the people to demand political inclusion and for the state to meets its social responsibility to them.

Environmental Factors
 The relationship between the environment and political conflict has been a subject of debate since the dawn of history. However, in recent years consensus began to emerge that environmental factor cannot by themselves alone be the cause of conflict. Hence, the role of environmental factors in the Niger Delta conflict can only be understood in terms of being a proximate cause. Besides, given the dynamics of the conflict, it is difficult to see how environmental factors could contribute to conflict without interacting with pre-existing conflict generating factors. After all, political and economic factors are partly responsible for environmental degradation within the Niger Delta. 

The people of the Niger Delta are predominantly engaged in farming and fishing for their livelihood sustenance. Although there is scant empirical data on changes in agricultural production and land use due to environmental change, anecdotal evidence suggests such changes have occurred. According to Moffat and Linden (1995), issues of seasonal flooding and erosion have also been known to cause the loss of scarce arable lands. Available evidence also suggests that the fish stocks in the Niger Delta are being depleted from overuse. It also suggests that official catch figures exceeded the maximum sustainable yield for at least twelve of the last fourteen years, and this was attributed to over fishing. There is no doubt that the impacts of oil spills have been devastating in environmental and, therefore, economic terms for community members. According to Okoh (1996) and Olojede et al. (2000), oil spills jeopardize the occupation and means of livelihood of community members, and indirectly fuel competition for scarce arable land among community members.

Oil companies are known to acquire scarce arable lands for the construction of oil facilities or the laying of pipelines. Such land use often brings with it issues of compensation claims that very often lead to corporate-community conflict. Ibeanu (2000) argued that while the government and oil companies often portray communities as greedy, corrupt and unpatriotic as regards issues of compensation, such statements are simplistic and reductionist, in the sense that they mask the key issues at stake, and reveal very little about the relationship between the various stakeholders in the Nigerian oil industry. He argued that conflict over compensation is very often either about the type and amount, the procedures for making such payments, or the skewed nature of how compensation is distributed. These issues pertaining to environmental degradation arose partly as a result of government failure to effectively regulate the oil industry and its externalities, as well as due to the pursuit of self-serving cost cutting policies by the oil companies.

The environment-political nexus to the conflict therefore hinges on the poor performance of government, and the social irresponsibility of oil companies in the Niger Delta.
The consequence was that widespread environmental problems in the region became a useful variable that the elites could use to mobilize the youth and gain grassroots support for their confrontation with the Nigerian state. Since everyone felt the impact of environmental degradation, environmental factors made it possible for the cost of violence to be distributed widely, therefore making the cost of inaction seem to outweigh the cost of any violent action. Environmental factors thus widen the opportunity structure for collective violence, and made the prevailing condition unacceptable.

  Social Factors
The contribution of social factors to the conflict in the Niger Delta includes proliferation of the sense of relative deprivation, mass youth unemployment, and increased awareness that oil is a finite resource. Since independence, the number of educated people in Nigeria's rural communities has been on a steady increase (lbeanu, 2000; Ukeje, 2001), with an associated increase in awareness of the sense of relative deprivation. More people in the Niger Delta now realize that they were, and are, living in worse conditions than people from the majority ethnic groups (i.e. Yoruba, Hausa) in other parts of Nigeria, partially due to oil production in the Niger Delta. 

When elders and youth from the Niger Delta region travelled to big cities like Lagos and Abuja in search of jobs and a better life, they often brought back news and stories that the people were living in conditions not comparable with what is obtainable at home. lbeanu (2002) asserted that political rallies such as the one organized by Abacha in 1998 graphically showed participating unemployed youth from the Niger Delta, the stark contrast between opulence in cities like Abuja, funded by oil revenue, and pervasive squalor in their home communities. This spawned a deep sense of relative deprivation, frustration, and a feeling of rejection that are expressed at the slightest opportunity through violence.

