Saturday, 14 June 2008

Nigeria -- Nigeria Delta

Emilia Eyo's Biography
I had undergone a 3-year training on sexuality, Leadership and Life Management Skills organized by Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI),Nigeria where I graduated as a Peer Health Educator on Sexuality, Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Conflict and Life management and personal empowerment issues. Presently I work with Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI), Nigeria as a Youth facilitator where I facilitate sessions on Life Management issues including Conflict Managemnet, this has given me the opportunity to enhance my facilitating and interact with young people as well as give them correct information that will assist them make informed decisions on how to resolve Conflict as well as survive in a hostile and conflict situations/environment.
I am a graduate of computer science and have excellent computer skills; I am open to new ideas and learning new skills. I love to add creativity and entertainment to my work/events as I believe young people are drawn to the media more in recent times.
I am a member of the Counseling team in Girls’ Power Initiative where I counsel young people on different issues including issues of relationships, Conflcit Management, HIV/AIDS, this gives me first class opportunity to interact with young people who have experieneced various psychological traumas because of Conflic in their areas. I also volunteer for Positive Development Foundation (PDF), Nigeria as a Peer Health Educator to carry out care and support on people living with HIV/AIDS where I interact with people living with HIV/AIDS as well as give them support and encouragement as well as refer them when necessary.
I have been involved in organizing/executing and reporting programmes/events for young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as HIV/AIDS for the past 7 years and have gained experience in planning, teamwork, analytical and critical thinking, advocacy, reporting, facilitating and counselling and I have been able to use my counsellng skills to talk and be part of the re-socialization of youths who already have conflict as their way of solving their various problems.
I have been part of various meetings/workshops organized by the governemnt to reduce the incidence of Conflict in the Niger Delta areas and have contributed to reorintating young people on focusing on building their skills as well as discussing some of the root causes of Conflic in the igeri Delta
I am a Virtual Volunteer for International Young professionals (IYPS), a Virtual Projects Editor for Taking IT Global a Virtual Reporter for SAWA Global Network a network to report projects of hope with little or no funding to open such projects to possible funders/grant givers using my excellent skills in using the internet I have been able to carry out my tasks in these areas efficiently.
Nigeria -- Niger Delta
The Niger Delta is an unstable area of Nigeria, and inter-ethnic clashes are common - often access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence. Pipelines are regularly vandalized by impoverished residents, who risk their lives to siphon off fuel. Vandalism is estimated to result in thousands of barrels of crude oil wastage every day - a loss to the Nigerian economy of millions of dollars each year. Nigeria is the world's sixth largest oil-producing nation. However, mismanagement and successive military governments have left the country poverty-stricken.
Although many observers of the South South think primarily of youths invading oil company properties when they think of conflict there, in fact the roots of South South conflicts lie deeper in history and in the contemporary social circumstances of the area. Contemporary history of the Delta can be summarized as economic decline and broken promises. Historically, Delta communities prospered as “middlemen” controlling trade with the interior, particularly palm oil products and slaves. But with the development of the colonial state and independence, the region experienced a steady decline and stagnation, for no new sources of wealth developed there to replace these activities. More recently, the failure of the early independent Nigerian government to follow through on a promise to treat the Delta as a special development area, the steady reduction in the share of oil royalties that states in the Delta have received, and, finally, the habitual disregard of state needs by non-indigenous military state governors, continued and worsened Delta problems. The FGRN’s neglect of the Delta’s development (roads, schools, electricity, and health services all ended well inland before reaching coastal communities), Nigeria’s overall economic decline since the mid-1980s, and the tendency of educated Delta youths to leave the area, have confirmed its status as an economic backwater. The people who remained behind simply lacked prospects elsewhere.
