Review Of Niger-Delta Human Development


Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Otive Igbuzor, PhD



Title of Book: Niger Delta Human Development Report

Publisher: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Abuja, Nigeria.

Number of pages: 218 pages

Year of Publication: 2006

ISBN: None

E-mail: or







The problems of development especially of wetlands and deltas have attracted the attention of development theorists, practitioners, activists, politicians and international organisations. In Nigeria, the challenges of development of the Niger Delta dates back to the colonial times and efforts to deal with the problem also dates back to that period. However, in recent years, the urgency to deal with the challenges has become more critical with increasing crime wave in the region, hostage taking of oil workers and emergence of militias. It is within this context that the 2006 Niger Delta Human Development Report prepared by the UNDP is very timely. In this review, we shall discuss the issues raised by the report. We shall also analyse what we have called the Niger Delta question and explore how the report has dealt with it. We will then propose ways of resolving the Niger Delta question after giving the implications of the report for stakeholders and programming for development in the region. But first, we shall clarify some conceptual issues that are of importance in the report and highlight the uniqueness of the report.




There are many concepts used within the context of the report whose understanding is germane to grasping the full import of the report. We shall explicate three of these: Development, Human Development Report and Niger Delta. The concept of development is a very controversial one. We have argued elsewhere that the definitions and interpretations of development are influenced by history, discipline, ideological orientation and training.[i] In fact, the post development school argues that the term is unjust, has never worked and should be dismantled.[ii] Chambers defines development as “good change”.[iii] This definition envisages that development is synonymous with progress. This progress should entail an all-encompassing improvement, a process that builds on itself and involve both individuals and social change.[iv] Kamghampati argues that development requires growth and structural change, some measure of distributive equity, modernization in social and cultural attitudes, a degree of political transformation and stability, an improvement in health and education so that population growth stabilizes, and an increase in urban living and employment.[v]


The Human Development Report (HDR) was launched by UNDP in 1990 to promote people centred development. Over the years, it has become one of the most respected and authoritative sources of knowledge and insight about global development issues, as well as a valued tool for influencing policy.[vi] Though commissioned by UNDP, HDR is usually independently produced by a select team of leading scholars and development practitioners. The UNDP normally produces global, national and regional HDRs. The report’s major index, Human Development Index (HDI) serves as a successful alternative to GDP as a measure of development. It is however important to point out that there are limitations in the use of HDI. Most of the indicators used in computing the HDI do not include items such as roads, water, electricity and appropriate waste management which are necessary to determine the quality of life of citizens.


There have been several descriptions of what is today referred to as Niger Delta. Despite the differences, there is a common criterion for defining the Niger Delta and that is geographical location. There are at least four different ways that the Niger Delta has been described in Nigeria. The first is the ‘natural’ or ‘core’ Niger Delta which is made up of those areas that constitute the ‘great delta’ of the River Niger that arises on the northeastern border of Sierra Leone and flows in a great arc for 4,100 km north-east through Mali and Western Niger before turning southwards to empty into the Gulf of Guinea.[vii] The States that constitute the core Niger Delta are Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States. The second is the geopolitical Niger Delta which consists of states in the South South geopolitical zone of Nigeria namely Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Edo States. The third is the oil producing Niger Delta which is made up of the nine oil producing States of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Abia, Imo and Ondo States. The Niger Delta used in this report is the oil producing Niger Delta covering the nine states. The fourth is the coastal States of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers and Edo which has been popularized by the setting up of the Presidential Council on Social and Economic Development of the Coastal States of the Niger Delta.




The 2006 UNDP Niger Delta Human Development Report is certainly not the first report on the Niger Delta. There have been several reports by organisations including those by Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Human Rights Watch, African Network of Economic and Environmental Justice (ANEEJ), Centre for Law Enforcement Education (CLEEN), Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES), Niger Delta Wetlands Centre, Centre for Advanced Social Sciences (CASS) and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). [viii] But this report under review is unique in many ways. First and foremost, it is the first sub-regional human development report in Nigeria to be conducted by UNDP. Although UNDP has been conducting Human Development Report in the country since 1996, this is the first one focused on a region which underscores the grave challenge that the region faces. Secondly, from the conception to implementation, emphasis was placed on challenges of the region as articulated by people of the region. From the lead consultant (Environmental Resources Managers Ltd) to the participants at the stakeholders’ consultation meetings in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Calabar, there was high level participation by citizens of the region. No doubt, the process gave prominence to the time tested concept of participation which is recognized by all but seldomly practiced. Thirdly, the report focused heavily on women and youth. The focus on women is very important and strategic especially as it has been shown clearly there is a clear linkage between women empowerment and development. Meanwhile, it has been documented that women are discriminated against, marginalized and oppressed in Nigeria.[ix] The focus on youth is crucial because 60.1 percent of people in the Niger Delta are below 30 years of age.[x] Finally and perhaps most importantly is the focus of the report on human development.




