Niger Delta Avengers, Defuse Your Dynamites! | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Niger Delta Avengers, Defuse Your Dynamites!

Posted: May 17, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By MajiriOghene Etemiku

I visited the website of the new agitators in town, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). I had to try to understand something of the body, mind and soul of the group, and why they are blowing up pipelines.  Old school militants and terrorists have no time to engage you on that level. Rather they express their resentment by a deliberate shedding of human blood, kidnapping and rape as instruments of coercion and propaganda. I recall the earliest instances when Boko Haram began to fight the rest of Nigeria. All their demands were usually from the rumour mill – first they were alleged to have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to surrender and hand over power to them, second they said they did not believe in the Nigerian constitution and third of all, they said they wanted their own state. They were also reported to be against all forms of Western education, Boko Haram, and to prove that they were serious, they went to an all-boys school and murdered the lads in their sleep. Next, they went to Chibok Girls School and took over 200 of the girls, and have either murdered some, married or sold a lot of them into slavery. By then, if it was not clear what the motives of these terrorists are, it remains clearer today.  For those who thought that this was a motley Muslim group sponsored by politicians to make political statements to try to maintain the post-colonial dictum of ba-Hausa ba-Nigeria, they were mistaken somewhat. A Fulani herdsman is there now as President of Nigeria, and it is taking more than religion and geography to dislodge Boko Haram. With a Fulani President, an escalation of killings of Niger Deltans and Middle Beltans has been the order of the day. Matters are even taking a turn for the worse – with one mouth, Mr. President tells his security chiefs to crush the killer-Fulani herdsmen, and with the other he tells us that since the desert is encroaching and with Boko Haram driving the herdsmen away, the killer-herdsmen have no choice but mess up farms and the means of livelihood of Niger Deltans and Middle Beltans.

Therefore, it is against this background that I visited the Niger Delta Avengers website. I found it pretty well organised, and something of the mindset, the disposition of the characters began to emerge. These are young men and maybe women in their early 30s who are passionate about their land and what it contributes to the Nigerian wealth-being. I can confidently say that the group members are semi-educated mostly because of key grammatical errors and structural deficiencies that I found on the website. So, what is their grouse, and why are they blowing up pipelines?  Among other claims, the Niger Delta Avengers have said that Niger Deltans are getting killed by security operatives escorting oil tankers from the South. To back up their point, they blew up the Chevron Valve Platform in Delta State.  The following day after I visited this website, there was a front-page report in The Guardian newspaper detailing the demands of the group to include the following: implementation of the 2014 Confab report, Release of Daniel Kanu the radio-secessionist, allocation of 60% of oil blocks to Niger Deltans, clean-up of Ogoni land polluted by years of oil exploration and exploitation and etcetera, the takeoff of maritime varsity, funding of the amnesty scheme, trial of APC members for corruption and an apology from Buhari, DSS, Sylva over the death of DSP Alamieyeisegha.

But I must confess that I do not agree with the mode of the agitation of the Niger Delta Avengers. The attack comes at a time when the recent wounds inflicted on Nigeria by Boko Haram and suspected Herdsmen are yet to heal. Nigerians are already in the throes of power outages, harsh economic conditions occasioned from the fall of oil prices worldwide and a very weak naira. Fuel Price has just witnessed an astronomical rise in contrast with the change which was promised. Therefore blowing up pipelines which carry crude to the Warri and Kaduna refineries may not be the best option for us all at this time. Carrying on with that mode of agitation ordinarily exposes us that we have some sort of vendetta with Mr. President, and if that is the case, we are no different from the Fulani Herdsmen.

Our problems in the Niger Delta and, indeed, Nigeria cannot always be solved with a resort to arms and a resolve to cripple the Nigerian economy. If there are infractions being perpetrated by one section of the country on the other, I believe that the reasonable thing to do would be to interrogate the system via superior arguments and policy suggestions against such infractions.

In my organisation, ANEEJ, we have a position thus: with an Amnesty programme and Niger Delta Institutions in place to assuage frayed nerves over the injustices perpetrated on the Niger Delta by multinationals, in collusion with government officials, together with the precarious condition of the Nigerian economy, what Nigeria needs is that all hands, heads and minds must be on deck to haul Nigeria from the precipice rather than a return to fisticuffs and the creeks to blow up pipelines.

We urge the FG to develop a comprehensive civic engagement with the Niger Delta people and also provide a transparent roadmap on how to deal with the environmental problems caused by several decades of oil exploitation by Multinational Oil Companies. The lacks of jobs among the youth in the region also require urgent attention through a creative policy that will provide opportunities for both public and private sectors to work together. We also ask that there should be rapid implementation of the 2016 Fiscal Budget to enable NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta to carry out quick development intervention that will address some of the problems: poor road network, pollution of farm lands and unemployment among the Niger Delta Youths. We do not support the option of using violence as a tool of attracting government attention. Violence would not help the very poor the NDA claims to fight for.