The realization by the communities that oil was a finite resource given the experience from Oloibori where oil was first explored also brought a sense of urgency to act. According to Okoh (1996), the inhabitants of Oloibiri whose town was once a major hub of oil production now live a solitary and depressed life. Electricity, good roads and pipe-borne water are non-existent in Oloibiri. Two things remind the people that oil was drilled from their soil. The first is the presence of abandoned pipes and oil exploration equipment at the numerous sites that served as oil wells and flow stations. The second legacy is the infertility of their land. This situation has led many people in the Niger Delta to ask the question: what will be the fate of their community when oil wells finally dry up? (Okoh, 1996). Obviously, the answer to this question is not farfetched, as most people believe that history is bound to repeat itself. Hence, the Niger Delta people increasingly became less willing to sit it out and instead opt to take their future into their hands, making confrontation with the Nigerian state and the oil companies an inevitable outcome.

Overview of the Niger Delta Region
The Niger Delta region is situated in the Southern part of Nigeria and bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the East by Cameroon. It occupies 7.5% of the total land mass of Nigeria (about 70,000 square km2) and inhabits some 31 million people  from over 40 ethnic groups including Bini, Efik, Esan, Ibibio, Igbo, Annang, Oron, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Yoruba, Isoko, Urhobo, Ukwuani, Kalabari and Ogoni.  As in other major deltas in the world such as the Amazon in Brazil and the Mekong in Vietnam, the Nigerian Niger Delta region is a wetland and consists of creeks, estuaries and intricate marshlands. Deltas are regions of coastal terrain and river landforms; a rainforest or area surrounded by water and have special vegetation. Until the 1956 discovery of crude oil, the region was historically known as a major producer of palm oil and rubber and the inhabitants depend mainly on fishery and farming. 

The present day Niger Delta comprises of nine states from the South South and South East geo political zones of Nigeria. The core natural delta of Nigeria however, consists of areas covering parts of the present day six states namely Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta. In 2000 following the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) a federal government agency mandated to facilitate the “rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta” the region was extended to nine states and officially defined to include all oil producing states and others considered relevant for reasons of administrative convenience, political expediency and development objectives. Consequently, Abia, Imo and Ondo States were added to the Niger Delta Region.

Context of the Conflict
Oil as a natural endowment in a particular community, area or region, with its exploration and exploitation is expected to be an abundant blessing to such community, area or region. Unfortunately and regrettably too, oil has turned out to be a curse to the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria since 1956 when it was first discovered in the region.  Environmental degradation, destruction of aquatic lives, deforestation, water pollution and poor waste management have become the ecological characteristic of the Niger Delta due to oil exploration and exploitation, making the region uninhabitable. More bewildering is the paradox of producing the abundant natural resources that sustains the country’s economy and yet having to live in extreme neglect. 
In 1950, as Nigeria began to prepare for independence, the search for oil began in the Delta and by 1956 it was discovered in commercial quantities in a small village called Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa. Less than two years later it was discovered in larger quantities in Ogoni leading to the commercial production and sales of oil on the international markets. The Oloibiri oilfields were quickly extracted and they were dried off. Nothing of tangible nature was put back in the place to indicate petrodollars were carted away by the Federal Government and Shell Oil. What could be said to be the only significance was a fenced land meant for the development of an oil museum. The Ogoni and all other communities where oil was found had the same fate.
The multi-national oil companies (MNOCs) recklessly explored and exploit crude oil leaving behind massive oil spills and uncontrolled gas flaring that result in water pollution, deforestation and other environmental hazards. 

This endemic poverty in the midst of affluence and lack of democratization in the distribution of the revenues from the oil-producing states led to the numerous uprisings and insurgency witnessed in the region. Starting from the 1966 revolution and declaration of independence of the Niger Delta’s People’s Republic by the Isaac Adaka Boro led Niger Delta Volunteers Force against the massive expropriation, deprivation, squalor and neglect meted out on the people from where crude oil is being produced;  to the 1990 Ken Saro Wiwa agitation for compensation for environmental damage caused by oil drilling up till the 1999 formation of the armed resistance group, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), the conflict in the Niger Delta has been all about resource control, economic marginalization and environmental degradation.