The 218 paged Niger Delta report is divided into seven chapters. Chapter One analysed the amazing paradoxes of the Niger Delta as a region with enormous resources accounting for “upwards of 80 percent of Nigeria’s exchange earnings and about 70 percent of government revenue” yet “suffering from administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict” (p. 9). The chapter discusses the concepts of “people-centred development,” “participatory development,” and sustainable human development which should “enable people to realize their potential, build self-confidence and lead lives of dignity and fulfillment; free people from poverty, ignorance, filth, squalor, deprivation and exploitation, recognizing that underdevelopment has wider social consequences and correct for existing economic, social or political injustices and oppression.” (p.9). The report gave a comprehensive definition of sustainable human development as popularized by the United Nations as “Development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably; that regenerates the environment rather than destroys it; that empowers people rather than marginalsing them. It gives priority to the poor, enlarging their choices and opportunities, and provides for their participation in decisions affecting them……is development that is pro-poor, pro-nature, pro-jobs, and pro-women. It stresses growth, but growth with employment, growth with environmental friendliness, growth with empowerment, and growth with equity.” (p.10). The report then gave a rationale for a human development approach to the Niger Delta which includes the fact that top-down development plans have made little impact on the real lives of the people of the delta.


The report traced the history of development planning in Nigeria from the ten year colonial development plan from 1946-1955 through the post independent development plans and the responses of government to perceived marginalization of the region from the Willinks report to the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) in 1961; Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA) in 1976, Oil and Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992 and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000. The report argued that these agencies “did not make any meaningful impact on the lives and environment of the Niger Delta people for many reasons” including the fact that “the local people had no say” in their composition and management; the loyalty of the officials is “not to the Niger Delta but to the Federal Government and oil companies,” profligacy and extravagance and that they are merely contract awarding agencies. More importantly, all these agencies are seen by the Niger Delta people as imposition. A classic example is the NDBDA where “none of the board members appointed by the Federal Government to run the Authority came from the Niger Delta.” (p.12).


The chapter also addressed the vexed issue of revenue allocation vis-à-vis derivation formula from independence to date as shown in the table below:





Table 1: Federal and State Shares petroleum Proceeds




Producing State (per cent)

Distributable Pool Amount or Federation Account (per cent)















45 minus offshore proceeds

55 plus offshore proceeds



20 minus offshore proceeds

80 plus offshore proceeds


















Source Modification of Sagay 2001 (Quoted in the report)

As can be seen from the table below, there was a drastic reduction of the percentage for derivation from 50 percent in the first republic (1960-67) when agricultural products were the main revenue sources to nothing from 1979-81 and 3 percent from 1992-1999 and then to the present 13 percent. The report concluded that the reason for the drastic change in the size of the derivation formula was the onset of the civil war which was to lead to the political and fiscal centralization of the federal system. The report states categorically that “only an equitable revenue allocation formula will ease the tension, agitations and perceptions of unfairness.”


The chapter also gave an history of resistance in the region including those by King William Koko of Nembe who resisted the Royal Niger Company from 1894-95; King Nana of Itsekiri (1896); Oba Overanmi of Benin (1897), Isaac Adaka Boro (1966), Ken Saro Wiwa (1993-95) and the Kaiama Declaration of 1998-2000. The chapter also elucidated the methodology of the report which is a combination of conventional research methods (document analysis and survey methods) and participatory approach of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). The report also gave an outline of the people and settlement patterns in the Niger Delta with 13,329 settlements in the region, 94 percent of which have populations of less than 5,000 people. The table 2 below gives the projected population of the Niger Delta.




Land Area











Akwa Ibom






















Cross River


































































Niger Delta













Table 2: Projected Population of Niger Delta States


The major occupation of the people is fishing and agriculture but activities of oil companies have impacted on the environment with poor access to water, transport, telecommunication, power and fuel, housing, poor waste management and poor educational infrastructure. On the whole, chapter one showed that an income development paradigm would be grossly inadequate to deal with the varied and complex development challenges facing the peoples of the Niger Delta. It showed graphically how past development planning efforts have resulted in disillusionment and frustration about deepening socioeconomic deprivation and environmental devastation. It documented how the peoples of the Niger Delta see “one government sponsored development agency after another come and go without any significant changes in their lives or in the quality of their delicate physical environment.” (p.33). The report advocates for a people-centred or participatory approach to development planning and management with the active participation of the people in decision making on issues that pertain to their livelihoods and interests.


Chapter two of the report shows that like Nigeria, the incidence of poverty in the Niger Delta increased phenomenally from the 1980s to the 1990s as can be seen from the table below:


Table3 : Incidence of poverty in the Niger Delta 1980-2004




Incidence of Poverty in the Niger Delta

































Cross River







Imo/Abia State



































Source: National Bureau of Statistics 2004






The report showed clearly that “oil wealth enriches Nigeria as a country but it has not alleviated the grinding poverty, neglect and deprivation in the region that produces it.” The report identified poor governance to be at the core of the low level of physical development of the Niger Delta. It points out that “strong arm tactics characterise electioneering, with thugs often used to terrorise opponents, and prevent free and fair access to the electorate. This erodes public confidence in electoral outcomes, which in turn leads to the declining legitimacy of elected officials and their institutions.” (p. 41). This is graphically illustrated by one participant at a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt who said “In 2003, no election took place in (our State). The State Governor simply allocated figures and put people he liked in the House of Assembly.” (p. 41).

