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In quest of solutions for Niger Delta 0

According to AllAfrica, a Federal Government delegation led by the Minister of Interior, Brig-Gen. Godwin Abbe and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, met representatives of militant leaders in the Niger Delta, in a meeting aimed at building confidence in the peace process.

Abbe assured that the attacks on facilities across the region would soon stop considering the progress they are making on achieving a common ground for the amnesty.

NGOs and the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta have already highlighted that the government should aim at finding a solution, but the situation in the country is still explosive.

Three attacks were made on Royal Dutch Shell oil facilities in Nigeria on Sunday, against pipelines in the eastern part of the Niger Delta, said the spokesman, Rainer Winzenried. International  Crisis Group analyses the situation and states that the government should accept a third-party mediator.

The attacks happened in remote areas and Nigeria’s main militant group — the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND — said it had attacked an offshore facility earlier Sunday and that “the structure is … engulfed in fire.”

MEND, which demands a fairer distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth, claimed that it destroyed a pipeline owned and operated by the Italian gas company Agip, and, earlier in the week, the Royal Dutch Shell’s main trunk line in Bayelsa state.

Last month, the militant group declared an “all-out war” on the government after what it said was a deadly bombing raid on civilians.

It is not the first declaration of war by MEND, which demands that more of Nigeria’s oil wealth be invested in the region instead of enriching those whom the militants consider corrupt politicians.

The urgency is underscored by the grim security situation in the region and the risk that instability may spread to the land or maritime territories of Nigeria’s neigh­bours across the Gulf of Guinea.

Crisis Group, an international NGO, has analysed the report submitted to Nigeria’s President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on 1 December 2008 by the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, launched on 8 September 2008.

The NGO considers the initiatives of Yar’Adua administration ambiguous and at times incoherent, but it says that it was widely believed that the government would adopt the Committee’s recommendations as its definitive roadmap for resolving the region’s crisis.

Crisis Group shows also that some steps are needed urgently.

First, the government should accept a third-party mediator, preferably the UN, the reconciliation centre Coventry Cathedral or a group of eminent persons or representative of several countries to facilitate discussions of amnesty and demobilisation of militants.

The federal government should simultaneously raise allocation to the Delta of oil revenue produced there to 17 per cent, as already recommended by the National Political Reform Conference in 2006, and it should also strengthen budget transparency and financial accountability at state level, so the money is used to benefit the region and to implement priority projects identified by the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP).

The National Assembly should strengthen arrangements for monitoring peace and development processes outlined in the Technical Committee report, to which the government should respond encouraged by Nigeria’s international partners too.

The NGO is still waiting for the results: the disclosure by a special adviser to the vice president two months after the report was submitted that yet another committee had been established to study the recommendations, coupled with the lack of any further response since then, are deepening doubts over the government’s sincerity.

The longer these doubts grow, the more difficult it will become to engage all stakeholders in an effective peace process.

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By Staff – Afronline

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Direttore Responsabile Stefano Arduini