The complexity of issues and number of stakeholders involved exacerbate South South problems. The Delta, in part because of its riverine/swamp topography, has historically been politically extremely fragmented, and subject to frequent and at times violent disputes over land and fishing rights, as well as over traditional leaders’ political jurisdictions. These all lead to cycles of “revenge violence.” As more powerful weapons became available in the Delta in the mid- and late-1990s, disputes became more violent. Youth gangs became more powerful who were willing and able to protect their villages and elders. As democratic competition returned in 1998–1999, some of these same youths took up a new line of activity, paid disruption of campaign events, and/or provided candidates protection from such unwanted attentions. Finally, traditional leaders have lost much credibility and respect as they have been corrupted by payments from the military government and the oil companies.
There is an inevitable and serious conflict of interest between Delta communities that bear the environmental damage of oil extraction and the rest of the nation for which oil money is essentially a free good. Delta populations, clearly a minority, regularly lose these struggles. Had they some authority over environmental issues, many current problems might be more manageable. Lacking this, and given the federal government’s control over all subsurface resources as well as “ownership” of all land, all Delta issues inevitably become national issues. The national government has failed to resolve these. In its campaign to “buy off” Delta discontent on the cheap, earlier administrations frequently corrupted Delta community leaders. There is a deep distrust in the Delta concerning the federal government and a feeling among local populations that most other Nigerians care little for their problems, so long as the oil flows. Delta populations constantly campaign for a larger share of the federal cake, most of which originates in their homelands (discussed further in the Economics section below).
As a result of these factors, and because oil companies did and do make tempting targets, many aggrieved youths in the Delta resort to direct action to extract compensation for their perceived losses. They invade oil company properties, take employees hostage, and shut down facilities. Oil companies typically negotiate release of captured personnel and properties with relative ease by paying the youths modest ransoms. This oil company strategy creates a “moral hazard”: the willingness of companies to pay ransoms stimulates imitators of this lucrative “business,” leading to sustained disruptions, at times to competition among youths, and to a general sense of anarchy in the Delta.
Another conflict closely linked to federal control over Delta oil and the economy in general is the intense competition for political office. For politicians, and for their communities, control of federal office opens the high road to resources that can be diverted from public to private or community control. Competition is naturally intense for federal political offices and has historically turned violent in the second election in each of Nigeria’s two previous republics. In summary, federal control over oil and much of the rest of the economy tends to “federalize” many economic problems, particularly in the Delta, and stimulates intense efforts to gain and hold office throughout Nigeria.
In this culture of cynicism about government, economic stagnation and hopelessness, historical political fragmentation, and low-grade violent conflict, pre-existing political fragmentation became institutional disintegration. Small groups of youths with weapons went unchallenged and found oil companies easy targets for hold-up and ransom. As the oil companies paid off the first gangs, others were inspired and soon followed suit. Throughout the 1990s, incidents of youth gangs extorting payments from oil companies and engaging in violence escalated, until they leveled off and began dropping in 1999.
Something is needed to encourage multiple and historically competing/conflicting communities to start working together, to bring more moderate and mature leaders back into the centers of decision making, to co-opt or marginalize violent youths, and to find constructive and promising avenues of activity for a currently "lost generation." If the promised 13% royalties on oil production are actually paid to the states and spent in the Delta, and if the new Nigeria Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) comes on line, they might offer enough funds to leverage meaningful local cooperation in the development and implementation of "area development plans."
Military authorities in Bayelsa State in the Niger delta region declared a state of emergency in late December 1998 in response to violence by members of the Ijaw ethnic group who sought greater local autonomy. In November 1999, the army destroyed the town of Odi, Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang.
Fighting continues between two ethnic groups -- Itsekiris and Ijaw residents of the Niger Delta. Tensions between the Itsekiris and the Ijaw communities remained high in 2003, with intermittent reports of violence. Tribal clashes in March 2003 forced the withdrawal of major oil companies from the area. Ethnic clashes in the region led to dozens of deaths, and forced multi-national oil giants to curtail operations in the area. Oil companies were forced to shut down 40 percent of the country’s output as the Ijaws and Itsekiris traded gunfire. Ethnic fighting resurfaced in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta in mid-August 2003. This was the most serious fighting in the area since March. But in October 2003 James Ibori, the Governor of Delta State, brought the warring Ijaw and Itsekiri communities together to agree a fragile peace. Fighting between the two groups killed more than 200 people during 2003 and forced the government to send in troop reinforcements to restore order.
