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Recent protest and repression in the oil producing region, especially related to the Kaiama Declaration and the events that followed it, provoked a response from the government of General Abubakar. On March 3, 1999, General Abubakar appointed a twenty-two member committee, headed by Maj. Gen. Oladayo Popoola, to examine existing development initiatives and "to make appropriate recommendations on what can be done before the end of the current administration." The members of the committee were the military administrators of the South-South zone, several ministers (military and civilian), representatives of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), and other government figures. No civil society representatives were included. The committee submitted its report on March 16, recommending the immediate expenditure of _15.3 billion (U.S.$170 million) on infrastructure projects in addition to normal budgetary allocations, as well as the establishment of a Niger Delta Consultative Council, made up of government figures and representatives of the oil companies, and chaired by the chief of general staff or vice-president, to oversee development projects.73 On April 10, 1999, General Abubakar met more than two hundred delegates from the oil producing regions to discuss the report. While many of the delegates were reportedly looking rather for individual projects in their own region, the meeting was reported to have approved the report—though some of those present contested this interpretation.74 While the meeting included a more widely representative selection of people than many previous discussions, they were invited as individuals rather than as representatives of organizations with a mandate to discuss the proposals put to them. The Ijaw Youth Council, the principal mover of the Kaiama Declaration, was not invited.75

On April 12, 1999, the military administrator of Bayelsa State, Lt. Col. Paul Obi, met with selected Ijaw leaders at state house in Yenagoa, stating, according to press reports, that the "Federal Government is favourably disposed towards tackling the critical problem of underdevelopment facing the state" while urging the people of Bayelsa State to "embrace the path of peace and dialogue at all times."76

Since being elected, future president Olusegun Obasanjo has largely spent time outside the country, seeking international support for his government. He has not traveled to the delta. Before being elected, though already likely to be so, he invited selected delta youths to talk with him in Benin City, at the height of the New Year crisis, on January 3, 1999. While the media reported that he had secured the promise of a ceasefire, none of those invited represented major constituencies. One of those present said that he had not apparently realized the seriousness of the demands raised by the Ijaw Youth Council and others, and appeared rather to want to act as mediator between the youths and the military.77 Obasanjo also appointed a committee to consider the situation in the Niger Delta, which submitted a report to the Presidential Policy Advisory Committee, reportedly recommending greater development spending in the oil producing regions.78

73 Emeka Nwankpa, "Abubakar raises panel on Niger Delta," Guardian (Lagos) March 4, 1999; Emeka Nwankpa, "Panel suggests _15b for facilities in Niger Delta," Guardian, March 17, 1999; Josiah Emerole, "Committee recommends 20 year development plan for Niger Delta," Post Express (Lagos), March 18, 1999.

74 Remi Oyo, "Unrest in the Niger Delta May Soon be Over," IPS, April 18, 1999, quoting MOSOP Ledum Mitee as saying that "contrary to media reports the Abuja meeting at which the plan for the Niger Delta was reached did not come out with any decision."

75 Emeka Nwankpa, "Govt approves panel report on Niger Delta," Guardian (Lagos), April 12, 1999; Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Oronto Douglas, April 16, 1999.

76 Adagogo Brown, "Administrator Tasks Ijaw Leaders on Development," Post Express (Lagos), April 13, 1999.

77 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Warri, April 22, 1999.

78 Emma Amaize, "Committee on Niger Delta submits report," Vanguard (Lagos), April 27, 1999.

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