Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has reportedly described the escalating violence in oil-rich but restive Niger Delta as a nightmare facing his young administration. The president said the crisis is not only complicating security issues in the oil producing region, but also scaring away potential investors to the country. However, critics of his administration say the president has so far failed to decisively deal with the militants in the Niger Delta region whose activities have significantly reduced the country's oil production.
Chudi Chukwuani is a Nigerian economist. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Abuja that President Yar'Adua needs to do more to ensure peace and stability in the restive Niger Delta region.
"Clearly it's a statement that can be made by somebody that has absolutely no vision of leadership, somebody that never campaigned on an issue and somebody that was just imposed on the people by the past President Olusegun Obasanjo. They announced the creation of a ministry, and the Niger Delta people started kicking against the ministry. And while some of the elite there were busy thinking about who is going to head the ministry. So, you would see that they are all talk and no action and that is why there is no vision, and no clearly defined program," Chukwuani pointed out.
He said the government has so far failed to address the concerns of the people in the Niger Delta region, 16 months after coming into office.
"The issues are very simple. The people, just like the rest of Nigeria, are in abject poverty. There is no infrastructure, and there are no social amenities. If you take a trip to the Niger Delta, you would see primary schools that are in such dilapidated conditions that they are unfit for a human being to learn in," he said.
Chukwuani said the creation of the Niger Delta ministry would be yet another problem and not a solution.
"That is not the first step in resolving the problems in the area because what the ministry does is create another bureaucratic institution. What the Niger Delta people require is a road; they need good drinking water, they need housing and good schools. So, you will find out that what they require is social infrastructures, not a ministry. You know they require things that would improve their living standards and they need an environmental control that is enforceable. If they say that you should reduce emission and reduce gas flaring, they want it to be implemented so that the atmosphere and the environment within their community can be conducive for human beings to live in. it should not be covered in dark smoke," Chukwuani pointed out.
He said although there is a need to arrest the escalating violence in the area, the people in the Niger Delta should be empowered to take their destiny in their own hands with some help from the government.
"The only way to bring criminal activity under control is when you give people the freedom to be able to freely choose who their leaders are then those leaders are held accountable because the leaders would have campaigned on the issue of providing security of lives and property. Then the people that gave the leader the mandate would hold those leaders responsible, and that is how you control the criminal activities," he said.
Chukwuani said some politicians should be held accountable for the insecurity in the region.
"As I have said earlier, most of the criminal activities have their origin on the political party in power using them to intimidate the opposition. The criminals did not just wake up one morning and were able to afford to buy all the weapons that they are using. Somebody funded the purchase of those weapons, and that weapons were purchased by the state," Chukwuani said.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta militants have reportedly changed the security paradigm in Nigeria since emerging in early 2006 -- multiplying attacks, kidnappings of foreign oil workers and sabotaging oil installations on land and offshore.
Their activities have caused Nigeria to lose one quarter of its oil production, costing the country its place as the biggest crude oil producer in Africa, with Angola recently taking that title. The rebels say they are fighting for a larger share of Nigeria's oil revenue to go to local populations.