Military Option Not Solution To Niger Delta Insurgency – Sarah- Igbe | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Military Option Not Solution To Niger Delta Insurgency – Sarah- Igbe

Posted: Jun 1, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chief Anabs Sarah-Igbe served as a Special Adviser to Dr. Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers state on security matters. He is also a counter-terrorist expert. In this interview with DANIEL ABIA, he spoke on the emergence of Niger  Delta Avengers (NDA),the new militant groups in the Niger Delta and the danger their actions would do to Nigeria’s economy under President Muhammadu Buhari if left unchecked.

We are witnessing a new regime of militancy in the Niger Delta region going in the name of Niger Delta Avengers, what is the cause of their anger and how could government go about it?

My first comment is that the government, particularly the security agencies are not proactive. That is because they don’t know the important of intelligence. They do not also process intelligence when they have it. That may have led to what we are witnessing today in the Niger Delta. Government cannot boldly say that they did not know what is happening in Niger Delta was coming more than six months ago. The security agencies cannot totally say they are not aware of what is happening or that these will happen. They are not proactive or they don’t take steps to avert dangers. In the international community, every security information is important. They are always well processed. But here in Nigeria, we allow things to come, we don’t process intelligence. In my training in counter-terrorism, I was made to understand that you don’t allow terror to succeed or to have his way. You must prevent him from carrying out his threat or operation. This is what is called anti-terrorism. If you don’t counter him and you allow him to have his way, carry out his operations, he has succeeded.

What in your opinion is terrorism?

Terrorism is a situation where people are compelled to do things in their own way, or compelling an individual, a group or government to move out of the original course to a different course. That is terrorism. Over time, we have told Nigerians that terrorism will soon take over Nigeria. Terrorism has a lot of processes. We have what you called the 10-table terrorism. We are always interested in the table nine and table ten which is the operational part of terrorism. We are not interested in the table one and two which have to do with those who are the funders of terrorism. They are the funders, the planners and executioners of terrorism. When it comes to terrorism, only one man may be exempted and that is Mr. President. In most cases terrorism is targeted at Mr. President, particularly political terrorism. But in some cases also, Mr. President can also fund terrorism for him to achieve certain political gains. So, in the game of terrorism, everybody is a suspect. That has not sank deep into our security agencies or those in the corridor of power. We seem to under-estimate the actions or inactions of the terrorists. In the case of Nigeria, the Niger Delta crises start normally as a civil disorder which is also terrorism. It finally graduated into political terrorism and economic terrorism. Eventually, the son of the soil emerged as President and that terrorism died. Fortunately, the late president Musa Yar’Adua used wisdom and stooped low to conquer. He came down and made carrot. That is the amnesty that doused the tension. Even at that, some of us said that (Goodluck) Jonathan was doing disservice to this country by not doing what is right with the Niger Delta. You will agree with me that Jonathan did not do anything to alleviate the suffering of the Niger Delta people till the day he was out of office. Before he left office, there was this threat that the day he takes over, they will make this country ungovernable for him. That statement came from the north. Boko Haram became stronger and stronger and they did not give Jonathan a breathing space throughout his tenure. Before the 2015 elections, there were also threats that if Jonathan loses the election, the south-south will make the country ungovernable. Today, we are seeing some elements of terrorism. I am so surprised that Mr. President did not analyse the situation very well. The answers they have given can only provoke the situation. I am appealing to the government not to see their actions as cowardice but to use wisdom in resolving the presence of insurgency that is coming up in the Niger Delta and the southeast. People don’t seem to talk about the southeast as a potential threat. Southeast is a time bomb.

What is your take on the renewed agitation for Biafra?

The issue of Biafra is a time-bomb. I can tell you authoritatively that those working for Biafra are also working with the Niger Delta militants. Let me go down a bit to memory lane. Biafra failed because south-south region did not support Biafra. That was why Biafra was betrayed by those who felt Biafra nation if allowed, will oppress them because of the political situation at that time. The southeast has bought into the mind of south-south by supporting Jonathan making them to believe that we are one. Today, they have also bought the minds of our youths who believe that they are in the same boat. There is a big synergy that is going on. The security agencies are aware but they are not taking steps to reduce the arms trafficking into the southeast. They are not also bothered about the arms trafficking going on in the south-south. There is a time bomb. The sponsors of terrorism have seen porosity in these areas. They believe that the people are agitated and are angry.