The chapter also examined poverty scenarios with the aid of human development indices including Human Development Index(HDI), Poverty Index for Developing Countries (HPI-I), Gender related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). The indicators that go into the computation of the human development indices is as shown below:


The parameters of the Human Development Indices




A long and healthy life ( measured as life expectancy)


Knowledge ( measured as adult literacy rate and gross enrolment ratio)


Decent standard of living ( measured as GDP per capita, adjusted by PPP US $)



A long and healthy life ( measured as probability at birth of not surviving at age 40)


Knowledge ( measured as adult literacy rate )


Decent standard of living ( measured as percentage of population not using improved water resources and percentage of children under five who are underweight)



A long and healthy life (measured as probability at birth of not surviving to age 60


Knowledge ( measured as percentage of adults lacking a functional literacy skills)


Decent standard of living (measured as percentage of people living below the poverty line)


Social exclusion(measured as long-term unemployment rate)



A long and healthy life ( measured as female life expectancy and male life expectancy)


Knowledge ( measured by female adult literacy rate and male adult literacy rate)


Decent standard of living ( measured as female estimated earned income and male estimated earned income)



Political participation (measured as female and male shares of parliamentary seats)


Economic participation and decision making ( measured as female and male shares of position as legislators, senior officials and mangers and female and male shares of professionals and technical positions)


Power over economic resources ( measured as female and male estimated earned income)


The report showed that the average HDI for the Niger Delta states is 0.564 and concludes that “the relative human development in the Niger Delta has declined.” (p. 56). The report further reveals that “while some states (in Nigeria) made appreciable progress between 1992 and 2005, most states from the Niger Delta region especially the South-South geo-political zone performed poorly. Edo, Delta and Bayelsa showed some retrogressive trends, while Ondo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Imo States achieved some progress.” (p. 56). The report further suggests that “the human development situation in Nigeria as a whole, as measured by the HDI has declined, although the drop off appears to be steeper for the Niger Delta States than for the rest of the country.”


The report showed that the average HPI-I for the Niger Delta States is 28.8 percent for 2005 compared with 38.8 percent for Nigeria as a whole. This means that the Niger Delta outperformed the rest of the country. But the Niger Delta average HPI-I of 28.8 percent is by far worse than those of other oil producing countries of Saudi Arabia (14.9 percent), Indonesia (17.8 percent) or Venezuela (8.8 percent).


While the HDI measures average achievement, the GDI adjusts this average achievement to reflect inequalities between men and women. For the Niger Delta States, the average GDI for 2005 was 0.444 compared to 0.439 for Nigeria. (p. 60). This shows that the Niger Delta States have outperformed the national average, although such states as Abia, Delta and Imo have performed below the average. However, the delta’s GDI score fares poorly in comparison with other oil producing countries. In 2003, Oman scored 0.759, Venezuela 0.765, Saudi Arabia 0.749 and Indonesia 0.691. The HDI for local government areas show a lot of variation. According to the report,


The best performing local government areas are Udu in Delta State (0.59); followed by Aniocha South in Delta State (0.561); Port Harcourt in Rivers State (0.557); Warri North (0.555), Burutu (0.551), Oshimili South (0.529), Ethiope West (0.526), Warri South (0.525), Ndokwa West (0.522) and Oshimili North (0.522) all of which are in Delta State; and Abia South in Abia State (0.518). Just as Delta State is the best performing State on the HDI, nine of these eleven best performing localities are in Delta State, two are in Rivers, and one each are in Cross River, Abia and Akwa Ibom States.


The worst performing localities are Ifedore (0.229), Ese Odo (0.240) and Akoko South East (0.243), all of which are in Ondo State; Opobo/Nkoro in Rivers State (0.253); Onna (0.254) and Orukanam (0.257) in Akwa Ibom State; and Obio Ngwa in Abia State (0.256). (pp 61-62)


The report revealed some interesting patterns: “most of the best performing local governments are urban; the poorest performers are mostly rural. Ondo State has more of the worst performing local governments, while Delta state has more of the best performing.” (p. 62). In terms of HPI-I scores for LGAs, the report gives an interesting revelation that “localities with oil facilities could be assumed to attract more social and economic activities and to score better. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case- most areas with oil facilities have high or medium scores, indicating pervasive poverty. Areas without oil facilities appear to fare better than those with oil facilities- another indication of the unequal distribution of oil resources.” (p.130). The report also revealed that all local government areas performed poorly on women’s representation in the National Assembly which dragged down scores in the GEM. The chapter also assessed the region’s progress towards achieving the MDGs. The report argued that with high revenues, the delta states should be in good position to meet the MDGs. But the reality on the ground indicates that the delta may only meet the target of universal primary education by 2015.


The focus of chapter three is the environment-development nexus. The report opines that the environment is very important for the Niger Delta people “where nearly 60 percent of the population depends on the natural environment-living and non-living for their livelihoods.” (p. 74). The chapter analyses wide ranging changes taking place in the Niger Delta environment attributed to the impacts of oil and gas exploration and exploitation, industralisation and urbanization. The report demonstrates that industralisation, urban development, and oil and gas exploration and exploitation have infringed on the people and their environment resulting in alteration of habitats, biodiversity loss, deforestation and pollution (p. 74). Concretely, the manifestation of the environmental problems include flooding, siltation and occlusion, erosion, shortage of land for development, canalization, oil spills, gas leaks and flares, subsidence, depletion of forest resources, erosion, effluent and waste from oil operations. Finally, the negative social impacts of the environmental problems are highlighted, including the frustrations of the local people with both oil companies and multinational corporations on the one hand and the three tiers of government and regulatory agencies on the other.


