The Mystification of developing process in the Niger Delta Areas

The Niger Delta has a history of non-performing government institutions. Attempts by the federal Government to address the problems of the region of the Niger Delta date back to the formation of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) in 1958 with the mandate to develop the region, funded with a 15% revenue contribution from the Federal Government. This was replaced in 1993 by the Oil Minerals Producing and Development Commission (OMPADEC). However, OMPADEC was scraped in 1999 for failure to achieve its development objectives. In the past, State and Local governments have also been unable to implement sustainable solutions to the region’s Poverty. This failure was due in part to corruption, poor governance and lack of accountability. Communities, the suppose beneficiaries of the Oil revenue allocations back to the region have had little or no influence on the use or management of these funds. Clearly, the resources that have been made available for the development of the region in the past have not been used effectively. According to President Obasanjo, “The Niger Delta Development Commission was inaugurated to ensure a principled, coordinated and focused approach to addressing the Peculiarities of the region.14 Here, Akpofure et al contented that, not one of the administrations had deemed it fit to abolish obnoxious laws and decrees such as the Land use Decree, the Petroleum Act of 1948, Land and Title Vesting Decree 52 of 1991, the National Inland Waterways Authority of 1997, and other such draconian Legislation that deny people of Niger Delta the right to own, enjoy and have the right of exploiting and utilizing all the resources found in its areas/ancestral lands.15

Table: Missing amenities which influenced youth restiveness in the Niger delta Areas




No Tarred Roads,

Bridges Electricity etc










No good schools

And Study Facilities







No good


Water etc.



% Total

Percentage %

Vanguard 411 83.20 206 78.33 383 86.46 82.66
The Guardian 83 16.80 57 21.67 60 13.54 17.34
Total 494 100 263 100 443 100 100

Source: Okonmah (2009), Youth Restiveness in the Niger Delta.16

The table above expresses the absence of basic infrastructures necessary for daily living in the Niger Delta region with a cumulative percentage of 82.66% (Vanguard) to 17.34% (The Guardian) as sampled from the two daily newspapers. The contribution of Oberabor17 generally is that, a sick person in any of the riverine areas of the of the Niger Delta travels by canoe for hours to receive medical attention in urban centers because of the absence of a nearby medical facilities. Unfortunately, their neighbours in the creeks who are privileged to work in the oil firms are usually flown by helicopters and other light aircrafts to the best hospitals in the land and at other times to overseas.18 Based on the foregoing, the former Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva19 had blamed the problem of Militancy in the troubled Niger Delta on the absence of infrastructural development.20

The above situations which attracted various dimensions of hostility in the region and loss of revenue to the federal Government, Ulayi observed that, the federal government had identified under-development and lack of infrastructure as the biggest cause of insecurity in the Niger Delta region.21 The expectations of many is that, when federal government makes a prompt implementation of the Niger Delta Master Plan and Sincere Commitment to the execution of projects, Sara-Igbe agreed that the provision of infrastructures will stop Niger Delta crisis.22

Having analyzed revolving issues as regard the development of Niger Delta region, it would be pivotal to take an explicit look at those interventionist development agencies that existed before the establishment of the NDDC, reasons for their successes or failures to create a structural development paradigm in the Niger Delta region.

From 1961 to 2000, different boards or commissions were established or constituted to look into the “Problems” of the Niger Delta people and nothing substantive reflects such Policy Plans.

The Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB 1961-1972)

NDDB was established by Section 14 of the 1960 constitution to provide physical development for the Niger Delta region. This section enjoined among other provisions essentially that:

  1. There shall be for the Niger Delta, a Board which shall be styled the Niger Delta Development Board; and
  2. The Niger Delta Development Board shall be responsible for advising the Government of the federation of Nigeria and the Government of then Western Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria, with respect to the Physical Development of the Niger Delta and in other to discharge that responsibility, the board shall:

(a)        Cause the Niger Delta to be surveyed in other to ascertain what measures are required to promote its Physical Development;

(b)        Prepare schemes designed to promote the Physical Development of the Niger Delta together with estimates of the cost of putting such schemes into effects;

(c)        Submit to the Government of the Federation of Nigeria and then Western Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria an initial report describing the survey of the Niger Delta and the measures that appears to the board to be desirable in order to promote the Physical Development thereof.23

