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Niger Delta and The Many Failed Commissions From 1884 To 2008

In 1884, the Berlin Conference led to the ramshackle of the continent of Africa into spheres by the European Imperialists which culminated to the forceful emancipation of the Niger Delta region into the present day social colonial Nigeria state in 1914. Niger Delta people were before the emancipation, a people with different cultures and customs. The region covers an area of over 60, 000 sq and is regarded as the largest wetland, not only in the Sub-Sahara Africa, but also in Africa in general, with mammoth ecological profits like oil, vegetations, rivers, and so forth.

The ethnic Niger Deltans have been in existence over 280 years before the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorate in 1914, and Niger Delta, according to history, was coercively emerged into other nationalities in 1939, when the British government divided the Southern Protectorate into the Eastern and Western regions. And protests and Commissions ensued as follows:

  1. In 1937 the exploration and exploitation of crude oil from the lands and seas of the Niger Delta people commenced by Shell D¢Arcy, and commercial quantities of oil for export was struck at Oloibiri in the present day Bayelsa State in 1956; Ogoni in the present day Rivers State in 1958, and today, from various communities of the Niger Delta Region. And the following multinational oil companies are on record to have benefited from the exploration and exploitation of oil in this region. They are as follows: Elf, Agip, Total, British Gas, Teneco, Deminex, Sun Oil, Mobil, Gulf [Chevron], Texaco, StatOil, etc.

  2. This forced union was a testimony in the Sir Henry Willink Commission in 1958. The abovementioned led in part to the creation of the Mid-Western Region in 1963; Rivers and Cross Rivers in 1967; Akwa Ibom and Delta States in 1994 and the State of Bayelsa in 1996.

  3. According to the same history, “Before granting independence to Nigeria, the British government proposed that the Niger Delta be declared, a special, federal territory. Furthermore, the Willink Commission’s report of 1958 characterised the Niger Delta as follows: (a) “The needs of those who live in the creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta are very different from those of the interior. Perhaps more importantly, the Commission concluded that “a feeling of neglect and a lack of understanding was widespread … a case has been made out for the special treatment of this area. This is a matter that requires special effort because (the area) is poor, backward and neglected” (quoted from UNDP 2006:11-12)”.

  4. Take for instance the Hicks-Phillips Commission of 1951, which recommended 50 per cent derivation to the area generating the revenue.

  5. Also, the Chicks Commission of 1953 recommended 100 per cent derivation for resource-bearing area. These and other well-meaning Commissions in the past have appreciated the fact that commensurate and equitable compensation should be given to the resource bearing area.

  6. The Riasmen Commission of 1958

  7. The Binn Commission of 1964

  8. The Dina Internal Revenue Allocation of 1968.

  9. It is interesting to note each of these commissions kept derivation principle at 50 per cent to 100 per cent. Except for Decree 13 of 1970, which after the civil war, pegged derivation at 45 per cent, how much more now that the Niger-Deltans produce more and suffer more hazards?

  10. It is, however, important to note that at the period when we had indigenous persons heading some Commissions such as Prof Ojetunji Aboyede Technical Commission of 1977 and Dr. Pius Okigbo of 1979 was when problems started as they both recommended that derivation principle should be abolished.

  11. The Petroleum Act of 1969 and 1991

  12. The Land use Act of 1978 and 1993

  13. The National Waterways Decree of 1997

  14. In his effort to better the Niger Delta region, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1998, during his presidential campaign promised to better the lots of the region by instituting the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) after a presentation of the Bill to the National Assembly. But this NDDC by Chief Obasanjo was said is not different from the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission that was set up by the former military president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, which provided seat for citizens of Nigeria who are not from the Niger Delta Region.

  15. In a paper submitted to the former President of Nigeria, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo by the World Environmental Foundation for Africa (WEFFA) in 1999, it stated inter alia: (a) we have studied the position papers of the Bayelsa leaders of thought, the old Rivers State creation movement, the movement of concerned people of the Niger Delta, Major Isaac Adaka Boro papers, they all hold the same views as the report of WEFFA study on the developmental needs for the Niger Delta in 1995. It is our understanding that the Niger Delta as a matter of truth, historically and cartographically is the present Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States. But the geographical proximity and gross neglect of Akwa Ibom could earn it a place in the proposed Niger Delta Commission (Inequities in Nigerian Politics).

  16. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act of 1999 appears to have confused the Niger Delta with the oil mineral producing states. Part I subsection 2(1), which deals with the establishment of NDDC, and the persons who shall be members of the commission clearly shows that what the act intends to solve is the problem of the oil-producing states and not necessarily that of the Niger Delta per se.

  17. November 10, 2000 on the anniversary of the (ex) judicial murder of Ken Saro Wiwa, the officials of the Niger Delta Congress made this binding resolution on, to be known as the NIGER DELTA BILL OF RIGHTS and filed with the United Nations in New York as follows:

  18. The Niger Delta people hereby seek self determination and the right to religious and economic freedom with 100% control of our resources. Or, failing which, the Niger Delta people hereby request for political autonomy similar in status to other oppressed indigenous people e.g. East Timor.

  19. The Niger Delta people insist on the right to develop our political structures, languages and cultures.

iii. That the oppressed people of the Niger Delta be recognized as people of distinct nationalities.

  1. We resolutely demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the Niger Delta Region of all forces of occupation controlled by the Nigerian State.

  2. We urge the United Nations to summon the Nigerian State into question and conduct a Plebiscite for the nationalities of the Niger Delta to vote for self determination as guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  3. To the failed Gambari Summit

How To Stop The Niger Delta Problem:

There is no other way other than to review the abovementioned conferences or commissions set once or twice in the land and have a summit of intellectuals from the Niger Delta origin who would bring out the next document from them which will not go the way of others by the Nigerian government.

{This article was 1st written by Odimegwu Onwumere in 2008. It was republished here for its relevance today}. Onwumere can be reached via WhatsApp: +2348032552855. Email:

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