Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 11:48 UK

Doubts over Niger Delta ministry

By Andrew Walker
BBC News, Abuja

Oil militant
The militants say they are fighting to bring more money to the Niger Delta

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has announced that a new ministry will be created to deal with the problems of the oil-rich Niger Delta.

The region has seen little economic development in the 50 years that oil has been produced there and militants often attack oil installations.

One activist told the BBC he feared it would just add "another bureaucracy" and avoid the Delta's "real issues".

The president did not announce who will head this new ministry.

Information Minister John Odey said the ministry would undertake civil infrastructure projects and provide employment.

"This will solve the immediate and long-term problems of the Niger Delta," he told the BBC.


But human rights lawyer Anyakwee Nsirimovu said government sponsored efforts to solve the problems in the past had not worked.

"To create another bureaucracy that does not deal with the real issues and that stalls the Niger Delta problem would be difficult to take," he said.


In 2000, the government set up the Niger Delta Development Commission to relieve poverty in the region, hoping this would end the unrest.

But the NDDC has been hamstrung by poor management and funding.

Millions of dollars were withheld from it by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A top official was recently charged with stealing 800m naira ($6.1m, 3.5m).


Activists say that the region needs real government, infrastructural development and jobs to prevent politically well-connected crude oil-stealing syndicates from further destabilising the region.

The Delta region is the source of most of the government's income, yet it remains in poverty.

Corruption has left the whole region largely ungoverned.

Groups of militant youths have exploited this collapse of the rule of law to make money through kidnapping and extortion from oil companies.

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