Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil revenue at the peak of the militant attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta, which slashed oil production from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1 million barrels per day last year, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said.
To tackle the scourge, the minister also unveiled a 20-point agenda aimed at instituting permanent peace in the oil-producing region.
Speaking yesterday on "Oil Sector Militancy Challenges... Roadmap to Closure," Kachikwu said in his monthly podcast that the country lost billions of dollars at the height of militancy in 2016.
According to him, the Niger Delta crisis, coupled with the 45 per cent drop in oil production, worsened the financial challenges of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Kachikwu said the crisis resulted in attacks on oil and gas facilities and the sub-optimal performance of the refineries, stressing that Nigeria was unable to meet its international obligations as a result of the militancy.
He said despite all efforts made by successive administrations to tackle the militancy in the Niger Delta, a permanent solution was never found.
"The problem has been the absence of consistency, even before President Obasanjo's administration and it went on with other governments - Yar'Adua and Jonathan's," he said.
Kachikwu identified the steps taken to tackle the Niger Delta crisis to include the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the 13 per cent derivation for oil producing states.
The minister also stated that the present administration has also made efforts to end the crisis by launching a seven-point roadmap, engaging the oil-producing communities and sustaining the Amnesty Programme for the repentant militants.
Kachikwu added that the President Buhari's efforts to sustain the programme were being hampered by declining oil revenue, as the present administration only gets 55 per cent of the revenue that was available to previous administrations.
He said the crisis has refused to abate despite the efforts, adding however that the administration led by Buhari was going to be very bullish in finding final solutions to the crisis.
The minister said the administration is determined to tackle the militancy and achieve peace in the region.
Kachikwu said the government would focus on the environment, adding that the Niger Delta has a rich environment that is suitable for tourism.
To clean-up the environment, Kachikwu said Buhari would continue to implement his seven-point agenda and other behind-the-scenes engagements of the relevant stakeholders.
The first point on the 20-point agenda is for oil companies to engage the state governments and communities on issues affecting a particular state.
The second point focuses on inter-agency collaborations between the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and the Niger Delta, as well as the NDDC.
The third point is what he called a ring-fenced approach, stressing that the federal government would stop dealing with the militancy as a national issue and adopt a state-by-state approach.
Kachikwu also said government would focus on creating 100,000 jobs in each of the oil-producing states in the Niger Delta in the next five years.
The Amnesty Programme, according to the minister, will also be decentralised, explaining that the federal government can no longer fund the programme alone as a result of dwindling oil revenue.
Another plan under the agenda is to adopt what he termed as the "Security Holds Hands Approach", aimed at strengthening security through the collaboration of all the relevant agencies.
Kachikwu also identified peace and investment initiatives, stressing that peace encourages investment, while a crisis serves as a disincentive to investment.
He added that there would be a core business focus wherein the federal government will continue to attract business opportunities to the Niger Delta.
According to the minister, at the core of the militancy is economics, stressing that cottage industries and business startups will encourage violent agitators to shun militancy and engage in business activities.
Another item on the agenda, he said, is for the government to focus investments on gas-to-power projects for steady power supply in the Niger Delta.
Kachikwu also said that the federal government would provide incentives for peace keeping by boosting investments in the Niger Delta states that are peaceful and investor-friendly.
He minister stated that oil companies would embark on the revamp of oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta, while also focusing on the "clean-up of our mess".
In this respect, the minister said the president had launched the Ogoni clean-up exercise.
Other aspects of the 20-point plan included the domestication of oil and gas business opportunities to achieve greater participation of the people of the oil-producing region without excluding other Nigerians.
In addition, a development fund will be launched while also attracting foreign investors to the region.
The federal government would also encourage education programmes in the Niger Delta to make the people embrace education and shun militancy, the minister stated.
Kachikwu also revealed that the Amnesty Programme would be launched on a state-by-state basis to create opportunities for 5,000-10,000 youths in each state, adding that the federal government cannot continue to fund the programme alone because of dwindling oil revenue.
He also advocated for the establishment of an umbrella youth organisation in each state, even as the federal government partners the oil-producing states to create investments.
The minister also identified justice for all the stakeholders as a major plank of the agenda, while policing for peace would remain critical to sustaining peace in the oil-rich region.
On the security measures, the minister said the government would continue to strengthen the military and other security agencies to maintain peace, adding that it was no longer acceptable for the militants to hold the country to ransom.