In 1961, the Federal parliament enacted the Niger Delta development Board. Act of 1961 to comply with section 14 of the 1960 constitution. The board however could not provide any meaningful development for the Niger Delta Region because of lack of political will and commitment. The Federal Military Government then and which was dominated by the Hausa and Yoruba ethnic groups after the 1966 coup nationalized every aspect of the national economy and political life in Nigeria. The autonomy of the regions was consequently taken away by military Decrees. For example Decree NO 9 of 1971 repealed section 140 (6) of the 1963 constitution which ceded oil revenue from the region to the continental shelf which formed the background of litigation on onshore/ offshore dichotomy between the South-South government and the federal government. The UNDP report on the Niger Delta Development Board did show that the commission was set up for a purpose but bothered itself only with some scanty surveys and researches. Some excuses were that, subject to the first military overthrow and the emergent of the Nigerian Civil war in 1967, the efforts of the Board became a farce.24

The Niger Delta River Basin Development Authority (NDBDA 1972 -1983)

The NDBDA was established to replace the defunct Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB). Nigeria currently has twelve river basin development authorities, their creation commenced when the Federal government passed the River Basin Development Authorities Decree Nos 32 and 33 of 14th August 1973 to give legal backing to the establishment of the Chad and Sokoto – Rima River basins development authorities. Subsequently, the river basins development authorities decree No.25 of 15th June 1976 and the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority Decree No 37 of 3rd August 1976 was also promulgated. These decrees created 11 River Basin Authorities. In 1944, government approved the diversion of Niger Basin Development Authority unto upper and lower Niger Basin Development Authority thus bringing the numbers of river basin authorities to 12.25

The NDBDA which was meant to rekindle hopes as a result of the abysmal failures of NDDB happened to be bedeviled with political and administrative scheming. Alamieyeseigha had pointed out that the 1979 to 1983 disbursements to River Basin Development Authority showed real disgust of the various governments had for Niger Delta Development projects. The same structure and pattern of operation of the defunct NDDB board was maintained with little management swooping of staff. Few-rice factories were set up by the Late Mike Okiro in Ogba Local Government Area of Bayelsa State (formally under River State). In shortwhile, this effort turned a failed project as it lacked maintenance.26

Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC 1992-2000)

OMPADEC was established by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida under Decree No23 of 1992. The purpose and mandate to the commission was to address the years of neglect of the Niger Delta region. Section 2 of the Decree No 23 states the following objectives that the commission shall:

(a)        Receive and administer the monthly sums from the allocation of the Federation Account in accordance with confirmed ratio of oil production in each state for the rehabilitation and development of all mineral producing areas, so as to tackle the ecological problems that have arisen from the exploration of oil minerals;

(b)        Determine and identify, through the commission and the respective oil minerals producing states, the actual oil mineral-producing areas and embark on the development of projects properly agreed upon with local communities of the oil mineral-producing areas;

(c)        Consult with the relevant federal and state government authorities on the control and effective methods of tacking the problems of oil pollution and spillage;

(d)  Liaise with the various oil companies on matters of pollution control

(e)        Obtain from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation the proper formula for actual oil mineral production of each state, local government area and distribution of projects, services and employment of personnel in accordance with recognized percentage production;

(f)        consult with the federal government through the presidency, the state, local government and oil mineral-producing communities regarding projects, services and all other requirements relating to the special fund (derivation revenue) ;

(g)        Render annual returns to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and copy the state and local government on all matters relating to the special fund;

(h)        Liaise with the oil-producing companies regarding the proper number, location and other relevant data regarding oil mineral-producing areas; and

(J)        Execute other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the commission, is geared towards the development of the oil mineral-producing areas.27

In compliment, section 4a (2) of the Allocation of Revenue (Federal Account) (Amendment Act No 106 of 1992) provided that, three percent (3%) of the federation account derived from mineral revenue be paid to the commission and shall be used for the rehabilitation and development of the oil mineral-producing areas on the basis of the ratio of the oil produced in the particular areas, of dichotomy of on-shore oil production.28 Like its Predecessors, OMPADEC consequently failed to promote development of the Niger Delta Region. Both on the spot assessment reports and literature provided that, abandoned and incomplete projects of OMPADEC were a common feature in the region until Niger Delta Development Commission inherited them in 2000. The excuse given by the then commission Chairman, Horsfall was that, the financial sabotage of the commission took three different forms to wit: short-funding of the commission in terms of its legally entitled funds, manipulation of its funds and withholding of its monthly allocations; 18 roads during my tenure as follows: Rivers State – 3 Roads; Delta State – 9 Roads; Akwa-Ibom State – 2 Roads, and Imo State – 4 Roads. 29

