Residents of Nigeria's restive oil-rich Niger Delta region
are reportedly hailing as a step in the right direction the creation Wednesday
of a new Niger Delta ministry by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's
administration. The residents say the move could help quell the escalating
violence in the Niger delta region and boost the country's oil production which
has reportedly taken a significant hit after rebels in the area intensified
violent attacks on both foreign and local workers employed by oil companies in
the area. The creation of the new ministry for the Niger Delta region is a key
demand by the various armed groups in the area, claiming it would help reduce
the violence and bring about development.
Chinedu Offor is monitoring the situation. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from
Nigeria's capital, Abuja that expectations are high after the creation of the
"Today Thursday, prominent
politicians and personalities of the Niger Delta are expressing support for
President Umaru Yar'Adua's decision to create a ministry for the Niger Delta.
What this essentially means is the Niger Delta would no longer be handled as a
part of a particular ministry, but would now have a full ministry that would
take care of infrastructural development, political development, environmental
problems and the issue of hostage taking and reconciliation," Offor said.
He said the creation of the
new ministry is a significant step towards resolving the instability in the
restive, but oil rich Niger Delta region.
"This is one of the demands
made by several people in that area, especially the militant groups that they
need a separate ministry to take care of their affairs. And it appears that
with this decision, President Umaru Yar'Adua has kicked started the
government's effort to once more resolve the Niger Delta problem permanently,"
he pointed out.
He said the creation of the
new ministry could potentially boost oil production in the area once violence
there has been reduced.
"Remember, the oil companies
are fleeing from that region because of these problems. They say the militant
attacks have gotten to an extent that they can no longer operate efficiently,
and their experts are feeling from that area. And of course Nigeria's oil
production has been reduced by about 20 or 30 percent, depending on whom you
are talking to," he said.
Offor said the creation of
the new ministry is one of many demands made by rebels in the restive Delta
"This is a key demand by the
militants, and with the government acceding to this demand, there is every hope
that at least the main militant groups would see this as an olive branch from
the Nigerian government, and would reduce the incidence of militant attacks and
hostage taking. And after that when the violence is reduced to the barest
minimum, the oil companies can come back, then people can get to the table and
talk about other issues. But I think with this decision the government would
want to first reduce the violence before any other issue can be discussed,"
He said the government seems
to be bent on ensuring peace in the Niger Delta region.
"I think that is true because
apart from the creation of this new ministry of the Niger Delta, the government
particularly, the Vice President Jonathan Goodluck on Tuesday inaugurated what
he called a technical committee to look at the issue of the Niger Delta. Again
remember that there was a time where there was supposed to be a peace
conference, but that peace conference did not hold because the Niger Delta
people refused to recognize the government's representative, especially the
chairman, former Nigerian representative to the United Nations Alhaji Gambari,
whom they said was a stranger to what is happening in the Niger Delta," he