PROBLEM: In recent years, oil production in Nigeria's Niger Delta region has been characterized by heightened restiveness resulting in loss of many lives and property. The people of the Niger Delta have suffered from environmental degradation of their land and the displacement of their communities and have received no benefits from over 40 years of oil extraction. As a result, thousands of lives have been lost due to violent confrontation and conflict and millions of dollars in oil revenue which would have accrued to the nation have been lost to oil pipelines vandalization, oil staff kidnapping and other disruptive acts.
Due to high level corruption and poor governance, the oil wealth has not benefited people of the region. That a substantial portion of these funds have either found their way into private bank accounts in western countries or paid for paramilitary operations to deal with the unrest in the region is an open secret.
SOLUTION: The objective of the Niger Delta Fund Initiative (NDFI) is to establish the Niger Delta Fund (NDF), a win-win institution which will bring economic prosperity and revitalization to the region along with enhanced security incentives for uninterrupted oil production. A more equitable wealth distribution pattern will promote social stability, integrated restoration, and stimulate growth of community based sustainable economic development.
Similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund, the NDF will be a transparent legal mechanism whereby portions of the oil royalties may be distributed to benefit the people in any or all of the following ways: (1) individual citizen dividend payments; (2) low interest revolving loan funds for cooperative groups to establish small scale industries; (3) integrated restoration and conservation projects to build schools, learning centers and public infrastructure for clean water and sanitation; (4) establishment of a Sustainalbe Energy Development Agency; (5) peacekeeping, conflict resolution and other good governance practices. Policies will also aim at stimulating skills acquisition leading to self employment. The detailed and specific components of the Niger Delta Fund will be determined via public hearings, forums, roundtable discussions and conferences. It is conceivable that different States would consider variations on the Fund for their jurisdictions.
Fortunately, the Niger Delta Fund Initiative has a firm basis in law. The Nigerian Land Use Act vests all oil and mineral resources in the Federal Government to be used for the benefit of the people. However, it is common knowledge that extractive resource rents often end up lining the pockets of corrupt government officials. The Niger Delta Fund Initiative will therefore help bring into national and international focus governance issues related to rights to land and resource royalties and rents. The NDFI could become an innovative role model that fosters local reinvestments and new strategic thinking concerning development in Nigeria. The Initiative could also lead to the establishment of a Niger Delta Bank for Restoration and Sustainable Development and public finance mechanisms such as land value recapture for ongoing community based economic development.
The successful implementation of the Niger Delta Fund will lend itself to replication in other parts of the country and Africa.
The Initiative will work in partnership with NGOs, government officials, community based organizations, and legal and other experts familiar with the Alaska Permanent Fund and Nigerian law in order to form and implement the Niger Delta Fund.
We will invite the participation of governments of the Niger Delta States comprising Bayelsa State, Delta State, Rivers State, Ondo State, Abia State, Akwa Ibom State, Cross River State and Edo State.
Other potential partnerships include the following:
- Niger Delta based NGOs and community leaders
- State Houses of Assembly members
- Niger Delta Development Commission
- Local Trade Unions
- Trans-African Institutions
- Center for Human Settlement - HABITAT
- UN Commission Nigeria Delegation
- UN Volunteers
- Local NGOs
- International NGOs involved in Nigerian incentives
- Corporations with interest in Nigeria who have a connection to petroleum
- Peace Groups with interest in the region
- Foundations supporting sustainable economic development
The Niger Delta Fund Initiative is divided into three phases:
Phase 1 - CONFERENCE: An international conference will be held in the city of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria in June 2004 to articulate and promote the Initiative. An aggressive media relations campaign shall precede the conference. The conference will clarify the intent and purposes of the Niger Delta Fund and develop agreements and strategies for the implementation of the Fund. The first day will be intensive interactive sessions on key papers presented while the second and last day will feature closing ceremonies and a world press conference where a communiqué shall be made public.
Participants shall be drawn from the Niger De lta Development Commission, local Legislative Assembly members, local NGOs, Trans-African institutions, UN Commission Nigeria Delegation, UN agencies working in the region, UN Volunteers, International NGOs, corporations in Nigeria who have a connection to petroleum, peace groups with interest in the region, and sustainable development consultants.
The conference papers, including the recommendations, will be bound into a volume and copies will be sent to the governors of the Niger Delta states, their legislators, selected personalities and NGOs for action and for reference purposes.
The total funding requirement for Phase 1 of the NDFI is $16,299.64 (Sixteen Thousand, Three Hundred US dollars). A detailed Phase I Budget is included further on in this communication. Funding support shall be thankfully received.
PHASE II - PUSH FOR LEGISLATION: Immediately following the Yenagoa conference, work will be done to draft a Bill to set up the NIGER DELTA FUND as a legal entity with details of the process of selection of Fund Trustees, and criteria for the administration of the restoration and sustainable development revolving loan/ micro credit schemes and integrated conservation development projects. A focused and well organized campaign will be designed to promote the Bill when it is introduced to all the legislative assemblies in the Niger Del ta states and possibly the National Assembly at Abuja. Public education about the Fund and the promotion of the Bill to establish the Fund will continue during this phase until the Bill is passed, with a target date of January 2006.
PHASE III - COORDINATION & IMPLEMENTATION MECHANISM: This stage of the NDFI will be carried out jointly by the Initiative Partners and come into effect after the bill for the Niger Delta Fund has been signed into law either by the National Assembly or by the local legislative assemblies of the various state. Phase III will coordinate the full implementation of the Fund via multi-stakeholder initiatives and sustainable partnerships.