Many observers saw the establishment of OMPADEC as a huge fraud and was criticized of corruption, over politicization and mismanagement of funds, re-organizations and restructurings, all in the name to provide the people of the Niger-Delta with their needs and aspirations. Mr. Terry Noah, former Director-General of Delta State Labour Agency saw OMPADEC’S organization and its activities as a disaster in terms of quality, numbers and location of projects it executed, while it existed because, the considerations and interests surrounding project execution and policies by the commission were highly political and selfish. 30

Consequently upon the above lapses and other related cases of insincerity, the then head of State- General Abdusalami Abubakar announced that it had suspended the release of funds to the commission. General Abdusalami Abubakar justified “the suspension would be in force until the commission satisfactorily accounts for the previous allocations made to it” 31

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC, 2000- 2008)

In 2000, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo submitted to their (National Assembly a Bill for an Act of to provide for the repeal of the oil mineral producing Areas Development Commission Decree 23 of 1992. Among other things, the president’s goal was to establish a new commission with a reorganized management and administrative structure for more effective use of the special funds it will receive from the federation account to tackle ecological and other related problem arising from the exploration of oil minerals in the Niger Delta area. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act was subsequently passed into law in 2000 that established the Commission. Section 7 of the Act 2000 provides that the Commission shall-

  • Formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta areas;
  • Conceive, Plan and implement (in accordance with set rules and regulations) projects and programmes for sustainable transformation of the areas including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunication;
  • Cause the Niger Delta area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic developments;

(d)        Prepare master plans and scheme designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta areas and the estimates of the costs of implementing such master plans and schemes;

(e)        Implement all the measure approved for the development of the Niger Delta area by the federal Government and the member states of the commission;

(f)        Identify factors inhabiting the development of Niger Delta area and assist the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta; (g)asses and report on any project funded and carried out in the Niger Delta areas by oil and gas producing companies or any other company including non-governmental organizations, and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilized to tackle environmental and ecological problems that aroused entail problems that aroused from exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta areas and advise the federal Government and member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution;

(h)        Liaise with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution prevention and control and

(i) Execute such other works and performs such other functions which, in the opinion of the commission, required for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta area and its people 32.

To achieve its mandate, the NDDC board identified the following area of focus: Development of Social and Physical Infrastructure Technology Economic revival and prosperity, Ecological /environmental remediation and Stability Human Development.

The NDDC operates under the mandate of improving social and environmental conditions in the South-South region, which it acknowledges as horrific in its own reports. However, the organization has come under scrutiny and according to some is generally regarded as vehicle of corruption and prebendalism. 33

Though many governments have not been sincere in addressing the problems in the oil producing areas, yet the little the government has done towards alleviating the sufferings of the people in those areas, failed with a particular reference to OMPADDEC. This may have aroused by lack of commitment, inadequate funding, mismanagement of funds, over politicization of policies and appointments, lack of clear focus on the part of the government and its agencies. Literature exposed that, each development agency setup for Niger- Delta areas ended up as nothing more than an avenue to fat some pockets at the expense of the region. What is utmost essential is that, eminently qualified and tested technocrat (not politician) with proven professionalism in project delivery and public works management. Somebody who has a through appreciation of the problems to be addressed and the correct level transparent commitment, level-headedness and morally stable in administration is required to serve all interest groups fairly and without bias. The strong political will on the part of federal government to transform the region with sustainable development Programmes is required.34

The discovery of oil and its resultant negative effects of oil related activities such as environmental degradation, depletion of the Ozone layer, oil spillage etc in the Niger Delta led to the agitation of the people in the area the need for development attention. The study therefore attempts to look at related oil activities in the area with view to providing a link with development which form a part of the study.


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51  S. Bannett and R. Osowski, “What Goes Up” Finance and Development 40 (1st March, 2003) pp. 13 28.

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62  Ibid.

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68  Newswatch, May 5, 2003

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91  K. Okoko, “Conflict and Development in The Niger Delta: Issues in the Conflict Relationship Between Oil Companies and their Host Communities in the Niger Delta in Tamuno. S. O .et al (eds) Ethinicts Conflict and Development Prospects in Nigeria.: A book of Readings. Lagos, Coperate Impression. 1999

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119           Ibid

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121           J.C. Dill; Anderson, C.A. “Effects of Frustration Justification on Hostile Aggression”. Aggressive Behaviour, 21:359-369, 1995.

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