As a result of the products from crude oil existing in the area the Niger Delta is Nigeria’s richest region; which makes Nigeria the largest petroleum producer in Africa and the sixth in the world. Resources (oil and gas) from the region are the main sources of revenue in Nigeria. Since the early 1990’s petroleum production have accounted for more than 25% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), oil exports have accounted for over 95% of its total export earnings and about 75% of government revenue.  However, this region remains one of the least developed parts of the country the region lack basic social amenities such as pipe-borne water, electricity, quality education and health care facilities.  

The untold hardship and sufferings meted out to the entire Ogoni ethnic nationality in the 1990s culminated in the execution of the amiable minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other eight Ogoni kinsmen, and the invasion and destruction of innocent lives and property in communities such as Odi, Odioma, Ayakoroma, Gbaramatu kingdom, Oporoza just to mention but a few by government forces. Therefore, it is not surprising that the consciousness of exploitation, marginalization and disempowerment has made the Niger Delta a region of deep rooted frustration, hence the escalating oil agitations in the region wrapped in militancy. 

Access to crude oil revenue, environmental degradation and economic mismanagement are the major trigger of conflict in the Niger Delta Region. Nigeria depends heavily on the commodity for export proceeds and government revenue, and as such, the economy is very vulnerable to oil price swings.  A trend which has not only crippled efforts at developmental reform, but has also resulted in social, economic, and political stagnation.

The Niger Delta has remained the treasure based of Nigeria state in the past three decades. The area harbors over 90 percent of Nigeria’s crude oil and gas resources, which accounts for 90 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. As at 2003, Nigeria’s crude oil reserves in the Niger Delta stood at 33 billion barrels, while the natural gas reserve was 160 trillion cu. Ft (Onuoha, 2(04). The Niger Delta region is therefore a place of intense exploration and exploitation of crude oil and gas. The consequence has been the massive environmental degradation of the area. The minority status of the autochthonous people of the area has leg to their political and economic marginalization in the larger Nigerian federation. This has bred in them a feeling of utter neglect, relegation and discrimination. For them, it is a pathetic case of living by riverside and washing hands with spittle.

The concept of violence or crisis in the Niger delta region has attracted academic scholarship in international politics. In the third world countries, the causes of conflict are usually associated to leadership failure and revenue allocation. The Niger delta area/region which comprise of six major states in the south-south geo-political zone in the country (Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom). It could also be stated that the region extended to some areas geographically because of the deposited of oil well such as Ondo state, Imo state.

The Niger delta militancy that gave birth to the kidnapping / pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta region that assumed its ugly face during late president Musa Yar’adua administration has raised a lot of security threat to the country/nation economy. The crisis has done serious damage to the safety of ordinary Nigerians as well as socio-economic and political development of the nation as a whole. The Niger Delta crisis according to security experts and academia in the various field of learning has attributed or heard their view that the divided menace could be able to thrive I that region because of the various role played by the stakeholders in the region and country at large.

It is very pertinent to know that conflict resulted into crisis stage due to the activities of the various stakeholders in the crisis; therefore, the Niger Delta which has poised serious security challenges to the country’s economy can be devoid of the stakeholders’ roles in the crises. This would make us to briefly discuss the role of stakeholders in the Niger Delta crisis in Nigeria.
Stakeholders in a conflict are the parties to conflict. Parties are individuals who are involve and participate to the conflict either directly or indirectly based on the feelings that they have interest to pursue, something at stake or because they believe that their interests and needs are being threatened in one way or the other.

 According to a renowned scholar in the field of peace and conflict studies, Professor Isaac Olawale Albert, he identified three types of stakeholders in conflict in one of his lectures which are
Primary stakeholders- these are considered to be the most visible parties in a conflict. They are the main actor in the conflict.

