FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, July 19, 2021
priyet@hotmail.com
Miami, Florida, USA
IS THE NIGER DELTA/SOUTH-SOUTH PART OF NIGERIA OR A COLONY?

t is indeed appropriate to ask whether the Niger Delta/South-South is part of Nigeria or merely a colony of Nigeria. The question is prompted by the fact that Nigeria has consistently treated that section of the West African sub-region as if is not part of its territory even though it is the region that has been laying the golden egg to generate public and private wealth in the country spanning five decades. It is not a secret that for decades now, the wealth generated through oil and gas exploration in the Niger Delta/South-South has been the major source of revenue for the entire country. Similarly, it is not a secret that a considerable number of Nigeria's so-called billionaires and millionaires, both in private and public sectors, acquire their wealth through oil blocks that were given to them due to primordial reasons, inflated contracts, and pilfering of the oil money through the public purse.

Thus, it is the wealth from the oil region that keeps Nigeria afloat and enriches those who are politically connected to the ruling elite. If oil and gas stop flowing, the economy will crash instantly because Nigeria currently does not have any other major source of income to maintain itself. This means that the Niger Delta/South-South is a very strategic region as far as the national economy is concerned. Evidence of its strategic value can be shown or attested to by the fact that when the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), and other armed groups in the oil region struck between 2006 and 2010, the economy was brought to its knees. Again, when the Niger Delta Avengers, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force and associated armed groups struck in 2016, the economy crashed, thereby, necessitating the federal government to plead with the leaders of the oil region to beg the armed youths to stop operations and allow oil and gas to flow again. As part of the deal to stop the crippling of petroleum and gas facilities, the federal government agreed to a 16-point action plan submitted by the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). Sadly, the federal government has not kept its promise on the 16-points program.

Despite the fact that the oil region is currently the most strategic economic region in the country, why does the ruling political elite pay little or no attention to the needs of the oil region? Why is the oil region being treated as merely a financial plantation that could be exploited for the economic, infrastructural and social wellbeing of other regions, especially the North while utterly neglecting the region that lays the golden egg? Why is it that the ruling elite have repeatedly ignored the concerns of the inhabitants of the oil region while passing obnoxious regulations/acts and legislations to strangulate, exploit, and deprive the inhabitants of the region their inalienable natural right to utilize the resources in their territory for their wellbeing? Why is it that the indigenes of the oil region must be starved to the point of death so that other Nigerians can enjoy the wealth generated from their territory? Do Nigerian rulers assume that the Niger Delta/South-South is not part of Nigeria, therefore, deserves to be exploited and pauperized? Do those who initiate and make public policies for Nigeria actually believe in Nigeria or are they merely using the contraption to exploit the resources of the state for their ethnic, regional, and personal enrichment? Are the inhabitants of the oil region being exploited and pushed to the wall because they are a conquered and internally colonized people?

It is not farfetched to say that those who claim to be running the affairs of the country are not really interested in the stability and progress of Nigeria. It could also be said that those who claim to be Nigerian rulers and patriots have other agenda. Otherwise, the National Assembly (NASS) would not have crafted the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in such a manner that punishes the inhabitants of the oil region and unapologetically rewards those who have no relationship with the oil wealth. To show that Nigeria treats the oil region as if it is not part of the country but a colony that could easily be exploited for the benefit of others, it might be necessary to take an analytical walk to see how Nigeria has consistently treated the Niger Delta/South-South zone as a colonial possession. Colonialism can be defined as the policy or practice whereby one state or group or entity either fully or partially control the political and economic spheres of another to the point of rendering it incapable of making decision for itself. In this case, while the Niger Delta is part of Nigeria, it is treated like a colony by other segments of the Nigerian polity due to the availability of oil and gas. It is the only region in Nigeria in which the inhabitants cannot make decision about the exploration and management of petroleum and gas resources in their territory, in addition to the fact that they are always at the bottom of the national list for infrastructural development and modernization even though their territory provides the financial resources to sustain the entire country.

