Despite being host to the life-wire of the nations economy, over 88percent of rural dwellers in Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region live in poverty the 2019 Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER) recently launched by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) disclosed.
The report finds that of about 13,329 settlements in the Niger Delta region, only 98 are rated as urban while the rest are “scattered rural villages mostly cut off from basic amenities”.
According to the BER, intervention mechanisms such as the 13percent derivation and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have had little impact on the region.
The Niger Delta region is home to over 800 oil field communities with over 900 active oil wells and thousands of oil exploration infrastructure.
The NNRC biennial BER measures 12 specific areas known as Precepts, of natural resource governance in which a country needs to improve in to successfully ensure that resource wealth benefit the citizens.
They are Precepts 1 – 12 which are: strategy, legal and institutional framework; transparency and accountability; exploration, licensing and monitoring operations; taxation and other company payments; local impacts; state-owned enterprises; investing for growth; stabilizing expenditure; public spending; private sector development; role of extractive companies; and role of international community, respectively.
A country’s performance against the 12 Precepts are rated in Green, Amber and Red; with Green meaning excellent, Amber meaning average and Red, poor performance. Under the 2019 BER Nigeria failed to record any green, it recorded 10 Ambers and two Reds, specifically in Precepts 5 which is Local Impacts and Precept 6 which deals with governance of the State-owned enterprises.
In 2017, Nigeria’s performance under Precept 5 which deals specifically with local impacts and host communities benefits transfer, was “Red”, same rating was again recorded in 2019 signifying that no meaningful progress had been made in that regard.
“No noteworthy changes have occurred since the 2017 BER. Key legislations to ensure the participation of communities, protect the environment, mitigate costs, respect rights and ensure that communities benefit from extractive projects suffered setbacks in the period,” the report noted.
For example, it highlighted the National Assembly failure to pass the NOSDRA Amendment Bill – which would have ensured increased penalties for polluters, the lack of social impact assessments for resource projects, and the “woeful failure of the NDDC”.
The report also noted the absence of a defined deliberate and enforceable frameworks created by government that allows affected communities participate in decision making on resource projects as well as the non-binding and discretionary nature of Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU), as a significant weakness.
In a recent interview with e360, Rhoda Peter, an activist for benefit transfer to the Niger Delta, said existing government intervention mechanisms have failed as communities in the region are plagued by a plethora of challenges such as no access roads, water, health care facilities, schools, nor power supply.
To worsen their situation, Rhoda who spoke exclusively to e360 in Uyo, said, their Rivers have been destroyed by oil pollution leaving community members, who are natural fishermen, with no means of livelihood.
On why government intervention mechanisms on benefit transfer to the Niger Delta has failed, Faith Nwadishi, Convener of Women in Extractives, said it is simply because there was no proper community dialogue around such interventions.
She told e360 that because there’s a disconnect between the people, the federal government and those appointed by government to implement these interventions, the issues will persist.