Urhobo Historical Society

November-December, 1999

  NDM Cites:

The first strong indicationof foreign dissatisfaction with President Olusegun Obasanjo's tough andaggressive policies in the Niger Delta came from British diplomats whourged dialogue as a preferrable way of resolving the crisis of the NigerDelta. This report from the Lagos Guardian was attached to the originalstatement issued by Dr. Mobolaji Aluko's Nigerian Democratic Movement.

Wednesday, 17 November 1999

 Britain Blames Niger Delta Crisis on [Nigerian Federal] Government

 By Ade Ogidan, Senior Correspondent

BRITAIN yesterday lent its voice to claims by some groups and  individuals that the Federal Government, rather than multi-national  oil companies, is responsible for themarginalisation of Niger Delta  and its indigenes.

 Canvassing for dialogue and use of "democratic instruments" in  resolving the Niger Delta lingering crisis, British High Commissioner  to Nigeria, Sir Graham Burton,asked government to live up to its  responsibilities to indigenesof the region since it receives the bulk  of earnings from oil business.

 Burton, who spoke yesterday at the yearly general meeting/luncheon of  the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) in Lagos, pointed out  that Shell Petroleum Development Company - the ubiquitous whipping  outfit for Niger Delta crisis -for instance, earned only 75 cents per  barrel of oil when the pricewas $20, against $15.37 being credited to  Government through theNigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

When the price went up to $25 abarrel, Shell's earnings went up to 83  cents against $20.26 accruableto NNPC, the envoy added.

 He said: "It is easy to score cheap propaganda victories by blaming  all the Delta's problems onthe multi-national companies. But this is  short-sighted," arguingthat "yet, it is an indisputable fact that the  government, throughNNPC, is the largest shareholder in each of the  joint venture agreementsand thus receives by far the largest revenue  from oil production".

 For instance, "in the case of Shell, when the oil price is $20 a  barrel, Shell receives 75 cents per barrel, whereas NNPC receives  $15.37. At $25 per barrel, thesefigures rise to 83 cents and $20.26  respectively".

 Burton however, admitted that multi-national oil companies are  expected to contribute to the socio-economic development of their host  communities, advising that the saying 'from whom much is given, much  is expected', should be upheld in resolving the Niger Delta crisis.

 "Multi-national companiescertainly have a developmental role within  the community, but otherpartners too must face up to their  responsibilities," the envoy asserted.

 Describing the current situation in the region as "very worrying,"  Burton said that"dialogue remains the only realistic way forward".

 To him, "Looting and hostage taking may provide short term benefit to  a few, but only complicates the search for a long-term solution".

 Essentially, he said "thehope for a solution to this problem (Niger  Delta crisis), lies inthe application of true democratic principles,  with the indigenouspeople of the area, having a full say in the  outcome".

 According to the High Commissioner, "democracy is about more than just  an elected President. It depends for its survival on many  institutions. The legislative, judiciary,police, civil service and  even the military are all essential foundationsfor a healthy

 He added: "It will take commitment of all states and regions of the  country, following the example ofthe President and working together  for the good of all Nigerians,to make democracy work.

 "I look forward to the day when there is no more talk of  'marginalisation' from any sector ofthe country. Not because someone  has discovered a 'magic formula'for perfectly distributing  appointments - that will never happen.But through acceptance that the  country needs the services of thebest qualified people to lead it,  regardless of their ethnic backgroundand through recognition that  those appointed will work transparentlyfor the good of the whole  country".

 Burton also pointed out that "all parts of the country suffered under  military rule, ordinaryNigerians in the north as much as those in the  south. Even amongstthe military, the majority did not benefit. It is  thus in the interestsof everyone that democracy should flourish".

 Quoting Mr. Peter Hair, British Minister of State for Africa at the  Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he said that Britain's policy in  Africa is unequivocal.

 "We will back success. Wewill support those who stand up for  democracy and human rights. Wewill help governments that want to  reform their economies. We willsupport just African solutions to  African problems.

 "We will work with those leaders who commit themselves to freeing  their people from poverty .... Wewill not support corrupt  governments. We will not subscribe to economicmismanagement. We will  not fund repression or bankroll dictatorship,"he said.