Secondary stakeholders- these are the individuals or groups that have relationship with the primary parties in a conflict. They play a very active role in the progression of the conflict.

The shadow stakeholder- these are indirect parties who are not visible in the conflict. The involvement is usually by proxy rather than directly, and from a distance. They complicate conflict situation mostly because it is difficult to identify them and their roles in any given conflict. In any social conflict, there are shadow parties.
 Having briefly discussed the various kinds of stakeholders above, it would be necessary to look  into how various stakeholders played a vital and tremendous  roles and in the Niger delta crises and providing ways in which the crises in the region was address and the region up to this moment was able to enjoy relative peace.

The Niger Delta crises which could be traced to the failure of the government of the country to provide basic infrastructural development to the region and addressing the rate of unemployment among the youth in the region made the region to be a volatile region in the country and it had adverse effect on the country economy. The region which is the economy based of the country in terms of national treasury had been neglected for so many years by government of the day. The people of the region were also being marginalized in the game of political offices and various sectors of the country. These factors made the youths in the region to wage war against the state in demanding for justice and equality in terms of development of their region. Although, the struggle was later hijacked by the so called sycophants in the region for their own selfish motives, efforts were still made by the government to manage the crisis.

The primary parties in the Niger Delta crises and majorly the youth who formed different bodies such as Niger Delta volunteer forces led by Alhaji Asari Dokubo, NASOP etc. they are fighting against the relative depravation of their region which served as the economic hub of the nation’s treasury by the government. They involved in various heinous activities against the state such as kidnapping both bigwigs in the oil sectors and the foreigners who are as collaborators with the government of marginalizing their region for their selfish interest. They also involve in pipeline vandalisation and other disastrous activities which chase foreign investors away from the region and has adverse effect on the country image both within and the world at large. 

The activities of this primary stakeholder reach raise its ugly situation during the tenure of late president Musa Yar’adua in which there was high rate of kidnapping; perpetual vandalisation and the country faced a serious dropped in the income earnings from crude oil. There were confrontations from the part of the government in putting the crises at bay. Also, individuals, groups and entities whose activities in the region have constituted social imbalance and deration of the environment were not silent during the outbreak. Instead of the government’s confrontation to put the Niger Delta militants into check, the reverse was the case. What we had then was conflict escalation rather than conflict de-escalation.

Also, it could be said that the conflict generated into serious crises through the activities of the secondary duperies which have been stated earlier in the course of this write-up. The primary stakeholders in the Niger Delta crises could not be able to achieve their main goals of alleviating the suffering of their own region from oppression, degradation, marginalization without the tremendous support of their friends, associate, families who see their course as a just war.

While the part of the shadow stakeholders in the Niger Delta crises have shown that there is no conflict that occurred without the involvement of the fuelling forces which are known as “shadow parties”. According to former military head of state in this country, late Sanni Abacha (1993-1998), he said in one of his public addresses that “if terrorism persist for more than 24hrs, that shows the government in power is involve in it” this statement which was started by late General Sanni Abacha was an indication that all social conflict in the nation, shadow parties played vital roles in promoting the high rate of the crises. The Niger Delta militants according to various media reporters that, they have accessed to sophisticated weapons and ammunition even more than the Nigeria soldiers. How do they have funds and resources to acquire such arms and ammunitions? This is a debating issue to be addressed by the government in power.    

the crisis has made illegal bunkering of oil to thrive, which is also the source of funds for the militants operating in creeks losses 70,000 to 300,000 barrels per day to illegal bunkering, the equivalent output of a small oil producing country in its annual report in late August 2006, Shell Nigeria estimated illegal bunkering losses at 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day in 2005, down from 40,000 to 60,000 in 2004. The Washington based council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force calculated that a loss of just 70,00 barrels a day at a price of $60 a barrel “would generates over $1.5 billion per year that will increase resources to fund arms trafficking, by political influence or both”.