Chapter four dwells on HIV and AIDs, prevailing social vices and compounding effects of the impoverishment of women and young people. The report showed that the prevalence of HIV and AIDs in the Niger Delta is among the highest in the country higher than the average for Nigeria as a whole. The report states that “the 2003 sentinel survey rated the South South region as having the second highest prevalence (5.8 percent) after the North Central zone with seven percent. This result is alarming compared to the South West at 2.3 percent and the North West at 4.2 percent.” (p. 94).


Meanwhile, government commitment to activities to control HIV and AIDS lags behind other regions. The report identified factors promoting the spread of HIV and AIDS in Niger Delta to include behavioral, economic, socio-cultural and biological. Finally, the chapter explores the connections of HIV and AIDS to human development concerns and advocates for a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach to the management of HIV and AIDS.


In chapter five, conflicts and peace-making in the Niger Delta are considered given their ramification for the inclusive goals and human development. The origins, incidences and political economy are discussed. The report notes that the Niger Delta conflicts over resources began simmering during the pre-colonial period but that the region has become more volatile over the years because of deprivation which have pushed citizens into anger, hopelessness, cynicism and violence. The report argued that before the advent of oil in commercial quantities, the production of palm oil, palm kernel and timber earned considerable income for the region and Nigeria. But the loss of the once vibrant agriculture and fishing sectors and very limited access to the benefits from oil resources set the stage for violence in the region. The most common forms of conflict in the region are intra-community, inter-community, inter-ethnic and community and oil company conflicts. An interesting dimension is the breakdown of authority including those of traditional rulers who have lost their legitimacy partly because of greed and partly because there is not enough money to satisfy everybody. In addition, the government and its agencies, through negligence or outright failure are implicated in most of the conflicts in the region. The security forces who are supposed to act as peacemakers often clash with communities and escalate the conflict. The report also outlined the devastating social and economic costs of conflict in the region. Another interesting dimension is a discussion of who benefits from the conflict including “the underground economy of oil and gas,” law enforcement agents sent to check illegal bunkering and “networks of powerful crooks.” The chapter also elaborates the requirements for sustainable peace and political stability as grounds for harnessing the benefits of the region. The chapter concludes that “peace will depend therefore not only on the physical development of the region, but also on the establishment of a new and positive culture of social, economic and democratic rebirth.” (p. 127-128).


Chapter six looks at the future possibilities for promoting sustainable livelihoods in the Niger Delta. It points out that oil companies intervention projects have not been able to meaningfully impact on livelihood because they were implemented without any systematic link to any development plans. It argues that the possible expansion of the economic base of the region, and consequently the institutional labour market framework, would ideally increase opportunities for employment in both the modern and traditional sectors, as well as expand people’s occupational or career choices in the pursuit of social and economic activities that offer self-fulfillment and quality of life.


Finally, chapter seven is about development planning and its practical implementation in the Niger Delta. The chapter suggests a seven point agenda and action to achieve human development:

1. Peace as the Foundation: This agenda is proposed with the understanding that all violent conflicts constrain development. The report gives the strategies for achieving peace to include the need to assuage grievances for peace building; promote the rule of law and easier access to justice; resolve the revenue allocation impasse to accord higher value to derivation; distribute equitably the benefits from mineral resources; demilitarise the region; and ensure effective law enforcement and policing.

2. Governance based on genuine democracy, participation and accountability: The goals of the governance agenda are to promote greater democratic participation in governance through more effective devolution and involvement of non-state agents in decision making processes; improve service delivery by building the capacity of public institutions; and ensure responsive and responsible government through institutionlaised accountability.

3. An improved and diversified economy as the lever of progress: The objectives of this agenda are to stimulate pro-poor economic growth, which will increase employment, productivity and the incomes of poor people while channeling public resources into human development through improved human skills, health and livelihoods; to make industralisation and diversification the pivot of balanced development, considering the nature of oil and gas resources as non-renewable assets, and to fully develop and deploy human and institutional capacities through the use of oil and non-oil resources; to eradicate poverty by empowering the people to use their strengths and assets to improve their livelihoods, and to stimulate industrial competitive advantages by ensuring access to public goods that include infrastructure (e.g. roads, waste management, transport, networks for energy and water) and ‘software’ (e.g. industrial extension services, credit, training etc) essential or a functioning economy.

4. Promoting social inclusion: This agenda seeks to deal with the problem of social exclusion at two levels: social exclusion of the Niger Delta as a region, relative to the rest of the country and the social exclusion of specified groups (women and youth), individual or communities within the delta. The strategies suggested include empowerment of marginalized groups; institutional strengthening; inclusiveness and capacity development at the grass roots; participatory decision making; promotion of partnerships and targeting of groups and localities.

5. The environment as a basis for sustainability: This agenda is predicated on the recognition that if the current rate of environmental degradation continues unchecked, human development will not be sustainable. The report therefore proposed a strategy to achieve environmental sustainability that is people centred and work from bottom up. The strategy will address the physical environment (conservation, pollution and soil fertility), socio-cultural environment, economic environment and institutional environment (laws, policies and regulation)

6. An integrated approach to dealing with HIV and AIDS: This strategy envisages that all stakeholders have roles to play including advocacy, communication, educational campaigns, policies, leadership and special programmes.