Steps taken by Nigerian Rulers and Policymakers to Treat the Niger Delta/South-South as a Colony of Nigeria

First, when groundnut, cocoa, palm oil, palm kernel, cotton, and rubber were the major sources of national revenue, the principle of derivation was the accepted policy. The reason for adopting the principle of derivation could be attributed to the fact that these products were produced and managed by the majority groups in each of the three regions of the country. However, as soon as petroleum became a major source of revenue, the ruling military and political elite quickly dumped the principle of derivation and nationalized the exploration and management of petroleum and gas. The reason could be attributed to the fact that oil and gas are mostly found in the territories of minority ethnic groups and in Igboland. Thus, these groups could not be allowed to own and manage the enormous oil wealth. This led to the enactment of the Oil in Navigable Waters Act of 1968, the Oil Pipeline Act of 1969, and the Associated Gas Reinjection Act of 1969, the Petroleum Act of 1969, the Offshore Oil Revenue Decree of 1971, the Petroleum Production and Distribution Act of 1975 and the Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1978. The fact that oil and gas exploration is the most regulated business sector in Nigeria shows that the Niger Delta/South-South is treated as a colonized territory, hence, all legal and political efforts are deployed to deprive the indigenes of the region the right to enjoy the wealth generated from their territory. Solid minerals are not regulated and controlled as oil and gas because they are found in the regions of those who wield political power in Nigeria.

Second, with the enactment of various acts to deprive the people of the oil region the right to make substantive decisions about the exploration and management of petroleum and gas, they become mere onlookers and watch helplessly while Nigerians from regions that have no oil in their backyards usurp their right to make decisions about the resources. The indigenes of the oil region cannot even negotiate with the oil companies about the conditions to do business in their territory because only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has the legal authority to negotiate with the oil companies. Thus, for the oil region, there is no difference between being a colony of Britain and being a colony of Nigeria, even though Nigeria claims to be a sovereign state.

Third, Nigeria's political, military and business elites have no qualms about joining forces with the oil companies to exploit the oil region to their advantage. This means that the oil companies can literarily roam any part of the Niger Delta/South-South zone to explore and exploit, with the support of Nigeria's security forces. Those Nigerians who stand to benefit from the oil wealth simply wait to get their own share as the oil companies ransack the oil region freely, having been given a greenlight to do so by those who wield power.

In Nigeria, the national government and the ruling elite align with the oil companies and the oil consuming nations to colonize, marginalize and deprive the original owners of the oil region by making sure that they do not have the political power whatsoever to determine the regulation, exploration, and management of resources in their territory. The Federal Government of Nigeria always align with the oil companies against the inhabitants of the oil region. On the other hand, when Shell BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf Coast on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and injuring 17, as well as destroying the economic means of thousands of American citizens in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas States, a sum of $20.8 was used to settled the victims of the disaster (https://www.noaa.gov/explainers/deepwater-horizon-oil-spill-settlements-where-money-went). If that explosion had taken place in the Niger Delta/South-South, Nigeria's first response would have been to send the security forces, namely the navy, army, police and Department of State Services (DSS) to stop the citizens from protesting and demanding compensation. In the US, the government persuaded the companies involved, including BP, Anadarko, Trans-Ocean, and Halliburton to set aside money to compensate the victims. The US did not send security forces to clamp down on the victims. In Nigeria, the victims would have been threatened with bodily harm to stop them from bothering the oil companies.

Fourth, while oil and gas, which come under the category of liquid minerals, are heavily nationalized as shown by the numerous regulatory acts that have been enacted, the power-wielding elite are not eager to nationalize the exploration and management of solid minerals (bentonite, bitumen, coal, columbite, diamond, gold, gypsum, lithium, manganese, tin ore, uranium, zinc, and so on and so forth) because these minerals are located in their territories. Resultantly, despite the large quantities of gold, tin and other solid minerals in the North-Central, North-West and the Southwest, there is no national plan to generate national income through the effective exploration and management of these minerals. Thus, even though gold can generate as much national income as oil and gas, the federal government is not wiling to create the Nigerian National Gold Corporation (NNGC) the way it did with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This means that those who wield power have no hesitation whatsoever to maximize their exploitation of the oil region while they are not eager to share the wealth generated from gold exploration with other parts of the country.

Fifth, due to the unwillingness to nationalize the mining and management of gold, tin, and other solid minerals, Nigerians in those regions are able to engage in private mining of these minerals and earn income to feed their families. On the other hand, Nigerians in the Niger Delta/South-South cannot engage in private exploration of oil and gas to earn income to feed their families. Thus, there are two sets of laws in the country, one for solid minerals and the other for liquid minerals. In the oil region, those who engage in private refining of crude oil are arrested and detained while those Nigerians who mine gold, tin, columbite and other solid minerals are free to do as they wish. The Nigerian Navy, Army, Police, and so forth, patrol the oil region to stop illegal refining but the Nigerian Army, Police, DSS, and so forth, do not patrol the solid mineral zones to stop illegal mining.

