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Friday, 28 April, 2000, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Nigeria's Delta seeks development
Delta family
Calls for oil wealth to be invested in the region
By Lagos correspondent Barnaby Phillips

Political leaders from across Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta region are due to meet on Friday to discuss ways of bringing development to their impoverished people.

The meeting in the town of Yenagoa comes at a time when many leaders from the Delta region are expressing dissatisfaction with Nigeria's democratically elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo.



We're at a crossroads and we're ready to take our destiny in our own hands.

Local activist Bello Orubebe
They accuse him of failing to deliver on his promise, when he took office a year ago, to make improvements in the Niger Delta an urgent priority.

This is the second month in succession that political leaders from the Niger Delta have held such a meeting.

Although the Delta produces almost all of the oil which the Nigerian economy depends on, its people have long complained of neglect.

They had pinned much of their hopes on a new constitutional provision which stipulates that each state should retain more of the income that it generates.


Delta children
The Delta's people have gained little from the region's oil revenue
In other words, the oil producing states ought to be able to keep more of their oil money, rather than be obliged to hand it over to the government.

But the president is accused of failing to comply in full with this provision.

Pressure

Political leaders in the Delta are now coming under pressure from more radical groups to toughen their stance.

"We have patiently for nine months, literally begging for dialogue, begging for attention, begging to be involved in the purported government attempt to work out a better deal for the Niger Delta," says Bello Orubebe, leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force.

"In all these we have been excluded. We're at a crossroads and we're ready to take our destiny in our own hands."

There is now the prospect of a renewed wave of sabotage attacks on oil industry installations.

The people of the Delta, who belong to many small ethnic groups, hope that if they can speak with one voice their message will be heard.

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See also:

24 Apr 00 | Africa
Symbolic funeral for Saro-Wiwa
11 Apr 00 | Africa
Killings in Nigeria's Ogoniland
05 Jun 99 | Africa
Nigeria to probe human rights
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