7. Partnerships for sustainable human development: The report argues that partnershps will make or break the human development agenda proposed for the Niger Delta. The players in the partnership are citizens of the Niger Delta and other parts of the Nigeria, oil producing communities and the rest of Nigeria, NGOs and community based organisations, businesses, governments ( local, state and federal) and the global community (NGOs, governments, multilateral and bilateral organisations etc).


To achieve the human development agenda, the report proposes a two track approach: implement priority projects and quick interventions, including those that build confidence in the possibilities ahead and plan at a more strategic level and implement long-term development programmes that address fundamental structural and infrastructural constraints on human development.




There are a lot of issues that flow from the report and there are implications for all the stakeholders in the Niger Delta. One omnibus implication is that there is the need for change in strategy by all stakeholders in the Niger Delta. The citizens need to be more proactive in engagement with oil companies and government at all levels. The report showed clearly that areas without oil facilities fared better than areas with oil facilities. This means that citizens in communities with oil facilities or where oil is discovered in future must insist on a human development agenda. Similarly, communities negotiating the return of oil companies must insist on a similar agenda before permitting such return.


The report places a lot of responsibility on NGOs and civil society organisations especially in terms of holding oil companies and governments at all levels accountable. We have argued elsewhere that NGOs are not monolithic and that there are different ways by which we can classify them. One of the ways to classify them is according to their positioning on development issues. NGOs/Civil society positioning is influenced by a lot of factors including ideological orientation of the founder and/ or leadership, knowledge and training. The positioning of NGOs/civil society organizations with respect to development issues can be categorized into four groups: abolitionist, transformist, reformist and conformist.[xi] The Abolitionists argue that the structures and systems in place to deliver on development are illegitimate and constrain freedom and capacity of individuals to bring about development. They recommend the abolition of all structures including governmental structures, private companies, e.t.c. and replacing them with completely new structures. Many of these people will not participate in any government committee or commission because they believe that nothing positive will be achieved until the entire structure is abolished. The abolitionists will therefore not participate in any conference called by government. The Transformists are of the view that that there are fundamental problems with the structures and mechanisms in place to bring about development. They argue that the processes that emanate from the structures and mechanisms are oppressive and exclude the poor. They suggest a fundamental restructuring of the structures and mechanisms to deliver development. The transformists will not participate in a conference called by the government if the process of convocation is not participatory, democratic, open and transparent.


The Reformists see nothing fundamentally wrong with the structures and mechanism. They argue that the problem is with leadership and performance. They suggest that good leadership, discipline and proper management can bring about the desired development. The reformists will participate in any conference or committee set up by government no matter how illegitimate it is in the eyes of civil society. The reformists believe in entreism i.e. that they can go into government by whatever means (election or appointment) to bring about the desired changes. The Conformists see nothing wrong with the system. They just want to be part of the system. Their greatest argument is for the involvement of the civil society in governance and development projects. The conformists are always lobbying for positions in government. They are mostly opportunists. In our view, the NGOs/ CSOs that will be useful in implementing human development agenda in the Niger Delta are those that are transformist.


The report identified that while turmoil in the delta has many sources and motivations, the preeminent underlying cause is the historical failure of governance at all levels.(p.3). There is therefore the need for change in all governance processes including elections, conduct of government business and governmental structures and institutions. Similarly, oil companies will need to commit to corporate social responsibility and abide by international good practices in the conduct of their businesses including good oil field practice. However, one clear lesson from the operation of private companies across the world is that they follow profit. This is why during the colonial rule in Nigeria, trade in palm oil and palm kernel in the Niger Delta thrived despite its numerous documented problems including problems of labour, capital, infrastructure, competition, trade wars, security and malaria.[xii] Similarly, business in the oil and gas sector and scramble for new oil blocs has and will continue despite the security challenges and hostage taking in the Niger Delta, the recent withdrawal of Wilbros and Julius Berger not withstanding. The usual response to increased insecurity is to put security arrangements in place and increase wages and insurance especially of skilled staff. The report noted that “the oil companies particularly Shell Petroleum have operated for over 30 years without appreciable control or environmental regulation to guide their activities.” (p.81).This is why regulatory agencies are key to ensuring that oil companies play their part in the human development agenda in the delta.


The report also has implication for programming. For instance, there is disparity in local performances hence the need for special attention to the varying need of different locations.


One form of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different outcome. Any intervention or programme in the Niger Delta that follows the pattern of utilizing traditional structures (discredited traditional rulers), oil companies, conformist and reformist NGOs, popular but corrupt politicians is bound to follow the footsteps of its predecessors: fail. The UNDP project must therefore learn from the mistakes of the past and build its intervention around agents of change in the Niger Delta from oil communities, professionals, labour activists (not aristocrats), transformist NGOs and progressive local government, state and federal government officials. The point being made here is that there are change agents in all these arenas who must be identified, supported and funded to build a social movement for change in the delta.


Finally, the development of the Niger Delta is inextricably linked to the development of Nigeria as a whole. Indeed, the Niger Delta question is a metaphor for the Nigerian question. Therefore, change effort at all levels in the delta must be linked with wider efforts for the transformation of Nigeria.



