September 20-23, 1999
The COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS (CDHR) organised a three-day International Conference on "The Crises in the Oil Producing Communities in Nigeria" between September 20 and 23, 1999 at Gateway Hotel, Ota. Conference Centre, Lagos, Nigeria was organised in collaboration with Ford Foundation.
Conference derived from CDHR's concern about the intensified poverty, economic disempowerment , environmental degradation, political marginalization and repression of oil producing communities in Nigeria. Therefore, the central focus of the conference was to generate fresh perspectives and initiatives aimed at the following:
(i) Drawing greater local and international attention to the vast human rights abuses associated with oil exploration activities in Nigeria;
(ii) Reviewing existing and emerging state intervention measures with a view to assessing their limitations and recommending better, more people-friendly and participatory alternatives;
(iii) Strengthening the capacity of oil producing communities to redress the various injustices perpetrated by the state, oil producing multinationals and local collaborating elites;
(iv) Firming up emerging consensus on the need for a common platform of struggle involving oil producing communities, other nationalities and wider social movements;
(v) Promoting debate about the need for a non-governmental and civil society-based framework of conflict identification and resolution with particular reference to the overly of inter and intra-ethnic crises that are predominantly incited by the state and oil producing multinational companies; and
(vi) Identifying just and fair political and legal framework that would significantly empower the oil producing communities in the context of ownership, control and management of their resources and proceeds therefrom.
Conference was attended by representatives of oil-producing communities, functionaries of governments of Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Akwa-Ibom State, House of Representatives and Office of the Inspector-General of Police. There were also participants from multinational oil corporations, diplomatic community, fraternal international organization and Nigeria civil society organizations.
Deliberations were led by resources-persons from the country and abroad while position papers were presented by oil producing communities, nationalities, representatives of state governments as well as of oil companies. Discussions were characterized by a renewed spirit of unity and common resolve among oil producing communities.
Conference noted that Notwithstanding the abundant and diverse natural
endowments of oil producing areas, their communities have continued to
be impoverished and deprived of the things that make life meaningful. Within
this context, Conference deliberated on the roles of the
following forces in the deprivation and disempowerment of oil bearing communities, especially environmental rights.
1. The Nigerian State
Conference located the conditions of Oil producing communities in the
general context of under-development foisted on the country by a succession
of ruling elites who have utilised state power merely for ruthless accumulation
of wealth and not as a means for national development. These elites have
also been fronts and agents of multi-national corporations and are, therefore,
not able to develop sufficient leverage to regulate the increasing primitivity
accumulation typical of foreign capital. This is manifest in the failure of government to defend the rights of host communities especially environmental rights
Conference also observed the exuberance of the Nigerian State in repressing oil producing communities in furtherance of its alliance with the multinationals. It was further noted that the Nigerian state has continued to subvert the sovereignty of the country by tolerating and even promoting extra-business activities of these multinationals, especially their execution and exercise of police powers.
Participants equally observed that intervention measures by the state aimed at remedying the situation are generally half-hearted, non-participatory and have merely enabled the ruling elites to privatise public fund.
Furthermore, conference noted that the ruling elites have not allowed
a framework for the restructuring of the revenue allocation procedure,
having initially subverted the hitherto existing fiscal federalism. Consequently,
the existing revenue allocation formula leaves little or
nothing to the oil producing communities.
2. Oil Companies
Participants decried the growing contempt of oil producing companies internationally recognised standards of oil exploration, particularly those relating to the environment. This is due to their aggressive drive for profit maximization.
It was also observed that oil companies lack sincere concern for social
provisioning and merely pay lip service to corporate social responsibilities.
Their attempt at placating oil producing communities with welfarist tokens
was also observed to be sporadic and involving no
intelligent appreciation of the needs of the people. These attempts have also been undermined by sharp practices by officials of oil companies.
Significantly too, conference out that the companies are culpable in the spate of inter and intra-ethnic crises amongst the people on account of their resort to divisive tactics.
3. Local Elites of Oil Producing Communities
Conference condemned the perfidy of so called leaders of oil producing communities who collude with the State and multinational corporations to divide, confuse, dupe and repress their people out of their selfish drive for immediate gains.
4. Western Governments and International Capitalism
Conference applauded the interest of progressive sections of international civil society in the struggles of oil communities and wider democratic struggle in Nigeria. However, conference found unacceptable the dubious and opportunistic support continually provided for multi-national corporations by western governments despite vast evidence of their perpetration of human rights abuses amongst oil producing communities in Nigeria.
