The United States envoy to Nigeria has urged the federal government to resolve the Niger Delta crisis through dialogue and the implementation of practical measures aimed at improving the safety and well being of the Niger Delta people.
The Deputy Head of the Mission of the United States in Nigeria, Ambassador David Young, stated this during a courtesy call to Bayelsa State Governor Henry Seriake Dickson in the Government House in Yenagoa on Wednesday.
The envoy, who is visiting Bayelsa State for the first time, implored the federal government to put in place measures that would improve the living conditions of the Niger Delta people.
While calling on all stakeholders to embrace dialogue as part of the process of resolving the crisis in the region, Mr. Young observed that successive governments in the country have been making efforts to achieve the best possible means to deploy the wealth generated from the Niger Delta to impact the lives of the people.
According to him, the U.S. government was ready to partner with Nigeria and Bayelsa State in the area of funding development and economic prosperity through a variety of programs, including agriculture, health, education and maritime security, without losing focus on transparency and fiscal responsibility.
"The U.S. government feels very strongly that all stakeholders should be engaged in dialogue as part of the process to arrive at an equitable and fair solution for all involved. We believe that a bit of challenge for Nigeria is to transform the region of oil wells (the Niger Delta) into improvement in the life of the average Deltan. And that is something we feel very strongly about,” Mr. Young stated.
"We encourage Nigerians to work for common goals against violence and criminal activities. We encourage Nigeria to establish conditions and mechanisms for lasting change over time and provide economic opportunities and services for Deltans.”
He explained that the U.S. would provide assistance to the region in the form of “maritime security training, aviation security, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, good governance planning, and agricultural training.”
In his response, Mr. Dickson lamented the level of environmental damage in the Niger Delta and renewed his call on multinational corporate organizations, particularly oil corporations, to adhere to international standards in their operations in the region.
While calling for caution on the part of troops being deployed to the region, the governor said that the solution to the problems of the Niger Delta lie squarely on development and environmental justice, which he noted could only be achieved through meaningful dialogue.
Describing the environment as a critical heritage of any people, Mr. Dickson commended the federal government for kick-starting the Ogoniland Clean-Up Program and called for its extension to other parts of the region, stressing that the Bayelsa State environment remains the most polluted in the Niger Delta.
According to him, as the place where oil was first struck in commercial quantity, Bayelsa State records an average of three oil pollutions in a day and requires special attention from the federal government and the multinationals.
Mr. Dickson expressed gratitude to the U.S. envoy and his team for the visit and solicited their assistance in the areas of education, infrastructural development and promotion of peace and stability in the Niger Delta.
"We believe that the issues of the Niger Delta are not such that can be resolved by means of confrontation or show of military strength. We believe that these are essentially issues of development; they are issues about the environment.
"So, we as a government, community leaders, corporate executives, particularly the oil majors that are operating here and the federal government, its agencies and the friends of our country should work together to resolve the challenges of the Niger Delta.
"These are issues that through working together sincerely and following a clear roadmap, we think can be resolved in such a way that communities will be prosperous. Government agencies and businesses within our region will benefit from the overall climate of stability and security that will be generated when there is a consensus building effort. That is where we stand and I believe that has been the position of the U.S. Mission," the governor stated.