… restoring the environment and reclaiming the dignity of a people
In 2022, the Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence (NDAC) was envisioned as a pan-Niger Delta forum for discussion, strategic decision-making, and action plan development. The NDAC’s strategy is to investigate the concerns of the Niger Delta and its inhabitants, to investigate the region’s current realities and impacts, and to reposition the “Niger Delta issue” as a critical national policy question. This is accomplished by shifting the national conversation about the Niger Delta away from just oil extraction and conflict and focusing on a number of other issues that are important to the region and its people.
The Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio-Ecological Justice was created in 2022 at the inaugural Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The Manifesto summarizes the area’s major social, ecological, and economic challenges. Hundreds of Niger Delta residents, including leaders, representatives of various ethnic groups, and traditional institutions, have signed on to the Manifesto and now support its demands.
Among other issues, the Manifesto reflects on 65 years of oil extraction in the Niger Delta and the fact that in that period, the Nigerian state and its oil company partners have generated tremendous wealth while the region has dropped significantly on all development indicators. Despite the wealth created by oil during that time period, Niger Delta states have suffered from the worst employment indicators, unusually low life expectancy, high levels of conflict and criminality, poor education and health records, massive pollution, and livelihood losses. During that time, the Niger Delta region deteriorated from a thriving agricultural and fishing hub to an ecological wasteland populated by angry and destitute people.
The Manifesto also reflects on the fact that, despite receiving an additional 13% share of oil revenues amounting to trillions of naira over the last decades, and despite the presence of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, development indicators have not improved in comparison to other less endowed states. The Niger Delta has instead become a cesspool of corruption and fraud.
The Manifesto also considers how the recently endorsed Petroleum Industry Act poses challenges for people in the region, such as how it seeks to continue the poisoning of oil-producing communities through gas flaring, how it criminalizes communities and forces them to take responsibility for protecting oil company facilities or face punishment, and how it gives oil companies overbearing powers over oil-producing communities.
The Manifesto also notes that the major oil exploration companies that have been operating in the region since the 1960s, with disastrous environmental and human rights consequences, have all made rapid plans to divest from their onshore Niger Delta assets, with no plans to remediate their vast ecological and health impacts.
The Manifesto also expressed concern that several Niger Delta communities have been on the frontlines of climate change-induced sea level rises for the last decade, causing serious damage to the livelihoods, health, economies, and homes of millions of Niger Delta residents.
Some of these issues have intensified since the last Convergence in 2022 and the adoption of the Manifesto, making it even more critical to address them in a timely manner.
The 2nd Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence will seek to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the outcome of the 2023 general elections, as well as the policy reform environment created by every change in administration, to drive the Niger Delta agenda into popular policy conversations.
The NDAC 2023 will be particularly focused on setting an agenda for the newly elected political leaders.
The key areas as captured in the Manifesto will be as follows:
- Environmental pollution- oil spill, gas flaring and blowouts
- An all Niger Delta environmental assessment and clean up
- The PIA and matters arising
- Oil company divestments
- Emerging climate change impacts in the Niger Delta
- Benefit sharing systems and accountability in the region- NDDC, MNDA, 13% derivation, etc.
- Health audit of the Niger Delta region
NDAC 2023 will provide a forum for bringing communities, civil society, development actors, and government to the table in a peoples-driven engagement ensuring that all voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously.
Date: 25th April, 2023.
Venue: Port Harcourt, Rivers State
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