Sixth, having nationalized oil and gas resources, it was assumed that the wealth generated would go into the public coffer for the benefit of all Nigerians. Instead, the military rulers awarded oil blocks to themselves, their family members, and friends. As a result, selected individuals are the greatest beneficiaries of Nigeria's oil wealth. Instantly, some Nigerians became billionaires and multi-millionaires for owning oil blocks. Surprisingly, most of those who own oil bocks are not indigenes of the oil region. Translated, the federal government of Nigeria simply use "nationalization" as a tactics to transfer the oil wealth to individuals outside the oil region, thereby contributing immensely toward the pauperization of the region. This is why the richest region is also the poorest region in Nigeria.

Seventh, as part of the effort to render the oil region powerless and helpless, those who wield power rarely include the Niger Delta/South-South in the national economic and infrastructural development plans. Annually, the national budget is prepared in a manner in which potential major economic and infrastructural development schemes are spelt out in detail for other regions of the country and the oil region is rarely included.

Hence, every so often, a national public official will announce with fanfare about federal government's desire to complete the Lagos - Ibadan, Lagos - Abuja, Abuja - Kaduna, Lagos - Kano, Port Harcourt- Maiduguri, Kaduna - Kano, Kano -Kazaure-Daura-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi rail lines. Most of these capital-intensive railway projects, as indicated above, are targeted at the non-oil producing regions while the region that lays the golden egg is blatantly ignored. The Port Harcourt - Maiduguri line is an old one that the British built. While the oil region is not much of interest to national policy makers concerning railway construction, it is very likely that the Niger Delta/South-South is going to be used as collateral for obtaining international loans to build these rail lines and other infrastructural projects. In other words, the oil region is most probably going to be used as a surety to borrow foreign loans for the construction of railways in other parts of the country while the region is denied the benefit of such infrastructural development. Rarely does anyone hear from federal government officials about a strong desire to build railways to connect the South-South, South-East, and the south-West regions of the country. The proposed Lagos-Calabar railway is probably at the bottom of the list for those making national decisions about building rail lines in Nigeria. Indeed, there is no enthusiasm for building the Lagos-Calabar line. The project is simply announced as a political tactic to put the people of the oil region to sleep while the other railway projects are quickly constructed. Basically, the inhabitants of the oil region are being told that they are not important in the scheme of things in Nigeria, hence, they must always wait at the end of the line until other parts of the country are taken care of even though the funds originate from their territory.

The sad part of the national concentration of rail projects in other parts of the country is the fact that those regions contribute little or nothing to the national revenue. Yet, they are at the front of the line for receiving these major infrastructural development projects because the power-wielding elite originate from those regions.

Eighth, with much regularity, federal officials enjoy announcing their intentions to build major road and irrigation projects in other parts of the country without including the region that lays the golden egg for the national economy. Consequently, the two major roads that link Lagos to the South-East and the South-South are the Lagos - Benin- Onitsha Road and the East -West Road. The East-West Road was built in the 1970s by Gen. Yakubu Gowon. Sometimes, during the rainy season, some sections of the road are under water and impassable. Despite the poor condition of the road, rarely does the federal ministries talk about rehabilitating and dualizing the road. Here again, the Niger Delta/South-South that bears the burden of generating the national income is ignored and abandoned while other parts of the country receive regular financial allocations for major road construction and rehabilitation. When asked about the delay in completing the rehabilitation of the East-West Road, the current federal minister of Works and Housing responded by saying that 70% of the project has been completed but it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Niger Delta to complete it (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/07/nigeria-of-many-empty-buildings-cant-be-in-17m-housing-deficit-says-fashola/). Concerning the bad state of the Itu/OduKpani Road, the honorable minister explained by saying that the road is very costly due to the difficulty of the terrain (Ibid). It is very obvious that the national desire to build major roads in the Niger Delta/South-South is very low. The Niger Delta has been neglected and deprived of infrastructural development since independence on the excuse that the terrain is too difficult for road construction. It should be noted that the "difficulty of the terrain" did not stop Russia from constructing the longest railway on earth, known as the Trans-Siberian Railway. It covers 9,200 kilometres or 5,720 miles and was completed in 1916 when Russia was a relatively poor country. Siberia is one of the most difficult terrains in the world for building a rail line, yet Russia built the line to connect Europe with Asia. Canada has no problem building roads and railways across the country which has a very difficult terrain. The State of Florida is like the Niger Delta because the terrain, especially in South Florida, is very marshy and sandy. Yet, it did not stop both the US Federal Government and the state from building major highways. In fact, the road from Miami to Key West is about 165 miles. Most sections of the road are on the sea. The US 1 Highway starts from the Key West and goes around the country. The City of Venice in Italy is built on water. It was built in 421 CE when scientific and technological knowledge was still rudimentary. Due to the uniqueness of the city, it attracts millions of tourists annually. Despite the "difficulty of the terrain" the Panama Canal started operating in August 15, 1914. It was built by the US at a time when technology was not as sophisticated as today. The US did not say the terrain is too difficult to build the canal. In Nigeria, excuses upon excuses are given because there is no enthusiasm in investing funds generated from the oil region to develop the region. Consequently, whenever the issue of developing the Niger Delta comes up, there is a tendency for public officials to say it costs too much to develop the region because of difficult terrain, despite the fact that the entire country relies on wealth generated from the "difficult terrain" to maintain itself. Why can't the people of the oil region use the wealth generated from their backyards to develop their territory? Why must they always wait for those who have nothing to do with the oil wealth to tell them when and how to develop railways and roads in their territory? The so-called federal roads in the South-East too are nothing to be proud of. The federal government does not even care abut rehabilitating them. On the other hand, t

