Avoiding The Return Of Militancy To Niger Delta
SAN FRANCISCO, January 19, (THEWILL) – Amid dwindling oil prices and the volatile security challenges in Nigeria, tension has heightened that militancy may erupt again in the Niger Delta, unless urgent steps are taken to arrest the slide. This follows the renewed bombing of oil installations in Delta State and the attendant blowing up of tank farms, crude oil and gas pipelines belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited.
According to reports, the militants blew up the main pipeline from Makaraba, which passes through Otunana and Abiteye to Escravos. Another attack was unleashed on the Escravos – Warri – Abuja – Lagos pipelines. There are fears about repeated attacks and the consequences on the nation's economy and security. Feelers emanating from stakeholders in the region indicate that full blown militancy could indeed resurface, given the political dimension it has assumed.
THEWILL condemns any attempt to re-enact militancy in Niger Delta. Doing so will further endanger lives and property, not only in the region but the entire nation. Resuming hostilities in the Niger Delta, at this time when the North-East is under the siege of Boko Haram, may spell doom for the nation. Coming also at a time when the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB) is agitating for self-rule, it is doubtful whether the country would be able to cope with the three-fold tragedies.
These renewed attacks on oil installations are worrisome, and may remain so unless the root cause of the struggle is frontally tackled. Recently, the International Crisis Group warned that if the Muhammadu Buhari administration fails to address the fundamental “long-simmering grievances” and deprivations in the region, violence may erupt again. The likelihood of a repeat had played out after the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan at the last election, when ex-militants threatened to return to the creeks, in continuation of their demands for “greater resource control and self-determination.”
It would be recalled that insurgency in Niger Delta peaked in 2009, forcing the Federal Government to cut oil output by more than 50 percent. Government claimed it spent close to four billion naira daily, at that time, to counter the operations of militants. There have been several attempts by government to address the root cause of the Niger Delta struggle. Laudable among these was the amnesty programme set up by the late Umar Musa Yar'Adua, under which a monthly stipend of N65, 000 was paid to the restive youths. This was in addition to the foreign training programmes for thousands of others. Other interventions, such as establishment of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) etc., had followed. Unfortunately, all of them failed to solve the problems.
THEWILL urges government to use this period to find a permanent solution to the Niger Delta agitations. It should address the inherent causes of the struggle, among which are, poverty, environmental degradation, inadequate infrastructure, youth unemployment and greater share of oil revenue. We share in the maxim that no matter how hard you suppress a struggle, it must resurface if not resolved.
But, the political angle must be abhorred. Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, blamed the looming return of militancy on disgruntled politicians. He traced the current happenings to the recent election in the state, which led to influx of different weapons and arming of militants. The Governor urged the Federal Government to fish out all militants, instead of the current practice of selective persecution of perceived political enemies.
It is reassuring that soldiers have been deployed to secure the areas. Commander of Operation Pulo Shield, the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Niger Delta, Major General Alani Okunola, who led troops to inspect the damaged facilities, had reiterated that the Federal Government would do all it can to bring saboteurs of national assets to book. He warned that it would hold community leaders accountable, in whose domain violence occur. Okunola also restated the security agencies' readiness to enforce the extant law, which criminalizes the use of outboard engines with 200 HP and above, which are often used by militants.
THEWILL calls on ex-militants to reject overtures from politicians. The Niger Delta region is like the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg and anything that happens to it, has multiplier effect on the entire nation. Returning to the creeks is inimical to progress, peace and security, which are crucial to moving the nation forward. We also urge the security forces to be mindful of their rules of engagement, and ensure that innocent persons are not unduly punished in the task of bringing sanity to the region.