Downsize of Companies Employees:The crisis in the Niger Delta is hampering operations of the oil companies; in fact, some of them have started to lay off their workers. Other remaining oil companies that are still around may not have sufficient employees if the crisis is not handled carefully. A similar action was taken in 2004 when about 1,500 shell workers were retrenched. The idea was conceived in order to reduce operational costs, in view of the worsening security situation in the Niger Delta region.

 Dearth in business activities: Since the crisis started particularly hostage taking and attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta, there has been dearth in business activities. Restiveness has reduced growth in the business sector. In Rivers state alone, the situation may assume a Worrisome dimension to the extent that, about 80 percent of companies in the state have stop operations as expatriates has either gone to their countries, such situations often times results to employment ratio among the youth. The Niger Delta Crisis has serious economic impact as it disrupts telecommunication activities. The crisis has negative impact for the telecommunication sector, militant activities has compounded the problems of drop calls in the networks of mobile operator in the country as several base stations have become inaccessible in the region, confirming this point, the General Manager, Regulatory Affairs of Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Nigeria, Mr. Wale Goodluck said “the company had 43 base station shut down in the Niger Delta region due to militant activities that made them inaccessible.

Losses to the region: This is another economic impact of the Niger Delta Crisis, besides the trillions of naira that have been lost by the country due to the crisis the Niger Delta, states are sufferings as a result of the lingering problem. All the states in the region have been failing their’ oil production quota and that means lower 13 percent derivation funds. One of the governors cried out that it was as if his state was no longer oil producing.

Internationally, the image problem occasioned by the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has adversely affected the inflow of foreign investment into Nigeria. Moreover, the crisis has led to a renewed campaign of calumny against Nigeria with many western Nations issuing travel advisory to their nationals not to travel to Nigeria because of bad security situation and the militants in the country.

Significantly, Nigeria could lose its seat in a number of sensitive international organizations. Already, drama has played out in the International Marine Organization (IMO). The body had issued a warning to Nigeria that if safety of the territorial waters continue to be threatened by the crisis, no foreign vessels will be allowed to come to the country to lift crude oil or gas..
More so, as a major player in Africa affairs, the perceptions of negative image with Nigeria have been making some countries in Africa to contest the leadership position with the country.
Furthermore, international moral and economic support, and foreign aids could be reduced to or withheld by donor agencies, international organizations and foreign countries due to bad governance, corruption, disregard for the rule of law etc. 

Added to the above, the crisis in the region has continued to attract international attention, especially environmental activists, like Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, Friends of Earth etc., they have carried out advocacy programmes and have written several damaging reports on the activities of the Nigeria state, the resultant barrage of criticisms and sanctions reduced Nigeria to a pariah state.

The Niger delta crisis can be rightly tagged as one, characterised by different interest fronts with each holding one thing or the other against the Nigerian Government. Perhaps the feeling of "internal colonialism" by others which the indigenes of Niger delta have, this brought them to a position of violence, resulting to violent actions against the government, where militancy and rebellious activities became the order of the day. 

The government met these actions of the Niger delta people with stiff confrontational responses; a pure military approach was used. First, the ijaw youth killed 12 policemen as a response to the military men suppressing their uprising. They killing the policemen, the military went to where this occurred, a town called Odi and what was perpetrated there is what is today notoriously called the Odi massacre. The violent repressive approach of the Nigerian Government helped in winning sine form of legitimacy for the militant groups in the region who were viewed as fighting for self-preservation in the face of proximate potential extinction occasioned by the ecological war of the oil companies and now the repressive and violent approach of their own government whose primary responsibility is protection of the rights of the people.