The report has addressed what we have called the Niger Delta question i.e. why abundant human and natural resources have had so little impact on poverty in the region and why past development planning efforts have failed to address the region’s needs. It must be pointed out at this juncture that the issue in the Niger Delta question is not an isolated challenge. It has been documented across the world that resource-rich countries have performed worse than those with smaller endowments leading to phenomenon that scholars now refer to as resource curse:

Countries that depend on oil for their livelihood are among the most economically troubled, the most authoritarian, and the most conflict-ridden in the world. The consequences of development based on the export of petroleum have tended to be negative during the past 40 years. Detrimental effects include slower-than-expected economic growth, poor economic diversification, dismal social welfare indicators, high levels of poverty and inequality, devastating environmental impacts at the local level, rampant corruption, exceptionally poor governance, and high incidences of conflict and war.


When compared to countries dependent on the export of agricultural commodities, mineral and oil exporting countries suffer from unusually high poverty, poor health care, widespread malnutrition, high rates of child mortality, low life expectancy, and poor educational performance- all of which are surprising findings given the revenue streams of resource-rich countries.


Due to the highly volatile nature of oil markets, oil exporting nations often fall victim to sudden declines in their per capita income and growth collapses of huge proportions. The statistics are startling: In Saudi Arabia, whose proven crude oil reserves are the greatest in the world, per capita income has plunged from $28,600 in 1981 to $6,800 in 2001. In Nigeria and Venezuela, real per capita income has decreased to the levels of 1960s, while many other countries- Algeria, Angola, Congo, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, and Trinidad and Tobago- are back to the levels of the 1970s and 1980s. The surprisingly negative outcomes in oil- and mineral-dependent countries are referred to as the “resource-curse.”[xiii]


Scholars have shown clearly the linkage between overdependence on oil exports and the production of weak public institutions, authoritarianism, corruption, conflict and primitive accumulation of wealth through collection of bribes and contract inflation:

Overdependence on oil exports is strongly associated with weak public institutions that generally lack the capacity to handle the challenges of petroleum-led development …the influx of rents from petroleum tends to produce a rentier state-one that lives from the profits of oil. In rentier states, economic influence and political power are especially concentrated, the lines between public and private are very blurred, and rent seeking as a strategy for creating wealth is rampant. Rulers tend to stay in power by diverting revenues to themselves and their supporters…authoritarian rulers use petrodollars to keep themselves in power, prevent the formation of opposition groups and create vast militaries and repressive apparatuses…As a group, oil exporting countries are significantly more corrupt than the world average (even if Canada and Norway are included). Nigeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Congo, Cameroon, and Indonesia compete for the position of the “most corrupt” in the annual ratings of Transparency International…policy makers in oil-exporting countries tend to favour mega-projects in which payoffs can be more easily hidden and the collection of bribes facilitated, while eschewing productive long term investments that are more transparent…petroleum is more associated with civil war and conflict than any other commodity. Countries dependent on oil are more likely than resource poor countries to have civil wars; these wars are more likely to be secessionist, and they are more likely to be of even greater duration and intensity compared to wars where oil is not present. Oil may be the catalyst to start a war; petrodollars and pipeline may serve to finance either side and prolong conflict.[xiv]


Despite this negative proposition, it is necessary to point out that over the past decade, there is an increased understanding of the problem and what needs to be done to turn resource curse into resource blessing. Interestingly, there are some resource-rich countries with stories of success. For instance, in the 1970s, Indonesia and Nigeria had comparable per capita incomes and both countries were heavily dependent on oil revenues. In the early 2000s, Indonesia’s per capita income was four times that of Nigeria[xv] and Nigeria’s per capita had actually fallen from US $302.75 in 1973 to US $254.26 in 2002.[xvi] Similarly, Botswana is rich in Diamonds and had an average growth rate of 5.2 percent between 1974 and 2002. But in Nigeria, annual per capita GDP remained stagnant in the 1990s and grew by only 2.2 percent from 1999-2003.[xvii] Furthermore, the United States, Canada, Australia, Chile and Norway are resource rich countries that have made significant progress in human development. The challenge therefore is how to turn the resource curse into resource blessing thereby resolving the Niger Delta question.




In order to resolve the Niger Delta question, it is necessary to examine responses by government to deal with the question and why it has failed. The response by government to resolve the Niger Delta question can be classified into three categories namely legal response, military response and project and agency response. The legal response involves the promulgation of various laws to control the ownership of minerals or to regulate and control the operations of oil companies. Some of the laws include the Mineral Act of 1914, the minerals Oils (safety) regulations 1963, Oil in Navigable Waters Regulataions 1968, Oil in Navigable Waters Act No. 43 of 1968, Petroleum Regulations 1967, Petroleum Decree (Act) 1969, Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations 1969, Petroleum (Drilling and Production Amendment) Regulataions 1973, Petroleum Refining Regulation 1974, Anti sabotage Decree 1975 and Land Use Act 1978. Apart from the laws putting the control of the oil proceeds in the hands of the federal governments, most of the other laws are not effectively implemented.