he North has major express roads built with the oil wealth from the Niger Delta/South-South and the region that lays the golden has not a single major express road.

Ninth, as if the Niger Delta/South-South is not part of Nigeria, whenever the citizens in this part of the country decry their neglect by the national government, four-letter-word parastatal agencies and other organizations with fanciful acronyms are established to cater to their needs, instead of using the substantive governmental ministries such as the Ministry of Works and Housing, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Health and so on and so forth. While the national ministries are directly involved in the infrastructural development of various projects in other parts of the country, it is always four-letter-word agencies like the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that are given the responsibility to develop the oil region as if the Niger Delta/South-South is not part of Nigeria.

The problem is that these semi-autonomous parastatal agencies are entrapped politically to the extent that they find it difficult to accomplish their responsibilities. The saddest part of the problem is that these agencies are always viewed as financial piggy banks for politicians and public officials to loot funds that supposed to be utilized for the development and modernization of the region. No wonder, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is noted more for ghost projects, ghost contracts, skeletal remains of uncompleted projects, and a financial store for politicians and pubic officials to enrich themselves. The Ministry of Niger Delta suffers the same fate because it is limited to only one zone of the country, thereby, subjecting it to political intrigues by those who wield power. If the Niger Delta/South-South is part of Nigeria, again, why can't the Ministry of Works and Housing, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Health and other substantive cabinet-level ministries directly allocate funds for the development of infrastructural projects in the oil region the way they do in other regions of Nigeria.

Tenth, even though oil and gas are mostly found in the oil region, the entire industry is dominated by people from the non-oil producing regions. In this case, the North has literally taken over the entire control of all the government agencies that engage in oil and gas exploration and management. Apart from the fact that oil blocks are owned mostly by non-indigenes of the oil region, the top management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and associated agencies are the exclusive domain of the North (https://businesspost.ng/jobs/fg-sets-up-panel-to-probe-lopsided-appointments-at-nnpc-subsidiaries/). The inhabitants of the oil region are rendered totally helpless and treated as colonial subjects of the North. The National Assembly (NASS) has just confirmed that the Niger Delta/South-South is merely a petroleum colony to make other regions happy. The 30 percent allocation for the exploration of frontier basins is merely a financial game plan for the unrestrained exploitation of the oil wealth by powerful elements in the North. It is an attempt to maximize the transfer of the oil wealth to the North.

Eleventh, the Niger Delta/South-South is highly degraded environmentally due to massive oil pollution and gas flaring. As a result, the inhabitants of the region are experiencing hunger and are suffering from all kinds of complicated medical conditions. Acid rain is now a common feature of the landscape whenever it rains. Despite the fact that the indigenes of the oil region have pleaded repeatedly for the oil companies and the federal government to clean the pollution, those who wield power are not interested in doing so. Instead, the officials of the NNPC are always announcing a plan to increase oil production without saying much about cleaning the region after five decades of continuous oil and gas exploration. It is clear to those in the oil region that those who wield power are only interested in generating income and not keen about spending billions of naira to clean the mess caused by oil exploration and gas flaring. It is apparent that even the cleaning of Ogoniland came by way of the recommendation of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). Despite the UN interest, the Ogoni clean-up effort is very lackadaisical. This indicates that Nigeria really does not care about the oil region and its inhabitants. It further adds to the feeling that the oil region is merely a colony that could be exploited to the advantage of those who wield power and their cronies. This further means that the lives of those who inhabit the oil region are not important to Nigeria.

