Home Opinion When Alaibe Spoke The Truth To Power (1)

When Alaibe Spoke The Truth To Power (1)

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OPINION

By Sam Akpe

This man does not have a broadcaster’s commanding voice. However, anytime ‘Timi Alaibe, with that his croaky or is it hoarse voice, speaks on Niger Delta issues, he does so with such appetizing depth and passion capable of compelling even an unwilling listener to ask: who on earth is that!

What usually makes his presentation luscious is that for every one problem he mentions about the Niger Delta, he has minimum three solutions to put forward. That means he doesn’t only talk about the difficulties. He is more interested in solutions.

I was in Uyo for a wedding two weeks ago. Somehow, I became so busy and it escaped my notice that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was planning a retreat in Akwa Ibom State. So, I returned to Abuja on the day the retreat took off.

By the way, anytime someone mentions NDDC to me, I simply laugh, because that organization is doing everything in the Niger Delta region except development—its core objective. That’s a story for another day.

Last week, I can’t recall which television station I tuned to when I heard that familiar voice. Then I saw ‘Timi making a presentation at the retreat, in his capacity as the guest of honour; although what he did sounded as though he was the keynote speaker.

As expected, the presentation was captured in power points. He spoke on the topic: Delivering on Sustainable Development: Strategic Initiative—a subject he seems to be an authority on.

As usual, ‘Timi went global as though working on academic journal article. He raised questions no one seemed to have considered; starting with the revelation that the idea of Sustainable Development (SD) first emerged as a response to the world’s growing social and economic problems.

He told his captive audience that with the orchestrated globalization, the inequality gap between the rich and the poor simply widened and is still widening daily followed by a scary but unavoidable projected population growth.

           ‘Timi raised some pertinent questions that should arouse concern in every policy maker: “How are we going to feed about nine-billion people by the year 2050? How can we create access for everyone to have clean water, healthcare,and education?”

He continued: “How can we protect biodiversity and take concrete action against climate change? How can we make sure that industrial development mean progress for everyone?

To some of the Niger Delta stakeholders at the retreat, these sounded quite utopian. In response, ‘Timi fell back on the Brundtlan Commission Report which defined SD as “development that meets needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

‘Timi boldly told his audience that based on realities, resources are used faster than they can be regenerated, which implies that such resources would not be available for future generation. Then he started proposing answers to the posers.

According to him, SD inevitably means that growth must be accomplished with respect to nature and mankind; while a balance should be created betweeneconomic progress, environmental protection, and social equity. Every development that must be sustained, he noted, should consider renewable energy, eco-designed products, employees’ quality of life, among others.

With power-point illustrations, he went ahead to discuss the importance of SD to mankind under five key points.

Under environmental stewardship and protection, the boardroom maestro noted that since natural resources are finite, SD ensures that “we don’t exhaust the resources so that they are available for future generations.”

He noted emphatically that fulfilling this approach is about safeguarding our environment and that it involves practices like recycling, conserving energy, and preserving biodiversity.

He mentioned another importance of SD to include economic growth that doesn’t harm the environment, which he explained to mean “finding ways to develop our economies without causing pollution, deforestation or deletion of renewable resources.”

‘Timi stated that social equity was another important aspect of SD. This, he said, is because SD “aims to reduce poverty and inequality; and making sure that benefits of economic growth are fairly shared.” I doubt if any Nigerian policy maker will buy that idea.

Discussing health and well-being as another importance of SD, ‘Timi emphasized the need for clean air, safe drinking water and adequate food for all; because as he put it, a healthy population is essential for economic prosperity.

As he spoke about clean air, what comes to several minds would be the gas flaring that has darkened the skylines in the Niger Delta. How could he advocate safe drinking water when what we used to know as water boards have since been replaced with individual boreholes.

I love the last importance of SD as proposed by ‘Timi. He calls it long term thinking. Perhaps, he forgot that in Nigeria, our policy makers hardly think. His suggestion is that SD “encourages us to think long-term instead of focusing solely on quick profits or immediate benefits.”

In addition, he said that SD demands “considering how actions today will affect the world in decades or even centuries from now.” This is an aspect of policy Nigerian officials do not care about. Do we ever plan for tomorrow?

In conclusion, the lecturer noted that “by adopting sustainable practices in our daily lives and supporting policies that prioritize environment, we can contribute to a more balanced and harmonious world.” Good idea; but who cares?

Eventually, he zeroed in on the Niger Delta region where he noted that environmental degradation must be tackled headlong. He revealed that in 2020 and 2021, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) recorded a combined 822 oil spills that resulted in 28,003 barrels of crude spewing into the environment. Hell!

‘Timi said Nigeria is presently facing “crushing challenges of sabotage through sophisticated thievery of crude oil.” That’s scary, though.

He told his audience that crude oil theft had grown from 103,000 barrels per day in 2021 to an average of 108,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2022 alone. That figure must have gone up in 2023. Citing some records, ‘Timi, who is a former managing director of the NDDC, revealed that over nine-million barrels of crude oil were stolen in 2022 alone.

He noted that the significant environmental damage from oil spills, habitat destruction, and contamination of waterways, farmlands and fisheries, undermining food security and livelihoods for millions of people in the region can better be imagined with such level of oil theft.

The respected banker told the people that rampant oil spills and theft in the Niger Delta have exerted severe environmental implications, including pollution, habitat destruction, and loss of biodiversity and that addressing these challenges was crucial for sustainable development and the well-being of local communities and ecosystems.

He informed the people that pollution from oil spills has dangerously contaminated farmlands and fisheries, and undermined food security and livelihoods for millions of people in the Niger Delta region.

In addition, mangrove forests, which provide critical habitats for diverse species and also serve as natural buffers against coastal erosion and storms, have been significantly degraded.

I got worried as I listened to this presentation; because Nigerian government is obviously more interested is oil exploitation without thinking of environmental remediation.

For those who pretend not to know why there have been unrests in the Niger Delta, ‘Timi gave a little insight. He mentioned the causes of such unrest to include health hazards, displacement of communities, and cultural erosion.

He did not forget disputes arising from agitation for resource control, revenue allocation, and socio-economic inequality. Agitation over these issues often lead to protests, sabotage of oil infrastructure, and violent clashes between communities, militant groups, and security forces.

“Timi observed that lack of equitable distribution of wealth generated from oil resources has often exacerbated tensions and contributed to feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement among local populations.

What he did not mention was that most times, government would rather call in the military than seek lasting solutions to such issues.

           Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics report, the lecturer disclosed that “despite its vast natural resources, the Niger Delta remains one of the most impoverished regions in Nigeria, with high levels of unemployment, poverty, and underdevelopment.

           Permit me to stop at this point today. The remaining and perhaps a juicier part of this presentation will be served tomorrow on this page.

Akpe is a Journalist, based in Abuja

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