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Niger Delta - North, South South Unfriendly Claims
Written by Iheanacho Nwosu

THE North and the South South are squaring up with each other at the moment. It is not the first time, the two will be locked in war of words, it is however their first confrontation in this administration.

The line of their misunderstanding is the putrid security situation in the Niger Delta. While the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) the umbrella body of the North believes that the leaders of Niger Delta should be blame for the poor condition of the area which have led to the emergence of militia groups, the region is however, fighting back, accusing the north of being the brain behind the nauseating situation in the Delta region.

Rising from its National Executive Council meeting, held in Kaduna, Kaduna State, ACF accused political leaders in Niger Delta of ripping off the people of the area, by using resources that should have been utilized for public use to build personal enterprises.

    Col. Hamid Ibrahim Ali

The group in a communiqué read by its Publicity Secretary, Anthony N.Z. Sani said "it must be pointed out that recent regimes have embarked on spirited efforts to address the problems of the Niger Delta region.

"Such efforts range from DESOPADEC, through the NDDC, to full implementation of 13 per cent derivation. That is why a state in the Niger Delta region would have a budget of N377 billion while another state in the same country would have N53 billion as its budget.

"In fact, as recent as last month, some states in the Niger Delta took home as much as N42 billion, while many of the non oil producing states went home with a paltry N6billion.

"If these huge resources have not translated into developmental projects and enhanced standards of living, then it is simply not fair to blame the national government alone, the managers of these resources to the Niger Delta are more culpable."

The body said "the ACF thus appeals to the people of the Niger Delta region to have a rethink of their manner of agitations with a view to improving on their management practices of resources made available to them as well as to embark on constructive engagements with the rest of the country in the national interest of fairness, socio-economic justice and for unity of the country.

"Taking up arms against one's fatherland in an endless manner can never solve the problems. More distressing is the fact that the insecurity being visited on the region by violent militants is internecine in the sense that it scares away foreign investors at our collective peril."

The Niger Delta leaders did not pretend that they were hurt by the message from Arewa. They swiftly hit back at ACF, accusing its leaders of being part of the forces that have consistently unleased misery and pains on the people of the area.

Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) Joseph Evah described the position of ACF as "senseless". Although he admitted that some leaders of the region have failed it he said the ACF had no moral ground to lampoon the leaders of the area since it has not helped the cause of the Niger Delta.

According to him "the Arewa wants us to be quiet and behave like fools while we suffer and die in silence. We will not take that which is why we have adopted the Mandela strategy. And they are surprised as to how we have been able to over-run the Nigerian military."

Similar salvo came from former national president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Thomas Okpoko. He accused the ACF of engaging in wild and blanket allegation in its appraisal of happenings in the Niger Delta.

He reasoned that though some leaders of the region may not have lived up to expectation, the inability to develop Niger Delta was attributable to government's handling of the matter.

Similarly, another lawyer and a human rights activist, Mr. C.D. Omon-Irabor said the submissions of ACF were unfortunate because, according to him, they ignored the fact of the matter and dwelled on frivolities.

He posited that although "the so called leaders have been part of the problem, but this is an infinitesimal aspect of the problem in the region."

The activist contended that the crisis in the region is not a Niger Delta problem but a "Nigerian problem and the ACF is not being sincere with the truth."

The tackles between the North and South South are a replay of what happened during the National Political Reforms Conference (NPRC) held in 2004.

Then the South South leaders had demanded for the jerking up of the derivation formula from its current 13 per cent to 50 per cent. Their demand was backed by the South East delegates.

But the northern delegates fought hard to gun down the demand. They insisted that such increase would have adverse effects on the general economy of Nigeria.

They accused the Niger Delta leaders of fleecing the resources that were made available to them for the development of the area. "We have heard this before. They told the whole world at the National Reform Conference that our leaders are the problem of the region. They failed to tell the same audience why those who manage our resources at the federal were able to develop Abuja with les qualm and cannot apply the same method in changing the situation of Niger Delta people," Evah said.

"We want Yar'Adua to listen to the people of the area on how Niger Delta can be developed. It is not about mounting conferences and appointing anybody to chair them, it is about being pragmatic, about being genuine in seeking ways of addressing the problem," he added.

Before now, several people from different parts of the country had offered diverse advice on how to approach the Niger Delta worrisome situation. The truth is that divided opinion on what is currently happening in the region will continue to emerge from different quarters. However government's approach to the whole thing will determine whether the flagration in the area will ease off or take a more frightening shape.