Twelfth, it is apparent that the oil region is treated like a colony and the inhabitants are merely colonial subjects of Nigeria, otherwise, Nigeria would have put a stop to gas flaring. It is amazing that a national government of a sovereign state finds it difficult to order foreign oil companies to stop gas flaring. Nigeria has repeatedly postponed the deadline for stopping gas flaring without explaining why it finds it so difficult to enforce the deadline. The failure could be interpreted to mean that those who benefit from the oil wealth do not want any obstacle to hinder the oil companies from producing as much oil as possible, so that they can earn more. This means that the indigenes of the oil region are sacrificial lambs for those who stand to gain from the oil wealth.

Thirteenth, while the inhabitants of the oil region are in a state of bewilderment over the incredulous manner in which Nigeria treats them, the National Assembly launched a knockout blow to inform them that they have no rights in Nigeria and the resources in their backyards will be exploited for the betterment of other zones by enacting legislation which allocates only 3% to Host Communities Development Trust Fund while approving a whopping 30% for frontier basins exploration in the northern parts of the country. The host communities only demanded 10 percent but the number was cut to five and later three percent in the National Assembly. Basically, the NASS is saying that the political value of the people in the oil region is very little in Nigeria and they could be ignored at will. On the other hand, 30 percent of the profits accruing from oil and gas exploration will be used to explore for resources in the North. By this act, the North is telling other Nigerians that it owns Nigeria and can do whatever it pleases.

To make sure that the host communities end up with very little, the "host community" is now redefined to include communities that have nothing to do with oil exploration, apart from oil pipelines running through their lands. Perhaps, due to the desire to grab the oil wealth, no other bill in the history of Nigeria has taken so long to see the light of day. It should be noted that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) started its life around April 2000 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Thus, it took the PIB about 20 years to get to this stage. Then, in a twinkle of an eye, the region that lays the golden egg is blatantly shortchanged to transfer the oil wealth to the North. The question is, do the political leaders of the North really believe in Nigeria or are they scheming to establish an Arewa Republic? As such, perhaps, they are maximizing their effort to exploit other regions in preparation to declare their separation from Nigeria. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand the rational behind awarding only 3 percent to host communities that have suffered so much since oil exploration began while awarding 30 percent for the exploration of frontier basins, mostly in the North.

Some Nigerians have speculated that the members of the National Assembly from the North wanted to pay back in kind to their southern colleagues for opposing the Water Resources Bill. Using such a position to justify the awarding of 30 percent for exploration in the North doesn't add up. The reason is that the Water Resources Bill is a bill intended to satisfy the need of only a section of the country, hence, does not meet the criteria for "national interest" of Nigeria. The same goes for the RUGA plan that was intended to settle Fulani herders throughout the country. Moreover, cattle rearing is a private for-profit-making business, therefore, it was utterly inappropriate to pass legislation to meet only the needs of those who operate cattle. In the case of the PIB, the inhabitants of the oil region only ask for 10 percent for host communities and not 90 or 100 percent. This means that they care about the national interest of Nigeria. Unfortunately, by cutting the 10 percent to three percent and then awarding 30 percent to exploration in frontier basins does not meet the test of national interest. Thus, if the view that the northern legislators wanted to pay back in kind for the rejection of the water bill is true, then it means that they are helping to divide the country. It is in the national interest to explore for oil and other minerals in the North and other parts of Nigeria but it is not in the national interest to shortchanged the region that has been shouldering the financial responsibility to generate the national income. Doing so is tantamount to robbing the owner of a property and expecting the owner to suffer and smile.

Fourteenth, the internal colonization and marginalization of the Niger Delta/South-South by those who wield power in Nigeria would not have taken place if some sons and daughters of the oil region did not get greedy and aligned with the outside elements to hijack the oil wealth. Thus, Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions cannot be solely blamed for the colonization of the Niger Delta/South-South because some individuals in the oil region joined the train to exploit the region.

