Blowing Up Oil Pipelines Can’t Solve Niger Delta’s Problems –Ogieva | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Blowing Up Oil Pipelines Can’t Solve Niger Delta’s Problems –Ogieva

Posted: Jul 16, 2016 at 3:38 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Matthew Ogieva, an economic strategist, consultant and policy analyst in this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU speaks on the current crisis in the Niger Delta and other sundry issues. Excerpts:


As a professional and stakeholder in the Niger Delta, how do you see the resurgence of militancy in the region?

We cannot use our future as bait to fight our today. We cannot continue to pollute our eco-system because we want something to abate. We are not just affecting ourselves, but also our children and children’s children. They (militants) should not toe that path, the pollution in the region is so bad and the effect will still be there. We need to seek better ways of expressing ourselves. Violence cannot solve our problems. The best way is not in blowing up pipelines. We should not destroy our water and farmlands. These actions impact negatively on our national economy and tomorrow.

How best do you think the Federal Government could handle the issue?

The only way is through negotiation. Life is always discussed on the table, whether you want to build a home or society, etc, it takes negotiation. Violence is not an option. Look at Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan; has violence worked there? Has it ever worked anywhere? It distorts the society so much, and it is not working. Millions of Syrians are fleeing, while millions of others (in Libya, etc) are losing their lives in the water trying to cross over to Europe. Is violence working in Libya? Are the people there living better now than before? Yes, we have issues, and no country in the world is exempted from these challenges. But we need to be careful how we go about solving our problem.

Government should engage the aggrieved parties more. We cannot continue to undermine the people’s voice. Moreover, this is a democracy and we have the right and should be allowed to express ourselves. Government is about allowing the people to state their grievances. It must seek ways to solve the challenge; get people to a roundtable, thus diminishing the opportunity for violence. It must ensure it manages pockets of agitations well. There is no place in the world where there are no challenges, where people are not alleging marginalisation, etc. But, we can make our place safer for everyone to live.

It is well over a year since the present administration took power; how would you assess it?

I cannot make any assessment now, or it will be a feeling. You cannot make an assessment based on how you feel. You make it based on indices, you settle down to do it.

Okay, are you satisfied with the situation of the country now?

I would say no. I am not satisfied, because we can do better. Would I judge the present government based on what is happening presently? Some things could have been better handled, though it (government) claims some things are not of its making. You cannot keep giving the same old excuse that you met these things on ground. What should be your excuse is how you manage what you met on ground. So many things would naturally be tougher if you want to make them straight. But at the same time, we need the government to state clearly the direction it wants to go and carry the people along. By the time it spells out its goal, the people now know and don’t make assumptions. They can plan on that. For instance, the corruption fight is a clear-cut policy. But other areas are foggy. Economically, we need to see and know where we are going; ditto for the transport, maritime and other sectors. They can now be assessed based on that, otherwise it would be difficult because there is nothing to compare.

If the President says: I will do this thing in six months in this sector, then there is a basis to assess him and tell whether he is performing optimally there or underperforming. So we need to have a plan, a benchmark, as a country, as to where we want to go or be in say, two or three years. Then the people know what they can or cannot get. But sometimes a benchmark does not mean we can get everything or cannot get greater than the benchmark. It is that you have a line, a guide you are following. It is easier that way for people to follow you.

As a maritime economist, are you satisfied with the efforts of this regime in the sector?

Satisfaction is a strong word. Their effort is good. The effort is there, but we need to analyse this and where we need to go. We need to have a blueprint on where we need to take the sector in five or 10 years, and agree that this is what we want to do. Then we push it through. This is because sometimes, we run things on nothing, not having a clear-cut plan or policy. As leader on the continent, we should have clear-cut vision and direction, and focus on this. A situation where a large chunk of our business goes to neighbouring countries like Cotonou, Benin Republic, etc does not speak well of us. We need to tidy up these areas. We also need to dominate the West African coast, if not Africa, at least businesswise, before we can capture other markets.

Flooding is a particular troublesome issue in the country, especially in the Niger Delta area. How do you think the government can check it especially as the nation will soon enter the rainy season?

Can we really end flooding? We cannot because some factors are man-made while others are natural, making it difficult to tackle. Take for example, problem of ozone layer and emission of green house gases. Without listing other factors, what we need do is to manage these factors that is positive attitude talks about; you being in charge and managing what life throws at you.

We are doing a lot with NEMA, but we need to follow scientific best practices. We also need to invest in researches, which may be difficult right now because of the present situation in the country. We also need more detailed information and work on this to limit the overbearing factors responsible for flooding. There should also be greater awareness and sensitisation and calls for those living at flood-prone areas to relocate, if necessary. Example is those living by River Niger shoreline.

What is your take on the economy, especially the transport sector?

Presently the transport sector is not at the optimal level; we need to be candid about this and I know that we can do a whole lot better there. On the economy, I do not believe what we have at present is what we should be talking about. We need to move forward. It’s good the current government is sanitising the system, but right now for the transport sector, maritime and elsewhere, we need policies that will ensure more robustness and capacity to earn more for our country. We need to move away from an oil-driven economy, and find a way into shipping or maritime sector which can earn more revenue beyond just transporting crude. As a government, we have the entire West Africa and beyond to lead and dominate. But we are not doing much about this. We also need to take up the development of our transport infrastructure, training centres, get more knowledgeable and qualified people at the helm. Then, we will have more results.

You recently came out with a new book, ‘Why a Positive Attitude is all you need: Your Cornerstone to Success.’ What is it about?

It is a self-help book on attitude; how we can develop a positive attitude; how that positive attitude can become the cornerstone to our success. If we must agree: Life is not for the strong, life is also not for the most brainy (intelligent). Life is for the person that has the best attitude to coordinate and get past challenges that life presents. So this book talks about how we can develop a positive attitude and use it to achieve our set goals and desires. It cuts across our personal, business relationships and inter-personal achievements.