The Joint task force was set up and the Niger delta area became a war Zone as it was characterised by violent resistance by the militants and their battle to suppress them by the Nigerian military. This confrontational approach cost the country so much as it became difficult for the country to explore or exploit oil in the region. Consequently, the 2.5million Barrels per day dropped by about half of that making Angola which was the second highest oil producing country in Africa to become the first. This reality if the consequences of the drop in oil and it's implication on the economy changed the conflict handling style of the government
On the 24th of June 2009, the President of Nigeria late Ya’radua announced an amnesty policy. The president said
"I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to ask who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger delta".
The policy maintained that militants who lay down their arms within 60days won't be prosecuted for the crimes committed. The policy also explained that the amnesty programme transcends their being demobilised or disarmed but introduced plans for rehabilitation and reintegration. This was a change of strategy from the violent approach and confrontational stance to one of non-violent approach with the room for joint problem solving. Dialogues became imminent and militants began to trooping out in great numbers to accept the deal. The principles of recovery were applied in the new policy of the amnesty initiative. There was a demobilisation and disarmament process and then their rehabilitation which the government took care of by camping them, paying them stipends, sending them on trainings both within and outside the country and vocational training and teaching. 

As it is no news that there can never be total recovery in a post conflict situation, neither can there be total reconciliation, especially in this case when the government has not gone deep to address the root cause of the Niger delta crisis i.e., their land and ecological degradation resulting to the loss of livelihood for a community predominantly living on fishing and farming. The government set up these initiatives to end just the immediate conflict. Though the amnesty policy brought relative peace to the Niger delta region, total peace in this region has not been achievable.   


Commission/ Board

Life span

Specific function

Specific problem(s)

Impact on rural Rivers State

Niger Delta Development Board (off shoot of Henry Willinks Report 1958)


To manage the developmental problems and needs of the people of the region.

Lack of direction and focus. Its activities were interrupted by the civil war

No meaningful infrastructural development was recorded in the area

Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA)


To produce hydroelectric power, flood control and the regulation of the flow of rivers for navigational and recreational facilities to promote socio-economic activities in the region.
Poor funding, only N76.7m was released as against N650.7m released for Sokoto – Rima Basin Development Authority
Its impact was not felt in rural Rivers State in terms of infrastructural development to improve the area
Presidential Task Force, Received 1-3% Federation Account

To manage the developmental challenges of the region and improve their economy
Lack of effective planning and poor funding
70% of projects remarked for rural Rivers State were not executed
Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission

To manage ecological problems and develop oil producing community.
Lack of data for planning and excessive political interference
30% of project awarded in rural Rivers State were not executed, 35% were uncompleted.
Niger Delta Development Commission
To find out a lasting solution to the problems of underdevelopment in the region. To facilitate rapid and sustainable development of the region.
The commission scope of operation is too broad. Too much political interference, inadequate funding and recurrent militia insurgency
It has not had any significant impact on rural Rivers State. Out of the 1252 projects assigned to Rivers State only 30% have been completed. Ineffective monitoring and militancy crises had resulted into several uncompleted projects
Source: Authors compilation from Field work and Ademola, 2008

Militant Approach
The reality of contributing to the oil that oils the economy of the country yet looking helpless in the face of ramifying impoverishment was too much for the youths of the area to bear. Being conscious of the fact that the peaceful or non-violent means adopted by their political leaders yielded little result, the youths excitedly took up arms to protest against the oil companies and the Nigerian State in respect of the marginalization and developmental deficit associated with the area. The strategy adopted was a massive attack on oil installations and taking of oil workers as hostages. The Oil market in the country became very jittery. In early 2005, political representatives from the oil producing region walked out of a national conference on matters relating to the distribution of oil revenue. Few months later the Obasanjo government arrested a Niger Delta militant on charges of treason. 

This action escalated the violence across oil field in the region resulting into several humanitarian and economic tragedies. Between 1998 and 2003, there were four hundred incidents of vandalized oil company facilities yearly across the Niger Delta. This number increased to 581 between January and September 2004. The emergence of two ethnic militias from Rivers State led by Ateke Tom (Niger Delta Vigilante) and Alhaji Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force heightened the war against the oil companies and the Nigerian State. Both men angered by the marginalization, economic as well as developmental backwardness of their people asked both the Nigerian State and oil companies to leave their oil and land alone. 

