Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has reportedly made a passionate appeal to militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta to lay down their weapons and give peace a chance. This comes after Nigerians called for an end to the violence in the Niger Delta. President Yar’Adua said the actions of the youths are not only detrimental to the peace and stability of the area, but also thwart his development plans for the region. Kabiru Mato is a political science professor at the University of Abuja. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Yar’Adua needs to back his words with action.
“I think it is not a new call. It is a call that not only President Yar’Adua, but even successive presidents in Nigeria have always been making that offer to the youth in Niger Delta so that they may allow free exploitation of oil as a best strategy of earning more revenue for the nation. So the call in my view is timely and I guess is going to continue to be done for sometime. The need to have peace in the Niger Delta region cannot be overemphasized because that is the chicken that lays the golden egg in Nigeria. And once you don’t have peace in that region, then it automatically, affects the oil exploration and by implication has some consequences on the trend in international oil market,” Mato pointed out.
He said successive governments have failed to live up to their promises to bring significant deployment to the area.
“But it’s not sufficient for government to make this call without necessarily ensuring that governments at the various levels that is at the center and at the state level as well as at the local government level making concerted efforts to ensure that sufficient infrastructural development are carried out in the region,” he said.
Mato said the failure of successive governments to address the problems in the Niger Delta have contributed to the instability in the area.
“It has to do with the fact of the inability of government at various levels, that is at the federal level, state governments and local governments to do sufficiently enough in attempting to engage especially the active segment of the population in the Niger Delta region, that is youth. Governments have not done so much, at every level, especially in the Niger Delta elites have made it a matter of habit to basically struggle to get to economic and political positions just to better their personal lots, and not the lots of their community,” Mato noted.
He described as unfortunate the lack of development in the region despite huge sums of money that have been pumped into the area for developmental purposes.
“I do believe very sincerely that the resources that have been injected into the Niger delta region at least in the last eight years was sufficient enough to have caused tremendous change in the environment and in the way of life for the people because a lot of these resources have been colored by the few elites of the Niger Delta region themselves not much change has been recorded in the lives of the people,” he said.