The military response to the question is to militarise the area and establish task forces to repress citizens who agitate against the neglect of the areas and devastation of the environment. It has been documented that:

…the adopted militarist response to the crisis in the Niger Delta did not stop with the exit of the military rule. The new civilian administration carried out massive repressions in towns of Choba and Odi in 1999. In 2002, a joint military task force headquartered in Warri, under the leadership of General Elias Zamani, came into operation and the task force was responsible for the recent military operations in Odioma, Bayelsa State. Those military actions were probably aspects of a larger Niger Delta-wide counter-insurgency operation, code-named “Hakuri II.”[xviii]

Eventually, the whole Niger Delta region became militarized with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and emergence of armed militia groups.


The project and agency response is essentially made up of establishing development agencies such as NDDB, NDBDA, OMPADEC and NDDC. All these agencies failed due to a [xix]plethora of factors including imposition from outside the region, politicization, patronage, inadequate funding and sabotage.


This report clearly shows the need for a new kind of response that will focus on human development with the seven point agenda. As noted above, there are implications of the report to different stakeholders in the Niger Delta question. To resolve the Niger Delta question will require different stakeholders to play their roles. But one of the main reasons why we have not made progress is that in most cases, we appeal to the stakeholders to take on new roles that are clearly not in their interest. It is not in the interest of corrupt politicians to be transparent and accountable. It is not in the interest of militia leaders, conflict entrepreneurs and professional conflict workshop organizers for the conflict to abate. Lesson from across the world show that:

Many countries rich in natural resources exploit and squander that wealth to enrich a minority while corruption and mismanagement leave the majority improverished.


Breaking that pattern is difficult because of their resource wealth. Such countries do not have to borrow money from multilateral lending agencies that insist on fiscal transparency and good budget practices. The world’s leading democracies dependent on importing oil, gas or minerals often have little appetite to use diplomatic pressure to demand better fiscal practices from resource-rich countries. And multinational energy companies which depend on good relationships with host governments to allow them to continue extracting natural resources, are also unlikely to press for good economic management.


As a result, the citizens of resource-rich countries-the actual owners of their countries natural wealth bear a special responsibility to push their governments toward transparency and spending that resources to public needs.[xx]

As we shall show later, a coalition of change agents made up principally of citizens and their oraginsations with allies in all other sectors hold the key to resolving the Niger Delta question.


An important aspect of the approach to resolving the crises in the Niger Delta is the promotion of dialogue. Since the Niger Delta challenge degenerated to the emergence of militia groups and hostage taking a few years ago, the management of the hostage release process without bloodshed and collection of ransom has been quite commendable. However, the recent order by the Federal Government to the Joint Task Force to flush out militants from the region can only escalate the crisis and spate of violence in the region. If we have to learn from experiences of the “war on terrorism” and the struggles in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and in the middle east, we can predict that the order will create another cycle of violence which will further exacerbate the situation in the Niger Delta.


From the above, it is clear that citizens of the Niger Delta have a great role to play in resolving the Niger Delta question in partnership with other progressive forces outside the region and at all levels of government.


It is clear to us that resolving the Niger Delta question will require agents of change in the Niger Delta to mobilize all stakeholders and hold them accountable for playing different roles alluded to above in translating the human development agenda into concrete actions.




The human development agenda proposed in the report is quite comprehensive and well thought out. However, there are a lot of assumptions and appeals. There is an implicit assumption that the identified stakeholders are ignorant of the consequences of their actions that have created the deplorable situation in the delta and will change if the know the contents of the report. As a result, there is a lot of appeals. There is appeal to the region to broker peace through a closely “co-ordinated domestic strategy that addresses oil theft, money laundering and illegal arms.” (p.4). There is an appeal for “oil trust fund to ensure that revenues reach local communities where oil is being drilled.” There is an appeal for public policies and mechanisms to “ensure that good governance principles are upheld, especially in State and sub-national interactions.” (p.5). There is appeal to NGOs and civil society groups to “model the process of questioning people in authority and holding them accountable without fear or favour.” (p.5). There is appeal for pro-poor economic growth which “would expand the employment, productivity and incomes of poor people; unleash human and institutional capacities; eradicate poverty improved livelihoods; and stimulate industrial development through increased access to basic public goods.” (p.5). There is appeal to oil companies to “adapt programmes to encourage the development of skilled and qualified persons from host communities.” (p.6). There is appeal for the “establishment of local development funds that garner contributions from various stakeholders, including Federal Government and oil companies but are managed locally.” (p.7). There is appeal for “passing and enforcing environmental laws, instituting equitable compensation regimes for oil and gas activities.” (p.7). There is appeal to state and local governments and the NDDC to “institutionalize their responses to HIV and AIDS.” (p.7). There is appeal to oil companies to shun “unscrupulous business practices and the abuse of the environment.” (p.8).


