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Niger Delta And Wars Without End

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Posted: Jun 6, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Willam Bozimo.

The warring militants seemed to have come to stay in the Oil and Gas rich Wetland in the Niger Delta, since the little ‘uncivil wars’ exploded in the region since 2009.

At their height, Nigeria’s crude production fell to some 700,000 barrels per day from its envied height 2.4 million barrels per day.

Starting from the minor inter- ethnic wars between the Izons and the Itsekiris in the Warri axis over the creation  of a new local government headquarters in Ogidigben, an Itsekiri village, the Izons woke up like wounded Sharks  and opposed the change of Ogbeijoh, as was previously announced by Col. David Dungs, then the military Governor of  the State.

Bonfires were made of human lives, cars and houses believed to belong to either of the ethnic groups in Warri.

In later years, it developed into a full blown- generalised militancy in the whole of Niger Delta, by hairy- chested young men, who wanted to fight for a total possession of the oil and gas wealth, which had been controlled from Abuja by some internal colonial masters- Hausa- Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo triumvirate.

The Resource control cry was in the air, while the former President  OlusegunObasanjo, was leading the campaign for the new President in late Yar’Dua and  Dr. Jonathan as his running mate.

A ceasefire was brokered for militants to drop their arms and in return, Amnesty was arranged for the top-flight leaders of the militancy groups.

The Governors were reached and they all went to the creeks and talked to the fighters to drop their arms. The governors, then, were Dr. Uduaghan, Delta, Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa, Leyol Imoke, Cross River, Adams Oshiomhole, Edo, and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.

They all piled pressures on the original Militants, who were retired through the Amnesty window. Eventually, peace was brought to the Niger Delta, as if, every interest had been settled.

After the 2015 Presidential elections had been lost and won, and with a new Sheriff in Aso Rock, a former military Dictator – Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as President, the old fears and worries reared their ugly heads. Brand new militants, perhaps, in old bottles had started the blowing up of oil pipelines and causing loss of foreign exchange earnings in exported crude.

Pipelines had become the main casualties of the Niger Delta Avengers- from Forcados export Terminal through Abiteye flow Stations and now NNPC gas pipelines had been bombed out of existence.

Earlier, the Commander in Chief, President Buhari, had ordered the Navy to deal decisively with the new militants , who had promised the country sleepless nights and daring the soldiers and Naval operatives to an uncanny aquatic battle in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

Meanwhile , the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, had sent his Deputy Governor, Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, and five other aquatic brethren to go on a voyage of peace to visit the traditional rulers and other notable leaders to search for peace in the endangered troubled mangrove swamps of the oil and gas- rich Niger Delta.

Many critics believe the pipeline bombings are misdirected aggressions, which ordinarily, should have been pointed at their immediate former leaders- governors, Senators, Reps, State Assembly members and a recently defeated President Jonathan, their own son, for failing to lift them out of the squalor and unending poverty in the midst of so- much petrol-dollars.

The situation in the Niger Delta has been likened to the Columbian drug Lords, who had made it difficult for the Presidents in the Latin- American countries to curb their excesses and disruptive activities.

It appears, all the views from the traditional rulers in Delta State creeks had called for caution on the part of the Avengers and the Federal government, which must invest enough in intelligence and dialogue to arrive at the desired   solution rather than through brute force of arms and Gunboat diplomacy and threats.

Since Nigerians are never tired of ‘Summiteering’ or Holding Talks over every crisis on our hands, this is the time for President Muhammadu Buhari to call forth a Summit on the Niger Delta militancy- for the Way Forward. All the Service Chiefs- Navy, Army and Air Force and the Inspector General of Police should attend.

All the international Oil majors like Shell and Chevron must be there to bare their minds on why the area cannot be developed- bridges, roads and all the civilising indices of modernity are difficult to come by.

Where the former Amnesty programme went wrong, I think, was that most of the militants who were trained abroad ought to have been trained within and recruited into the Nation’s Armed Forces, specifically, to protect the oil and gas pipelines in their neighborhoods and paid adequately to protect these vital pipelines.

Not until we get this militancy phenomenon right and settled once and for all, we might routinely be going on an annual ritual of the ‘uncivil wars’ without end, with both the Nation and the oil producing States being held captive whenever a new band  of gun- toting  freedom fighters rear their familiar fangs or heads  in arms in our water ways- where over the years, the natives eke a living out  by fishing, and now by engaging in the lucrative business of oil theft, bunkering  and militancy.

A typical metaphor one could apply to this recurring decimal of militancy in the Niger Delta is like using a sledge- hammer to kill a fly perched on one’s tender scrotum. Militants today are aware that if they dealt with the pipelines, the crude the country sells for billions of dollars will reduce and the economy will be brought to its knees.

If President Buhari succeeds in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs with massive aerial bombs and mortar from soldiers and naval personnel, nothing will be left for the country to run the economy.

From this column, let Mr. President summon all the former Governors of the Niger Delta to brainstorm on the way out, without any intimidation,   but genuine answers from patriotic ex- governors. He can also invite some of the leading former militant leaders- most of them had dissociated themselves from these new ‘Avengers’, and you can be sure to have the right solutions and peace would come back to the region.

My fear is that we should not allow the infiltration of mercenaries to hijack this purely domestic war by Niger Delta youths to be escalated by blood warriors and, thereby, internationalising our domestic wars of freedom. I pray they should become wars with end, if properly handled by a democratic General and President Buhari.