The level of violence that Delta youth can muster seemed unlikely to seriously impede oil production. This implied that Delta conflicts will not exert a marked negative effect on the national economy. Moreover, Delta problems do not threaten consolidation of democratic civilian governance in Nigeria nor do they trigger ethnic riots elsewhere in the country.
On 01 Jun 2004 leaders of rival ethnic militia groups agreed to peace terms in the Nigerian oil town of Warri. The peace agreement struck between the Ijaw and Itsekiri militia groups crowned efforts by Delta State governor James Ibori to end fighting between the two tribes over claims to land and oil-related benefits. More than 200 people had died in ethnic clashes in Delta State over the previous year. But the peace deal failed to address key demands of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities Group for improved political representation and better access to the region’s oil resources. Government officials urged foreign oil companies to resume operations in the troubled Niger Delta region that had been disrupted by a year of fighting. ChevronTexaco, which had shut down 140,000 barrels per day of production, showed no immediate enthusiasm to reactivate its closed facilities.
What is now known as the Nigerian Oil Crisis began on 25 September 2004 when the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) threatened to attack oil facilities and infrastructure in the Delta region. Royal Dutch Shell responded the next day by evacuating 235 personnel from its oil fields. The NDPVF threatened to declare an all-out war against Obasajo’s government on 1 October and told all oil companies and their foreign workers to leave the Delta. Obasanjo entered into negotiations with the group and a ceasefire and disbarment plan were declared on 29 September.
By 5 October, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of the NDPVF, withdrew from disarmament obligations. The rest of October was punctuated by a series of oil worker strikes and fluctuations in the global price of oil. On 28 October, the NDPVF began to turn its weapons over to the government.
In November, strikes continued and by the 15 th, the government agreed to lower domestic oil prices. The unions suspended their strikes the next day. Unfortunately, fighting began anew when members of the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) attacked the Okrika region. The NDPVF responded by dropping at out disarmament plans. On 30 November, the Nigerian government revealed that over one million barrels of crude were lost each week during November.
On 15 June 2005, six Shell workers (two Germans and two Nigerians) were kidnapped. A group calling itself the Iduwini National Movement for Peace and Development claimed responsibility. Three days later, all six workers were released but their kidnappers stated that Shell was still under threat as it had yet to follow through on promises of development in the region.
The situation between the government and the NDPVF worsened when Asari was arrested for treason on 20 September 2005. The next day 300 NDPVF turned out for a protest armed with machetes and promising revenge. On 22 September, over 100 militants stormed an oil pumping station. Threats of more seizures led to another station being closed but government forces were able to reopen both stations by 26 September.
Asari was formally charged with treason on 6 October. If convicted he could face the death penalty. In what was probably a response to the charges, militants blew up a pipeline and killed eight people in December. As a result of this attack Shell was forced to delay crude shipments out of Nigeria.
In January 2006, a new militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger River Delta (MEND), entered the fray. MEND is closely linked to the NDPVF and is demanding, among other things, the release of Asari and $1.5 billion in compensation from Shell for the pollution they claim it caused. MEND’s first significant act was an attack on Italy’s Eni SpA petroleum company. The deaths of nine Eni officials forced the company to evacuate its staff and contractors from the area. Along with further kidnappings and another withdrawal of Shell workers, it was estimated that the instability had resulted in a 10% drop in Nigerian oil production.
By April, continued attacks had brought Nigerian oil production capability down to 75%. On 5 April, Obasanjo established a special committee to address the crisis by improving education, employment, and infrastructure. By the end of the month, Obasanjo offered the region thousands of new jobs and a highway. MEND’s response came in the form of a car-bombing the next day. Killings and kidnappings of foreign oil workers and the government’s retaliatory attacks continued through December.

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