Published On: Tue, Aug 2nd, 2016

Preventing the Niger Delta Crisis From Degenerating Further

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The protracted hostility in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria assumed a frightening dimension in recent times, defiling several prescriptions for peace. It has been argued that the renewed militancy may be partly caused by the Federal Government’s failure to develop the area since 1956 when oil was first discovered there.

Many have ascribed it also to government’s lack of respect for the Amnesty Programme, which the militants entered into under the late former President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Yet, others say this regime’s insincerity to finding a permanent solution to the crisis is the bane. Whatever the position, the renewed crisis has heightened the fear of a political and economic disaster for the country, unless urgent steps are taken to proffer a permanent solution.

Nigerians have every reason to be worried. First, the militancy has affected the nation’s daily oil production and export. It has equally plagued electricity generation as the various power stations are by the activities of the militants robbed of the much needed gas supplies. In a country where the economic mainstay is oil and gas, there is no doubting that the failure to find a quick solution to the problem portends great danger to the political and economic stability of the nation.

Militancy has created so much political, economic and environmental dislocations, with actors now agitating for self-determination or outright secession. Of great worry too, is the level of arms at the disposal of militants, which are reportedly more sophisticated than those available to the military as standard operational fighting hardware.

The militants seem to have cogent enough reasons for their agitations. Among others, the environmental impact of oil exploration on the area is enormous. The communities have over the decades, contended with varied degree of oil spillages, gas flaring, which have destroyed aquatic life and rendered the soil ineffective for farming. For an area whose people are predominantly fishermen and farmers, this is more or less a sentence to the worst form of poverty.

Unfortunately, the situation is worsened by the arguments that 90 per cent of the oil blocks located there is owned by northerners and prominent persons from other parts of the country. The region has thus become the proverbial hen that lays the golden eggs, yet allowed to suffer from malnutrition.

THEWILL believes that dialogue is the only way out of the militancy presently rocking the Niger Delta. It is expedient that on-going efforts to negotiate with the militants should not be delayed any further. The time is therefore rife for the Federal Government to demonstrate its sincerity in solving issues that triggered agitations in the oil-rich region.

If the militants have posed this grave threat to the nation, we believe it is because government has chosen to be hard or insensitive to the peoples’ plights. This is more so, as it knows the reasons for their restiveness, and the path to sustainable peace in the Niger Delta.

For instance, when the late President Yar’Adua applied the amnesty carrot and carried out other rehabilitation steps, the militants willingly laid down their arms. That they have regrouped can therefore be blamed on the present government’s hostile body language and actions.

Indications that the crisis could lead to a civil war, is because the Military Joint Task Force deployed to restore order in the region have been engaging the militants in some skirmishes, occasioning deaths. They have reportedly been raiding communities and assaulting villagers.

Recently, the militants threatened to launch missile attacks on targeted government facilities, including Aso Rock, the seat of the presidency, and even said they will be declaring a Niger Delta Republic on August 1, 2016. Should the situation be allowed to degenerate further, there are fears that it could lead to a civil war, as other aggrieved groups could capitalize on situation to disintegrate Nigeria.

THEWILL urges the Federal Government to roll out an urgent master plan in finding immediate solution to avert more crises. Some of the ways issues in the Niger Delta can be addressed include: the practice of true federalism, curbing environmental degradation, developing the region and providing unemployment for the youths, and inclusive governance by the Federal Government.

Meanwhile, more pressure has to be mounted on the governments of the various states in the Niger Delta to do more with the huge amount they get from the federation account alongside what they get from oil multinationals operating in their domain. We would want the various militant groups to hold their Governors to account for the derivation funds they collect as well as task the Ministry of the Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to be more alive to their responsibilities. They should also not forget to request philanthropy from ex-militant commanders and other leaders who took advantage of the Niger Delta struggle to stupendous amass wealth to themselves


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