Thursday, 26 May 2016

Military Declares War On Niger Delta Militants While Petroleum Minister Negotiates With Them. Mixed Signals?

Incensed by the increasing threat that militants in the Niger Delta poses to the Nigerian economy, the Nigerian Military declared war on them yesterday. But it appears the Nigerian government is sending mixed signals to this effect given earlier reports which credited to the Petroleum Minister and his Niger Delta counterpart saying the government will negotiate with the militants.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin and service chiefs from the Nigerian Navy (NN), the Nigerian Army (NA), Vice Adm. Ibok Ette-Ibas and Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, respectively, made the declaration of war at different military functions in Lagos.

The CDS, who was the guest of honour at the navy’s 60th diamond anniversary in Lagos, said the military would continue its onslaught against militants’ activities in the Niger Delta region and insurgency in the Northeast.

But about a fortnight after it was inaugurated by the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa to move into the creeks and halt the increasing spate of pipeline bombings through advocacy, the Delta State Advocacy Committee Against Oil Facility Vandalism, headed by the Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro, has warned that the military option would not solve the problem but instead would compound it.

The committee also urged former militant leaders, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo and Chief Ayiri Emami to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign.

Ayiri had accused Tompolo of being behind the bombing of critical pipelines in Gbaramatu Kingdom linking him to the Niger Delta Avengers but Tompolo fired back denying any link with the Avengers and urged government to investigate those lobbying to repair damaged pipelines.

General Olonisakin who spoke at the end of the two-day maritime conference organised by the navy to mark its anniversary, said the military had stepped up its fight against the militants in the Niger Delta because of the recent attacks on the nation’s infrastructure.

He warned those involved in the attacks on oil facilities to desist from any act of sabotage or would be made to face the wrath of the law when arrested.

Olonisakin, while reviewing the role of the military in recent times said the navy had performed creditably in securing the nation’s territorial waters in its 60 years of existence.

Also speaking at the conference, the CNS, Vice Admiral Ibas, said the navy had been able to reduce robbery and piracy on the nation’s waterways, adding that they were expanding the technical aspect of their surveillance to ensure that they curtail the menace.

Addressing the issue of militancy, he said: “We are doing the very best we can to get them even before they venture out into the creeks.

“We have made some inroads by ensuring that we are at least out there at sea when you consider that we have over 3000 creeks, rivers and actuaries and the navy has over the last 10 years been building its capacity to operate in the backwaters.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has also procured six communication vehicles for the prosecution of the war against insurgency in the Northeast. The army yesterday inaugurated six-sophisticated communication vehicles procured by its Signal Corps, for onward deployment in the northeast to help in the prosecution of war against insurgency.

The Delta State Advocacy Committee Against Oil Facility Vandalism, which met with several Ijaw and Itsekiri traditional rulers including the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli and the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Highness Oboro Gbaraun II, told the communities that the continued bombing of critical oil facilities was inimical to the national and state economies.

“With the increased spate of oil facility bombings leading to drop in production quantum, it is doubtful if the expectations of the budget can be fulfilled,” the deputy governor said.
In their separate comments, the committee members and others equally noted the anger in the communities that may have been partly caused by government and oil companies neglect resulting in underdevelopment.

There was agreement too, that military invasion would not help resolve the issue.
And worried about the renewed militancy, Bayelsa State Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, on Tuesday in Yenagoa, called for concerted efforts to check it, describing the perpetrators as criminals and economic saboteurs. Already, the attacks on the nation’s oil facilities have reduced oil production to an all-time low.

Dickson, who met with representatives of International Oil Companies, (IOCS) and security chiefs to proffer solutions to the recent upsurge in criminal activities in region, decried the killings of security personnel, innocent citizens and the vandalism of oil installations by the Niger Delta Avengers.

Reiterating his administration’s commitment to the protection of lives and property, the governor said that the recent development was affecting the socio-economic growth of not only the state, but the entire region. “The way forward is for all stakeholders to discuss the issues and the need for the Federal Government to tread with caution and not adopt a military approach as a means to solving the problem.

No one person can protect the assets in the remote areas of the region. I, therefore, call on those involved in this act of criminality and brigandage to stop forthwith.”

Also speaking the State Deputy Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukah, noted that the meeting had resolved to engage various communities in the region in a dialogue in order to put an end to the recent upsurge in criminal activities.

Representative of the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, Monday Ovuedu, Group Executive Director, Media, Government and Public Affairs, Mr. Sola Omole and Head of Legal Services, Conoil Plc, Michael Madugbe agreed that oil companies operating in the region would collaborate with the government at sustaining peace in the region.

They pointed out that, the sustained engagement strategy, with sincerity of purpose and for all the stakeholders to work together for the collective interest of all was what the parley was all about.
Militants had in the last couple of weeks, stepped up attacks on petroleum products pipeline across the Niger Delta, with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, declaring that the bombings had reduced Nigeria’s crude oil export by 800,000 barrels per day, from about 2.2 million barrels to 1.4 million barrels per day.

Culled from: Guardian Newspaper