Consequently, there are some sons and daughters of the oil region who are receiving funds from the oil companies and the national government secretly to allow the exploitation of the region. There are also some individuals in the oil region who have gotten contracts to keep their mouths shut while the oil wealth in their region is exploited. Likewise, some sons and daughters of the oil region are given special employment at the national governmental level to buy their support for what is going on in the oil region. Additionally, some former armed youths have now obtained surveillance contracts to protect the facilities that they swore to destroy in order to change the status quo. Thus, anyone who has benefited financially from surveillance contracts is contributing to the colonization and marginalization of the Niger Delta/South-South. Finally, there are those elements in the oil region who own oil blocks as their counterparts in the non-oil region producing regions. Therefore, as far as a sizable number of people in the oil region are directly and indirectly contributing to the exploitation of the oil region, then change cannot take place. Perhaps, the only way in which the situation can change to the advantage of the oil region is when alternative sources of energy replace petroleum in the world. It is very easy for those who wield power in Nigeria to colonize and exploit the oil region. They know that they can invite some people to Abuja and provide them with large sums of money to encourage them to support the exploitation of the region. Indeed, money talks powerfully. Only very few people can escape the magnetic power of money.

Fifteen, the National Assembly (NASS) supposed to pass legislation based on the national interest of Nigeria at all times in order to unite the country. Sadly, the decision of the majority members of the National Assembly to pass a bill that openly exploits and discriminates against the oil region in favor of the North in its three percent for host communities and 30 percent for exploration in frontier basins in the Petroleum Industry Bill shows that there is no such a thing as Nigeria. Similarly, the refusal to approve the electronic transmission of results during elections in the Electoral Act Bill also shows that the National Assembly is not interested in the democratization of Nigeria. The lack of commitment to the national interest is clearly demonstrated by an action Mr. Aminu Malle, the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase took, following the passage of the legislations. He thanked the northern members of the National Assembly "for protecting and promoting the interest of the North in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act" (https://punchng.com/deputy-speakers-aide-lauds-lawmakers-for-promoting-northern-interest-in-pib-electoral-act/). The implication of his statement is far reaching. It shows that he and other northern members of the National Assembly do not believe in Nigeria but the North. It shows that the North does not care about equity, fairness, justice, and the unity of the country. It further means that northern members of the National Assembly would always act in the interest of the North's and not for the interest of Nigeria. Therefore, it is inferable that for him, most northern representatives in the National Assembly and the leaders of the North, the word "Nigeria" is merely a euphemism for the North. When they say anything about Nigeria, they mean the North. Mr. Aminu Malle congratulatory statement puts the representatives of the South in the National Assembly to shame for believing in their political parties and Nigeria. Mr. Malle has taught the indigenes of the Niger Delta/South-South a lesson about never to compromise again since there is no "Nigerian interest" but regional interests. This means that they have been fools for believing in the Nigerian project. Mr. Malle has clearly stated that there is no "Nigerian interest."

Conclusion

The action of the National Assembly against the oil region adds to the catalog of injustices that have been perpetrated against different sections of the country, thereby, resulting in the demand for restructuring and the break-up of Nigeria. If those who wield national power continue to take actions that blatantly lead to discrimination, injustice, unfairness, and inequality, then they should not be surprised if some Nigerians demand a referendum to decide the fate of the country. Likewise, if those who insist that Nigeria is indivisible and must remain as one, continue to institute policies and actions that are unfair, unjust and discriminate, then they should not be surprised when some Nigerians call for separation. Those who claim that Nigeria must remain as one country, yet, take actions that only benefit the North should not be surprised when the Niger Delta/South-South finally wakes up to demand full compensation for five decades of exploitation and underdevelopment. Indeed, Mr. Aminu Malle has shown that there is no such a thing as Nigeria since Nigeria increasingly means the North.

It is very obvious that the Niger Delta/South-South has never had a fair deal in Nigeria. Time after time, the tendency is to short-change the region while rewarding those who wield national power. Since petroleum and gas became major sources for generating nation income, the effort by those who wield power has been to marginalize, deprive, and pauperize the region that lays the golden egg. This leads to wealth transfer resulting in the impoverishing of the oil region while rewarding other regions. It is also obvious that the oil region is treated as a colony which could be exploited to the betterment of other regions of Nigeria. By implication, it means that the indigenes of the oil region are not viewed as Nigerians, hence, their exploitation.

For purpose of peace and national unity, President Muhammadu Buhari should not sign the Petroleum Industry Bill that allocates merely three percent to host communities while allocating 30 percent for frontier basins exploration. He should send it back to the National Assembly to demonstrate that he is truly a national leader and not the mouthpiece of a section of the country. The president should visit the oil region and address the people because they are not happy about what the National Assembly has done. The president should also refuse to sign the Electoral Act Bill and send it back to the National Assembly to reduce tension.

NEWS SECTIONS