Boiling Point

This book brings together the proceedings of the conference on the crises in the oil Producing communities in Nigeria organised by the committee for the Defence of Human Righti (CDHR in collaboration with The Ford Foundation. The conference, held at Gateway Hotels, otta, ogun State between september20 and23, 1999, took place against the background of intense conflicts and agitations in the oil-bearing regions in the country. The fact that the minority groups occupy the rich oil producing areas and have been subjected to untold pain and suffering has also increased tensions, distrust, conflicts, and violence. Furthermore, those who produce what has become the nation's sole foreign exchange earner are clearly marginalized from power and are voiceless if not invisible in the de-termination of those critical issues that shape policies and politics in the Niger Delta. while the state and transnational oil companies have employed a strategy of domestication and incorporation to silence and eliminate opposition since the late 1950s, the situation is changing as the tide is beginning to rise in favour of the oppressed communities.

Youths and the generality of the citizenry of the area as well had risen up in protest against continued oppression and exploitation alienation, environmental despoliation, political marginalisation and economic deprivation. Precisely, cDHR had contemplated on the crises with great awe, pondered seriously on the people's demands and grievances and deliberated at length on the responses of the government of the Federal Republicof Nigeria. ltdecided, eventually, on the need for a thorough analysis of the multi-various dimensions of the problem with the goal being to propose an alternative perspective of the resolution for the crises.

 

The conference therefore, drew participants from virtually allthe communities and organisations in the affected areas, governn.rent officials, security agents, executives of oil corporations as well as Non Governmental orqanisations with demonstrated interests in the crises in the area. ln addition to the commissioned papers, several other groups came with carefully documented positions and views and insisted on being accorded opportunities to present them. others who did not have written positions also demanded for ample attention as they made oral representations. The situation required some measure of flexibility and dynamism. And the conference was the better for it.

No doubt, the conference was very successful especially when the. high number of participants, the quality of presentations and the illuminating discussions that followed the presentations are taken into account. Going through this book, it will be glaring that the presentations were made from different ideological perspectives. Yet there is a noticeable point of agreement amongst participants, particularly on critical questions such as; the nature and dirnension of the crises in the Niger Delta, the roles of oil companies and the State in the generation and sustenance of the crises, who the main actors are; the character of the violence and the implications they hold for an eventual resolution of the crises e.t.c.

The papers in this book have not been reproduced in the order of their presentations. Rather, they have been minimally edited and re-arranged according to the thematic similarities of the topics on which the papers were presented. Similarly, the discussions of the various presentations and the contributions of many of the participants were not reproduced immediately after such presentations. They were brought in as appendices.

Finally, we wish to place it on record that, the federal government though invited, refused to send representations to the conference. Lt has refused to acknowledge the receipt of our communique as well as the letter requesting for a meeting with its representatives in order to discuss the crises. lnstead, government has continued to adopt old methods in its attempt to tackle the crises in the oil-producing communities. For instance, as a response to the killing of twelve policemen in Odi, a small, oil-bearing village in Bayelsa State in November 1999, Government simply deployed troops to the place with an instruction to sack the whole village. Afterwards, Presi- dent Olusegun Obasanjo came on air to express his "regrets" over the destruction. Even after this, government still has not paid any attention to our recommendations. Let us hope that it would not have become too late before government realises the strategic importance of the oil-bearing communities to the survival of the Nigerian state.