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Solution to Nigeria's Delta Problems Should Be Homegrown

Posted by By Jim Fisher-Thompson, USINFO Staff Writer on 2007/03/20 | Views: 507 |

Solution to Nigeria's Delta Problems Should Be Homegrown

Oil well heads are seen near a local community in the mangrove swamps near Port Harcourt in Nigeria's Niger Delta region in 2006. Maintaining security of its oil facilities and insuring the safety of those who work there is of primary concern for the Nigerian government.

* Democracy and anti-corruption efforts are key, State official says

Oil well heads are seen near a local community in the mangrove swamps near Port Harcourt in Nigeria's Niger Delta region in 2006. Maintaining security of its oil facilities and insuring the safety of those who work there is of primary concern for the Nigerian government.

Oil well heads are seen near a local community in the mangrove swamps near Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 2006. (© AP Images)Washington –- The United States will help, but Nigerians hold the key to ending violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region by implementing democracy and anti-corruption measures themselves, says Phil Carter, director of the State Department's Office of West African Affairs.

Solutions to problems like the spate of attacks on oil production facilities in the states of the Niger River Delta "cannot and should not reside in Washington, Paris, London or Beijing but rather in the cities, towns and villages of Nigeria," said Carter.

"Democratization and anti-corruption are vital to resolve conflict in the delta ... [but] any successful initiative ultimately must be homegrown," he told a March 14 panel in Washington discussing "Future Reform and Strategies for External Support" at a conference sponsored by the Center for International and Strategic Studies.

"We strongly believe in Nigeria as an anchor for Africa’s security and prosperity," Carter said. It has tools at its disposal to "resolve the political and socio-economic problems of the delta peacefully," he added, and can count on the willing support of the United States.

Attacks on oil facilities, including the kidnapping of workers in the Niger River Delta, where most of Nigeria's oil is produced, have increased and threaten to jeopardize revenues that account for 95 percent of Nigeria's total export earnings.

A major complaint of militants has been wastefulness and fraud by officials whom they claim misappropriate the state's share of oil revenues. In that regard, Carter applauded the Nigerian government’s "courage to embrace the results of its Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative audit," which shows the orderly transfer of oil revenues to local jurisdictions.

The task now is to account for oil revenues at the state level, the diplomat said, adding that state governors are "the key to any durable solution in the delta."

Governors have "enormous financial resources at their disposal, thanks to high oil prices, but to date the governors have not used those resources to tackle the development challenges their constituents face and demand," Carter told the panel.

Despite the need for Nigeria to solve its own problems, he said, "Nigeria’s friends do not expect the country to go it alone.”

He said that since 2005, the United States, Nigeria and its international partners have met quarterly in “Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy” meetings, discussing ways to overcome the violence in the delta and keep production from plummeting.

The main areas of focus are community development, financial crimes/transparency, coastal and maritime security, and small arms trafficking, according to Carter.

To counter corruption, Carter said, the United States can provide funds and training to combat money laundering and strengthen customs enforcement and offer advisers to improve state budget transparency.

At the same time, he said, "we welcome the chance to expand community-policing projects from Kaduna into the delta region to improve police performance and respect human rights, as well as link policy to aspirations of the local populace."

He added that the United States is also in the process of providing state-of-the-art security equipment for all of Nigeria’s international airports.

Nigeria's national elections, set for April, also are important to security in the delta, Carter told the panel.

If well-run, they will provide a model of good governance and transparency that could undercut a great deal of citizen dissatisfaction. "Credible elections should open up political space and provide officials with the means to follow up with concrete measures, delivering services and good governance," he said.

"That is why the United States has provided over $15 million over the past three years to train political parties, electoral commission staff and civil society in facilitating preparation for free and fair polls," the diplomat said.

Carter said the elections will involve 300,000 election monitors and observers, who will serve at more than 10,000 polling stations.

He told the panel that the United States "wants to help Nigeria’s federal and state governments invest in their people in a transformational way. By having Nigerians own the process, we help to empower the population to resolve political issues peacefully and to build strong, lasting, democratic Nigerian institutions."

The day after Carter spoke, the White House announced his nomination by President Bush to be the next U.S. ambassador to Guinea.

In a separate presentation at the same conference, Defense Department official Theresa Whelan recapped ways in which the United States is helping Nigeria counter violence. (See related article.)

For additional information on U.S. policy toward Africa, see Peace and Security.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown