Posted by By Tobi Soniyi, Abuja on
The International Crisis Group has warned that except the situation in the Niger Delta is amicably resolved, it could escalate into a full blown war in the next one year or two......
The International Crisis Group has warned that except the situation in the Niger Delta is amicably resolved, it could escalate into a full blown war in the next one year or two.
It, therefore, called on the United States and member states of the European Union with major oil interests in Nigeria (the UK, France and Italy) to urge Nigeria to negotiate with Niger Delta militants.
In a report titled, "The Swamps of insurgency: Nigeria‘s Delta unrest," released on Friday, the group accused Nigeria of downplaying the insurgency in the region.
ICC also urged the US and others to mount pressure on Nigeria to institute resource-control reforms and negotiate in good faith with Niger Delta groups.
It asked the foreign countries to also encourage oil companies headquartered in their countries to be transparent about revenue and payments.
The group suggested that the Federal Government should raise derivation formula to between 25 and 50 per cent and that the new formula should apply to all mineral resources, including oil and gas and to all Nigerian states.
According to the group, the causes of insurgency in the oil-producing areas in Nigeria are violence, underdevelopment, environmental damage and failure to establish credible state and local government institutions.
The report said, "Since January 2006, fighters from a new group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have fought with government forces, sabotaged oil installations, taken foreign oil workers hostage and carried out two lethal car bombings.
"MEND demands the government to withdraw troops, release imprisoned ethnic leaders and grant oil revenue concessions to Delta groups.
"Nigeria had estimated oil export revenues of $45billion in 2005 but the slow pace of systemic reforms and the lack of jobs, electricity, water, schools and clinics in large parts of the Delta have boosted support to insurgents such as MEND.
"Any attempt at a military solution would be disastrous for residents and risky for the oil industry. Most facilities are in the maze of creeks and rivers that are particularly vulnerable to raids by well-armed militants with intimate knowledge of the terrain.
"But inaction risks escalating and entrenching the conflict at a time when tensions are already rising in advance of the 2007 national elections."
To tackle the Niger Delta crisis, the group asked the government to check corruption by making development initiatives more transparent.