Even though these appeals are good and genuine, they are not new. Experience tells us that none of the affected agencies will listen unless an enabling environment is created that will make it impossible for them not to respond. The challenge therefore is how do we create an enabling environment for positive change in the Niger Delta. That in our view should be the major concern of the other component of the UNDP integrated development programme for the Niger Delta of which this report is a component. Framed in another way: How do we bring about change in the Niger Delta that will lead to the implementation of the human development agenda. In the recent past, there has been a lot of debate in Nigeria on what can bring about sustainable change. It is clear to us to change built around individuals is not sustainable. It has been documented that:

individuals and organisations on their own would be hard pressed to drive meaningful long term change. Rather, in tackling the fundamental constraints to change in Nigeria, an approach is required that identifies and supports coalition of interest across civil society, government, the private sector and the media. Such coalitions should be supported to work on issues that engage their stakeholders and that have the potential to lead to institutional change.[xxi]


In order to implement the human development agenda in the Niger Delta, there is the need to develop a programmatic strategy for the implementation of the seven point agenda. We suggest the formation of a working group for each agenda that will utilise participatory approaches to develop a strategy for each agenda. The working group will form the nucleus of a group of change agents that will form a movement for change in the Niger Delta. A major work of the working group will be to produce and disseminate knowledge that will back up the change process for ss Iyayi has argued, even when citizens are given opportunity to participate, their contributions are constrained by limitations imposed by current knowledge and their material conditions.[xxii]


It is important to point out that studies have shown that politicians are either incapable or unwilling to push for just and equitable societies, being instead distracted by a chance to exercise power.[xxiii] Meanwhile, studies in dialectics of development tell us clearly that in every society, there are classes and forces of change. In the Niger Delta, agents and forces of positive change can be found in the communities (especially oil bearing communities), artisans, fishermen, farmers, youth groups, women groups, professional groups, community development unions, professionals, political activists, ethnic nationalities and civil society activists of the transformist bend. The greatest support that can be given to the Niger Delta people and region is not handout by development agencies but support to create the enabling environment for the emergence of coalition of change agent that will form a movement for change in the region. The UNDP can play a lot of role in this regard. Programming in the Niger Delta has been politicized and in most cases serve as avenues for corruptible transations. There have been a lot of allegations against oil companies for doing very little projects and claiming fabulous amounts in their statement of accounts. But since its creation in 1966, the UNDP has become a respected and credible organization within the UN system that utilizes rights based approach which has been recognized worldwide as an empowering approach which we believe is particularly suited for the Niger Delta. We have no doubt in our mind that if the suggestions above are faithfully implemented, we will be on the right way to creating “an environment that allows people to flourish, live valued and dignified lives, overcome poverty, enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and sustain their environment.”[xxiv]





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[i] Igbuzor, O. (2005), Perspectives on Democracy and Development. Lagos, Joe-Tolalu & Associates.

[ii] Sachs, W. (1992), “Introduction” in Sachs, W.(Ed), The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. London, Zed Books

[iii] Chambers, R (1997), Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last. London, Intermediate Technology Publications

[iv] Thomas, A. (2000), “Meanings and Views of Development” in Allen, T and Thomas, A (Eds), Poverty and Development into the 21st Century. UK, Oxford University Press.

[v] Kambhampati, U. S. (2004), Development and the Developing World. USA, Blackwell Publishing Inc.

[vi] UNDP (2006), Global Partnership for Development. Annual Report 2006.

[vii] Oxford (1998), World Encyclopedia. Oxford University Press. P. 973

[viii] Some of the reports include Oil of Poverty by ANEEJ; Towards an Integrated Development of the Niger Delta by Centre for Democracy and Development, Extractive Industries and Economic, Social and Human Rights by IHRHL, Port Harcourt.

[ix] Igbuzor, O. (2005), Perspectives on Democracy and Development. Lagos, Tolalu & Associates.

[x] UNDP (2006), Niger Delta Human Development Report

[xi] This categorization is an adaptation of categorization by Ramesh Sighn, CEO of ActionAid International at the Induction of New Country Directors in Johanesburg in December, 2004.

[xii] Ikime, O. (1973), “Colonial Conquest and African Resistance in the Niger Delta States” in Tarikh, Vol 15, pp 1-13

[xiii] Karl, T. L. (2005), “Understanding the Resource Curse” in Tsalik, S. and Schiffrin, A. (Ed) (2005), Covering Oil: A Reporter’s Guide to Energy and Development. New York, Open Society Institute. Pp 21-22

[xiv] Karl, T. L. (2005), “Understanding the Resource Curse” in Tsalik, S. and Schiffrin, A. (Ed) Ibid

[xv] It must be noted that per capita income is not a good measure of development.

[xvi] Stiglitz, J. E. (2005) “Making Natural Resources into a Blessing rather than a Curse” in Tsalik, S and Schiffrin, A. (Ed), Op. cit. p. 13

[xvii] NEEDS (2004), National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). Abuja, National Planning Commission.

[xviii] Fayemi, K., Amadi, S. and Bamidele, L. (Eds) (2005), Towards Integrated Development in the Niger Delta. Lagos, Centre for Democracy and Development

[xix] See Iyayi, F. (2005), Horsfall (2000) and UNDP (2006)

[xx] Tsalik, S and Schiffrin, A. (Ed) (2005), Ibid .

[xxi] DfID (2006), Coalitions for Change Draft Programme Memorandum

[xxii] Iyayi, F. (2005), “Poverty Eradication in the Niger Delta” in Fayemi, K. and Igbuzor, O. (Eds), Poverty Eradication in Nigeria: Perspectives on a Participatory and Pro-Poor Approach. Lagos, Centre for Democracy and Development.

[xxiii] CDD (2000) pp 34

[xxiv] UNDP (2006), Op. Cit.



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