This provoked President Obasanjo who ordered for the militarization of the state to stop ethnic militia and to protect the business of oil exploration. The action of the president rather than quelling the storm angered the people. It was therefore not surprising the emergence of more ethnic militia after the president’s declaration of Rivers State as one of the volatile breeding ground for militant groups that must be crushed. 

Three things worked against the Federal Police of President Obasanjo from recording success against the militants; (1) the geography of the state, an army of creeks and swamps, and the absence of effective transportation and communication infrastructure denied the president’s policemen access to the interior of the state. (2) The ethnic militia were already reaping enormous wealth from the business of oil bunkering and were therefore able to raise the needed resources to oil their machinery of warfare against President Obasanjo’s policemen. (3) Some of the president’s policemen commissioned to crush the ethnic militia could not resist the carrot coming from the business of oil bunkering. With poor condition of service in the profession, some of them saw it as an avenue to fight their ways out of poverty. A romance with the ethnic militia therefore was inevitable. These militant groups operated outside the control of traditional governance institutions, and soon grew into a strong voice requesting for total control of the God given resources at their backyard. With arms in hand and easy access to crude from pipelines and flow stations, the youths discovered a new avenue to fight their ways out of poverty.

Rural Development in the Face of Militancy Crisis
The level of sophistication in brutality and violence practiced by the ethnic militia soon made them the “bride” of the political class in the state who see politics as a form of war; those not willing to respect electoral principles guiding party politics. These ethnic militants became ready-made tools in the hand of politicians to suppress their political opponents and establish their dominance in their respective locality. Before the end of the first tenure of Dr. Peter Odili, the drum for his second term aspiration was very high in the state but his popularity had diminished.

 Those beating the drum for him in the ruling PDP knew very well it was not going to come through the ballot box. The profile of those opposed to the second term agenda led by Dr. Marshall Harry was steadily rising daily in the state and the hand writing was very clear to Odili and his men. Murder, intimidation, arson, kidnapping, bribery, etc became the readily available tools to fight those opposed to the governor’s second term agenda. The Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Mujahid Dokubo Asari was one of the several groups that were intensely patronized by the governor and his men to help him in his second term ambition. The strategy paid off and the governor returned to the Brick house for his second missionary journey. Soon after the election, Asari’s criticism of President Obasanjo policies towards the Niger Delta pitched him against Odili. Asari’s romance with the “Brick House” came to an end. On September 27, 2004 he formally declared a war against the Nigerian government. 

The government response was to chase Asari and his boys into the creek while a new romance with a rival group, the Niger Delta Vigilante led by Ateke Tom was activated. This singular act on the part of the government was the beginning of new era of hostility between the two groups in the state. While Ateke had the support of “Brick House”, Asari was backed up by those within and outside the state opposed to the governor’s style of leadership. The financial prowess of both men made them very popular among other militant and youth groups in the state and it was therefore not very long when the militant groups in the state were divided between these two powerful militant groups. 

The entire geography of the state soon became under the sway of these two militant groups. Soon it was clear to point out which group controls which geographical area in the state. In some geographical areas, the words of these militant groups became law. Traditional institutions not having the support of the political godfathers of these militants were either sacked or driven into self-exile. With sophisticated weapons and an act of brutality, these boys succeeded in building an atmosphere of fear in the state especially in the rural areas. It was reported that on August 15, 2004, “several armed local militia men mainly of Ataba extraction in collaboration with recruited mercenaries from neighbouring communities, launched an aggressive attack on Ataba, a remote riverine community in Andoni Local Council of Rivers State. The resultant killings and want

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An Analysis of the Nigerian Niger Delta Conflict


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