5. 1999 Constitution
Deliberations focused extensively on the Constitution. Participants noted strongly that the document is not only out of rune with the aspirations of a majority of Nigerians, especially those in oil bearing communities but is punitively unitarist, depriving Nigerians of the proceeds from resources found in their communities.
Participants also observed that the constitution only dwells on dubious fiscal arrangements which ignoring the crucial question of community ownership, control sanctity of military decrees which had alienated nationalities and communities from their resources especially the Land Use Act.
6. Inter- and Intra-Ethnic Clashes
Participants expressed serious concern about recent escalation in inter- and intra-ethnic clashes, some of which are acutely violent, and noted that these are not in the interest of our people. It was further observed that this development is invariably orchestrated by the state and oil companies.
7. Proposed External Funding and Training of Security Agencies
Conference expressed anxieties about recent reports of ongoing negotiations between oil producing multinationals and the Nigerian State on the training and funding of security agencies, especially the Police.
Participants believed that this part of the agenda of oil companies is subvert popular opposition to their sharp business practices in the country.
Participants found it instructive that this project is being discussed by the oil companies in relation to what is perceived as "legitimate security interests."
Conference strongly noted that in the light of the racist, vicious and
patriarchal operational practices of police departments in the home countries
of these multinationals, they have nothing to bequeath to Nigeria's security
agencies other than deadlier procedures in the
administration of torture and other repressive police procedures.
8 Extra-Judicial Killings and Government Occupation of some Oil Communities
Conference decried the unabating genocide by government security agents
in oil producing communities, especially in Bayelsa and among the Ilajes
in Ondo State. It was the contention of participants that these killings
neither suggest that the country is under civil rule nor suggest that
government troops are on deployment in those places for peace-keeping duties.
Against the background of the foregoing, Conference resolved as follows:
1. That the resolution of the crises in the oil bearing communities is fundamental to the survival of the Nigerian Nation-State and the current attempts at democratization
2. That there is the need for fundamental restructuring of the Nigerian polity through a Sovereign National Conference.
3. That the just framework for the resolution of crises in oil producing communities is one that empowers them to own and exercise full control over their resources.
4. That only full democratization of the Nigerian polity and empowerment of the working people would enhanced the capacity of the country to check the excesses of multinational capital.
5. That interim intervention measures such as Niger-Delta Development Commission must involve genuine representatives of oil bearing communities at the levels of programme conception and implementation as well as the overall management of those structures. However, these measures would become untenable in the long run upon the institution of genuine federalism.
6. That in the short term, the revenue allocation formula has to be adjusted fundamentally in favour of the states and local government and should be premised on the principle of derivation.
7. That there is need for oil producing communities to form a common front and initiate mutually empowering alliance with social movements and other nationalities as a way of strengthening the capacity of individual communities and boosting the movement for democratization and autocentric national development.
8. That there is the need for a non-governmental and civil society framework for resolution of conflicts that arise between oil producing communities.
9. That there is the need to strengthen the machinery of administration of legislation in respect of regulation of oil exploration activities while oil bearing communities and their civil society allies wage struggles for improvements in the existing legal and public policy framework.
10. That oil producing communities and their allies must enhance international networking in order to attract more effective and sustainable global interest in the plight of our people.
11. That Nigerian people have a duty to resist the subversion of their sovereignty and must, therefore, stand up against attempt to strengthen the repressive capacity of the state through the proposed training and funding of security agents by multinationals.
12. That oil communities need to be assisted technically by competent civil society organisations to maintain data banks for the purposes of computing claims and to generate information for campaigns mobilization.
13. That multinational companies must be made to pay greater attention to the social needs of host communities and adopt a personnel policy that gives premium to the employment of indigenes into all levels of their operations.
14. That adopting community-friendly practices is the only way oil producing companies can assuage the ill-feelings currently rife amongst host communities.
15. That State and the oil companies should in partnership with representatives of the oil producing communities formulate and begin implementation of comprehensive measures to rehabilitate the already devastated environment and generate a programme of reparations and payments to the people. In the interim, Conference demanded remedial actions including immediate cessation of gas flaring, modernization of equipment and installations as well as other measures that can prevent such incidence as oil spillage.
16. That the federal government must put an immediate stop to the killings being perpetrated by government troops and should initiate a programme of political negotiation with the communities to resolve the crises in the areas. Further, conference demanded that where the military and security agencies are on peace-keeping duties, there should be very strict and rigorous monitoring to ensure that their presence is not manipulated by oil companies and other negative interests.
Participants thanked the CDHR for organising the conference and expressed
appreciation for the support provided by The Ford Foundation. Participants
also expressed the need for follow up programmes to ensure the maximum
realization of the objectives of the conference.
WUMI RAJI, Ph.D