The West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) Nigeria organized a workshop titled “Promoting Inclusive and Peaceful Society for Suitable Development in the Niger Delta: A Roundtable for Women Leaders on the 25th October 2016 at Warri, Delta State. The women leaders from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers states at the Roundtable came up with this Statement:
That the Niger Delta question has been an on-going discussion long before Nigeria’s independence which gave rise to agitations that brought about the Willinks’ Commission Report of 1958 and subsequent policies and intervention agencies by the Federal government. Unfortunately, poor implementation of these policies has left the underlying issues poorly addressed.
The rise in militancy at different times including the current resurgence in February 2016 and the different negotiations speaks to the underdevelopment of the region. The Roundtable noted that there are different missed opportunities for mainstreaming women, peace and security in these policies. The on-going negotiation between Niger Delta leaders and the Federal government is another opportunity to include women in peace and sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
The Roundtable identified key issues driving militancy in the region to include:
- Degradation of the environment from oil extraction activities with adverse effects on the lives and health of the people in the region, especially women.
- The challenges with primary education in the riverine communities contribute to insecurity in the region and pose a threat to positive youth development.
- The ‘reward’ for militancy encourages the proliferation of militant groups in the region as a means to access opportunities.
- Sexual violence especially dollar point rape is breeding a generation of young people with limited ties to the community and sufficient grievance to take to crime and vandalism
- The lucrative nature of militancy and associated activities as source of income for sustaining poor family
- Unemployed and unemployable youths are a ready harvest for militant groups.
- Proliferation of small arms in the region is also a contributory factor.
- Attempt by the Nigerian government to scrap the amnesty program and perceived persecution of Niger Deltans in Federal government employment.
- Availability of conflict entrepreneurs including the military, politicians, traditional leaders.
- Infrastructural decay in the region.
- Masculinity of the militancy without recourse to women participation
- Low participation and contribution of women to peace processes at the community, state and regional level in the Niger Delta.
- Herdsmen attacks on farming communities reduce farmers’ productivity and increases vulnerability to militancy.
It was also observed that policies exist on the Niger Delta to address the issues raised in the foregoing. However, these policies failed due to lack of political will to implement. The women also prioritized relevant policies like the Niger Delta Development Master Plan and the Leedum Mitee Technical Committee Report as containing relevant gender sensitive instruments for addressing issues of peace, security and development in the Niger Delta region.
The Roundtable also noted that women bear the brunt of militancy, insecurity and underdevelopment in the region. Furthermore, women are inclined peacebuilders, yet, are insignificant in the formal peace processes at the community, state and regional levels.
To promote Inclusive and Peaceful Society for Sustainable Development in the Niger Delta region, the roundtable recommends:
- Implementation of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan and the Ledum Mitee Technical Committee Report on the Niger Delta for community sensitization.
- Ministries of Women Affairs in the Niger Delta develop State Action Plan on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, and its’ inclusion in the state budget.
- Women should engage the SDG offices in the region for full implementation of the SDG especially Goals 5 and 16.
- Regularization of national policies governing natural resources extraction like the oil/gas and solid minerals policies should be governed by same regulations.
- Inclusion of 50 per cent women in all governance structures from community to national level including the on going Niger Delta discussions/negotiations with the federal government.
- Government should speed up the Ogoni UNEP Clean Up and extend the clean-up to all oil devastated areas in the Niger Delta region.
- Commensurate incentive for teachers in hard-to-reach communities to promote the attainment of universal basic education targets.
- The ‘Sit at home and collect’ workers syndrome in the Niger Delta should be discouraged, as it deprives the youths the opportunity to build their career and contribute meaningfully to their society.
- Government to create an enabling environment for modular refinery as an alternative to illegal refinery and economic development in the region.
National Network Coordinator