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Sunday, 11 September 2016
Not Yet Uhuru; The Ticking Time Bomb In Nigeria’s Niger Delta
Apparently alluding to blistering attacks on crude oil
installations and facilities by militant groups in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo recently said, ‘’Nigeria is losing one million barrels of crude oil per say due
to vandalism’’. Nigeria’s public space is awash with a raging debate as to whether or not the Nigerian government
should ‘negotiate’ with or as some put it, ‘appease’ the Niger Delta militants.
While Western governments led by the United
States and the United
Kingdom recommend ‘dialogue’ as the best way out
of the quagmire, President Buhari hitherto seemed unenthusiastic about a
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, is also one of those that want
the Nigerian government to dialogue with the militants. Soyinka reportedly
urged the federal government to ‘’engage the Niger Delta militants and
respond positively to their demands in order to engender lasting peace in the
region’’. The Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, says, “Negotiation with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, is merely a
temporary respite, as another opportunistic group is lurking in the shadows,
but dialogue and resolution of the Niger Delta question will be a sustainable
solution for all stakeholders.”
Niger Delta Avengers
Air of Uncertainty Pervades The Niger Delta
Unsuccessful at browbeating Niger Delta militants with threats and cognizant
of the massive ripple effect the bombing of oil installations is having on the
Nigerian economy and the country’s stability, the Buhari administration seem to
have buckled, acceded to a dialogue. The arrowhead of the Niger Delta militancy
– the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, subsequently agreed to a ceasefire
but also warned that, ‘’it will continuously adopt asymmetric warfare during this
period if, the Nigerian government and the ruling political party – the APC
continues to use security agencies/agents, formations and politicians to
arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members
and invade especially Ijaw communities’’. Notwithstanding the NDA ceasefire, not
to be outdone and probably wanting to be relevant in the scheme of things, the Niger
Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, recently blew an oil facility while
another that goes by the moniker – Niger Delta Cleansers, NDC, threatens to attack soldiers
deployed to the Niger Delta.
Nonetheless, uncertainty pervades the atmosphere as President
Buhari’s administration continues to send mixed signals. A statement credited
to President Buhari reads, ‘’we
will deal with Niger Delta militants like we dealt with Boko Haram’’. The launching of ‘’Operation Crocodile Smile’’, massive
build-up of military personnel and hardware in the Niger Delta and the ‘body
language’ of this administration suggests that the government has other ideas. Could
this be part of the carrot and stick approach? The Niger Delta Avengers claims 20 Nigerian soldiers recently lost their lives during the first
four days of the ongoing ‘’Operation Crocodile Smiles’’. There is mutual
mistrust and no love lost between the government and the Niger Delta
militants/people. Chief Edwin Clark whom the Niger Delta Avengers nominated to
represent the group in the purported dialogue with the Nigerian government
recently opined that, ‘’militants are ready for dialogue but the federal
government is stalling’’. He warns that the military operation in the Niger
Delta could lead to renewed attacks by the militants.
Nigeria’s Politics of
Appeasement, Treating Symptoms of a Disease And Postponing The Evil Day
I posited in this essay - Dissecting
the Recurring Agitation for Balkanization of Nigeria,
militancy in the Niger Delta can be traced to Mr. Isaac Jasper Adaka
Boro’s secessionist Ijaw Volunteer Force in 1966. The latest relapse
to militancy in the Niger Delta after the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP
of Presidents Yar Adua/Goodluck Jonathan, suggests the symptom of the disease
was simply treated and the evil day was postponed. Aftermath of the amnesty
programme, militant kingpins scantily surrendered their weapons, were showered with
lucrative multi-million dollars pipeline protection contracts, other largesse
while selected Niger Delta youths were awarded foreign scholarships by the
Nigerian government. President Buhari assumed power, suspended many of the
aforementioned contracts, pecks and voila, it was back to status quo ante.
Did The Amnesty Programme Spur
Militant Groups in The Niger Delta?
Prior to President Yar’Adua’s Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP,
few militant groups held sway. They include: the defunct Niger Delta Volunteer
Force (NDVF), Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) and the Movement for the Emancipation
of the Niger Delta (MEND), Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF). Right now,
there are about 22 militant groups in the Niger Delta. It’s likely some former
foot soldiers, seeing how ‘lucrative’ calling the shots is, now upped the ante.
A Voice of America, VOA, report by Chris Stein cites analysts agreeing that, ‘’negotiating with
Niger Delta Militants could encourage them’’. According to the news report,
‘’If Nigeria’s government plans to sit down with the militant groups that have
wreaked havoc on its oil industry, they will need a lot of chairs’’. Excluding
the abovementioned defunct militant groups, my research suggeststhere are presently nearly two dozen splinter militant groups in
the Niger Delta, vis-à-vis:
22.Former Forest Soldiers, (FFS),
aka Isaac Boro Last Born 23. Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders (NDRC)
Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders
Matters Arising From The
Niger Delta Crises, Proposed Dialogue
There's no gainsaying the fact that Niger Delta people have
genuine grievances but what is not clear is whether the agitation, and militancy
in that region is driven by vested interests, personal aggrandizement or in the
interest of the generality of Niger Delta people? Some
1.Do the militants speak for the generality
of the Niger Delta people?
2.It is reported that Crude oil causes heart, skull deformities’
and a recent study predicts a cancer epidemic in
Niger Delta by 2025. Are the Niger Delta militants cognizant of the health
hazards posed by their actions?
3.Current militancy seems like a déjà vu. Given
that resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta dates back decades ago, any guarantee this atavism won't recur in the near future?
4.While unarmed Biafran, IPOB,
and MASSOB activists are routinely quenched, killed by government security operatives,
the Nigerian government opts to dialogue with folks who destroy critical
national infrastructure? Does it follow that the surest way to get the
attention and concessions from the Nigerian government is by upping the stakes?
Validates the assertion that unarmed prophets are seldom heeded?
5.Nigeria recently unveiled its
national counter-terrorism strategy tagged NACTEST. Does NACTEST prescribe negotiating with terrorists, militants or
How To End The Niger Delta
Appeasing Niger Delta youths with N65, 000 monthly stipends will not curtail recurring militancy, agitation.
Teaching them how to fish rather than giving them fish will go a long way.
Brainstorming an infrastructural, development master-plan and engagement of
local communities not just the arm-bearing militants will also help. The International
Oil Companies (IOCs) must also step up their game, and improve their
relationship and engagement with host communities. The Nigerian government
stands to lose nothing by reconsidering the cancellation of Maritime University
established by President Goodluck Jonathan. The Deputy Head of the Mission of
the United States in Nigeria, Ambassador David Young implores the federal government to improve the living conditions of the
Niger Delta people. Any dialogue devoid of mopping up hoard of
illegal firearms and reining in proliferation of sophisticated weaponry in the
Niger Delta invites recidivism, relapse to militancy. A
consistent demand of the Niger Delta people is resource control and
restructuring of the Nigerian federation which the establishment is not
amenable to. Ending hostilities in the Niger Delta is not rocket science. The Sir
Henry Willinks minority reports and the Ledum
Mittee report are credible templates if the
Nigerian government is genuinely sincere in enduring peace and stability in the
Amnesty or not, dialogue or not, the situation in the Niger Delta
will continue to remain a ticking time bomb as long as the establishment keeps
treating the symptoms of the disease than fixing the causative agents. Only a
fool will keep doing the same thing exactly the same way and expect a different