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Nigeria: Conflict Drains National Resources

Conflict Drains National Resources, Says Brigidi


by Akanimo Sampson,
Port Harcourt

CHAIRMAN of a presidential peace panel, the Niger Delta Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, NDPCRC, Senator David Brigidi says they are determined to bring back peace to the oil and gas region in a bid to channel more national resources to the development of the area.

Brigidi who was speaking in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Tuesday, when some youth groups called on him, claimed that based on the facts available to his committee, ''conflicts cost Africa around $300billion in the last 15 years. That huge amount would have gone a long way in lifting the ordinary people out of poverty''.

The committee chairman who used the occasion to plead with the restive youths of the oil region to support the peace panel to draw socio-economic amenities to the oil-bearing communities of the Niger Delta, said, ''we in this committee are convinced that President Umar Yar'Adua means well for our region. We should encourage him to redress all the injustices we have so far identified by laying down our arms''.

He, however, pointed out that the Niger Delta crisis also contributed much to the cost of conflict in Africa within the 15 years period. ''Research findings have indicated that the cost of conflict on African development was some $300billion between 1990 and 2005. This is equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period'', he said.

Journalists for Niger Delta, JODEL, a media group concerbed with the affairs of the oil region reports that this tends to show that on average a war, civil war or insurgency shrinks an African economy by 15 per cent. The continent loses an average of $18billion a year due to armed conflict.

“Armed violence is one of the greatest threats to development in Africa,” said Irungu Houghton, Oxfam’s African policy advisor. “The costs are shocking. Our figures are almost certainly an under-estimate but they show conflicts are costing African economies an average of $18bn a year. This money could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria, or provide clean water, sanitation and education.””

The research also estimates that 95 per cent of Kalashnikov rifles used in these conflicts come from outside Africa. Kalashnikovs are the most common weapon in Africa’s conflicts. The combatants who ignore the rules of war and commit human rights abuses are almost always supplied from outside the continent.

Joseph Dube, International Action Network on Small Arms, IANSA, Africa co-ordinator said: “This report describes some of the devastating economic impacts of the poorly regulated international arms trade and the shocking level of human suffering that this causes. As an African, I implore all African governments and weapons-producing governments to support a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty. This is a call for global cooperation and cannot be achieved working alone. The government whose factory produces the rifle is as responsible as the government who permits its ships to transport them. Similarly the states that unload the cargo must monitor whose hands these weapons end up in. Without this regulation, the cost and suffering borne by Africans will continue to be immense.”

Between 1990 and 2005, 23 African nations have been involved in conflict. Oxfam, IANSA and Saferworld calculated what these countries’ GDP would have been if there had been no conflict, by comparing them to peaceful countries of a similar economic status. For example, during Guinea-Bissau’s conflict in 1998/99, the projected growth rate without conflict would have been 5.24%, whereas the actual growth rate was minus 10.15%.

This methodology almost certainly gives an under-estimate. It does not include the economic impact on neighboring countries, which could suffer from political insecurity or a sudden influx of refugees. The study only covers periods of actual combat, but some costs of war, such as increased military spending and a struggling economy, continue long after the fighting has stopped.

In countries affected by war the direct costs of violence (such as military expenditure or the destruction of infrastructure) pale in comparison to the indirect costs of lost opportunities. These include:

  • Inflation, debt and high unemployment.

  • Income from natural resources going to private individuals, rather than being invested in the nation as a whole.

  • More people, especially women and children, die from the consequences of conflict than in the fighting itself.

The most common weapon used in African conflicts is the Kalashnikov assault rifle, the best known being the AK-47. Kalashnikovs are nearly all made outside Africa. African governments are convinced of the need to control arms transfers and have already taken encouraging initiatives at regional level. These are important steps but will not solve the problem on their own. The arms trade is global industry and needs a global, legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty.

Oxfam, IANSA and other NGOs are campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty which would prohibit arms transfers if they were likely to be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, or undermine sustainable development. Such a treaty would not prevent responsible arms transfers for defence, policing or peacekeeping.

Earlier, the leader of the concerned Niger Delta youths, Saturday Owei, had told the presidential peace panel that they were in Port Harcourt to express their support for the committee's peace initiative. He said they were optimistic that the Brigidi panel will succeed.

Also speaking, a member of the committee, Duke Fubara, commended the youths for their show of solidarity, and urged them to join the presidential panel in preaching peace in all communities of the oil region.

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