What Do Niger Delta Avengers Really Want? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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What Do Niger Delta Avengers Really Want?

Posted: Jun 23, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Adewale Kupoluyi

The continued and sustained violence in some coastal states of the country, targeting security agents and oil installations, is a clear indication of a sad return to the dark days of militancy in the Niger Delta. Unlike in the past, when militants ruled the waves in the creeks under the guise of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other militant groups, the current messengers of death and destruction known as the Niger Delta Avengers (NDAs), should be tamed without further delay. Irrespective of how genuine their grievances are, their actions are nothing but acts of sabotage and wickedness. Hiding under the spurious cover to make demands from the government, the militants are busy attacking, ambushing and killing security agents as freely as they are blowing up oil, gas pipelines and other installations with the intention of incapacitating the economy. This should not be allowed, again. It is troubling that the nation’s production level had dropped to less than 1.4 million barrels per day as against the over 2.2 million bpd on which the current 2016 fiscal budget was bench-marked. The situation has been further compounded by the depression in the global oil market, which has seen the prices of the commodity jumped from an all-time high of $147 per barrel in 2008 to less than $30 per barrel. The litany of demands by the group seems curious and inconsistent. At some time, it has canvassed for the swift implementation of the decisions of the last National Conference of 2014. Beyond the statutory allocations to the region’s state and local governments, the group has also demanded for better deal through the Niger Delta Ministry, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Federation Account’s 15 per cent derivation fund allocation by taking of proceeds from sundry interventions from oil companies and multilateral development agencies.


What do NDAs really want? This chain of reaction is rather curious, considering the fact that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past President and a Niger Deltan, who inaugurated the 2014 conference, seems to have the opportunity to start the implementation but chose not to, despite persistent promptings by stakeholders and agitators. Why asking for the report’s implementation now? We recall that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua also granted amnesty that was followed by the payment of monthly stipends and award of lucrative contracts to the warlords and their supporters. It is widely believed that the decision to cancel the contracts by the current administration might have led to the current spate of violence and renewed hostilities.  At another time, NDAs have demanded that 60 percent of Nigeria’s oil blocks be given to the Niger Delta region. It equally demanded that work at the $16billion Export Processing Zone, known as the Delta Gas City Project, should commence in earnest. While still ruminating over these, the group also demanded for the commencement of academic activities at the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, the village of Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), established during the tenure of former President Jonathan. But while a permanent solution is being fashioned-out to tackle the problem of deprivation and environmental degradation, the government needs to deploy fortified security to protect the vital oil installations and ensure that criminals are not allowed to wreck more havoc. Meanwhile, government’s response to the avengers criminality by ordering the military to crush them cannot be said to be out of place while some suspected leaders and sponsors of the group have been arrested and detained. No doubt, government should do more. It has a sacred duty to contain any act of lawlessness and threat to national interests, which the activities of Niger Delta Avengers presently constitute. It is glaring that the avengers too do not enjoy any community support from respected opinion leaders in the society.  Thus, while the government initially succeeded in stemming the tide of militancy in the zone, the dimension of abject poverty and despair seem to continue unabated while the oil companies have continued to deploy technology that is manifestly degrading to the environment, making life unbearable for the majority of the populace while the various intervention agencies that were set up have been found to be less effective in the discharge of their duties. Many people in the region have the impression that the Muhammadu Buhari administration had marginalised them and that something has to be done to review the intervention programmes in the region such as derivation from oil receipt, to ensure that they truly impacted on peoples’ lives. Many people in the Niger Delta live in abject poverty. No matter how the scenario plays out, the avengers should discontinue their game of wickedness and destruction. What would they share from when everything has been destroyed by them? Is it the remnant? They better have a rethink and know that nobody benefits from war and destruction.  In another twist, the governors of the South-South recently met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and had requested that majority of the corruption cases being prosecuted in the region should to be dropped by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The governors were said to have singled out the Federal Government’s anti-corruption initiative as the reason why Niger Delta Avengers are blowing up pipelines in the region. Surprisingly, the governors reportedly asked the Federal Government to discontinue charges against former militants accused of corruption and to prevent EFCC from investigating the campaign fund scam that was allegedly mismanaged at the expense of being used to fight Boko Haram menace in the country. What it means is that if the proposals being tabled by the governors are adopted by the Buhari regime, his anti-corruption fight would crumble prematurely in all of the South-South States. Already, these turn of events have further emboldened many Nigerians to feel that the mayhem being unleashed by NDAs may actually be a political gimmick sponsored against the government. This would amount to cheap blackmail and is completely unacceptable. Now that the Federal Government has directed that military troops be deployed from the zone. The warring parties should come back to the negotiation table. And as a matter of urgency, the government should actively engage religious leaders, community and traditional rulers in ending the hostilities. To begin with, sponsors of NDAs should be fished-out immediately before any meaningful engagement can be achieved. The avengers too should be courageous enough to lay their cards on the negotiation table and stop destroying national assets. As it is, the militants demands are uncertain and confusing. They should be specific and concise for any meaningful discourse to be held. This, on its own, is a daunting task that has to be tackled before a meaningful dialogue can really take place, for enduring peace in the land.