As a counter-terrorist, what do you do in this situation?

First of all, you must show the impression that you love the people that they say you hate by doing things that will convince people that indeed you are for them. But if you don’t do that and go ahead and do things that will make people feel that you are against them, what will you expect? The terrorist will buy them over. That is the situation in the Niger Delta. Today, you are talking about the Niger Delta Avengers but we have some other groups. The red Egbesu, the Isokos are warming up, the Urhobos are warming up and the Itsekiris are warming up. They felt they are not carried along in the amnesty and their time has come to be carried along. There are a lot of problems within this area. There are also problem of arms proliferation in the Niger Delta. I have been shouting on this over and over and nobody took me serious. If government is sincere, I think the best they can do is to quickly nib it because if what I see is allowed to happen, the issue of the northeast will be a child’s play.

When you talk about federal government doing something in the Niger Delta, do you mean negotiating with the militants or the development of the region?

Let me tell you, Nigerians voted for Buhari as they also voted for Jonathan. The APC has a stronghold in the Niger Delta but certain influences like corruption and other vices made them to lose grip of the region. Mr. President tampering with the amnesty program particularly reducing the allocation of the amnesty from N65billion in 2015 to N20billion is a crisis. Mr. President reducing the NDDC budget from N250billion to N41billion despite accrued allocation that has not been released to NDDC is a problem. The budget of Niger Delta ministry has been reduced from N85billion in 2015 to less than N30billion in 2016. These are intervention agencies. If you don’t fund these agencies especially the amnesty who are your ambassadors, who then will go to the creeks to speak on your behalf to douse the rising tension?. But now that they are not funded and they cannot pay the stipend for amnesty people, how can they go. Crime rate has increased in the Niger Delta. Sea piracy has increased, kidnapping is increasing because the criminal elements have taken over the system. You must fund these agencies as they were funded from the beginning. This must be done so that you don’t create the impression that you hate them. You cannot increase the budget of the northeast while that of the Niger Delta is reduced. We agree that the northeast must be developed. When we talk about NDDC, it also includes the southeast. If these people are not well taken care of, they will go back to what they know best; criminality. You don’t need to give them that room. The terrorists are now using these boys because they are not getting what they should get. Their aim now is to bring down this government.

The Niger Delta militants have given such demands as the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki, are these demands feasible at all?

These demands may not be met but we can jaw-jaw. In the course of that jaw jaw, we can negotiate. Government is an elephant meat. If they know what these boys need, provide things that will cover their demands. Today, a lot of boys are recruiting. If you provide amnesty money, will they go there and die? But if you pay them that little, they will not go and die. You need to address Biafra situation with wisdom. What I see if not addressed will destabilized this country. There is information that are very useful and we must not joke with. We have the DSS, we have the DIA.  These are agencies that are under-cover operations. They should do their work and tell the President and Nigerians the truth. We are not saying negotiate with terrorists. But you must put something down that will make us have peace. These people are selling things that will make people to hate the government and make it look as if it does not love the Niger Delta. If you look at the crisis in Sri Lanka and what brought about the Sri Lanka Tigers where children of 5, 6 years were involved in terrorism, which is bad enough. If you allow ethnicism to come into this crisis, it will be very bad indeed. We are Nigerians with diverse languages; we must not destroy this country. We will live to regret if we allow this to go on. Military option is not the best approach to the crisis. PIB bill is not addressed. How many soldiers will you send to the creeks, and then to the northeast and other parts of the country! We must address this matter before it gets out of hand. For our youths, I plead with them to save our environment from destruction. They should drop the arms. And to the government, this is guerilla warfare. They may not fight like Boko haram and it will be difficult. I am told that they are training people outside the country who will come and carry out these attacks. If you look at the website of the avengers, it is not in Nigeria. It is hosted outside the country. It shows that their funding is also from the outside of the country. Our intelligence have to be very smart and proactive too. Government must also fund JTF. The boys you are going to fight are terrorists. Government must do the needful. I am interested in anything that will bring peace in the Niger Delta. I appeal to the President, NASS, General Gowon to gather elders in this country to restore peace in Nigeria and Niger Delta. The international community should not fold its hands, the UN, EU, Britain and the rest of them should not stand and watch, they should come and help Nigeria.