Monday, October 15, 2007

MEND-Niger Delta Militants: The Government of Nigeria's Desires

MEND-Niger Delta Militants: The Government of Nigeria's Desires

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

It is profoundly sad and awful, that hostage-takings and kidnappings are now frequently mentioned in the same sentence with Nigeria. It never used to be this way with us.

Why has it come to this?

The issues at stake in the Niger Delta are intricately complex and even quite complicated. It measures and balances, in the most delicate manners, what constitute justice and fair-play. What benefits Niger Deltans and all Nigerians?

Many others, including this writer, commented in the past, in connection with the very active roles that our various levels of government in Nigeria, ought to have played. This, in our opinions, would have averted the current dire circumstances in which our people and country are in.

The multinational oil corporations have not played any laudable roles in the festooning crises in our Niger Delta Region, these oil companies, could have at minimum, acted as good and responsible corporate citizens of Nigeria. These companies have perennially, looked the other way in matters of oil spills, sundry matters of pollution and degradation of our environment in the Niger Delta. Conversely, these same companies are willing to uphold the even more stringent laws, rules and regulations while conducting identical activities in America and Europe.

Examples are, the care they take in the North Sea explorations and the Alaska oil prospecting activities which they handle ever so gingerly.

And in the event of spills, these companies bend over backwards to clean up. Which are followed with billions of dollars in compensations and government imposed heavy fines.

But in Nigeria these same companies are so glad to ignore the rules observe only in breaches.

Most foreign corporate wrongdoers thump their noses at us (we are as poor as field mice) they thump their noses at our national assembly and our laws. I recall not too long ago a company executive refusing to attend a national assembly hearing in Nigeria! Could he do indulge in such luxury in America and Europe? NO! There will be consequences! This is the area where Nigeria need to enact more laws, reform and strengthen existing laws and enforce all these more effectively, perhaps aggressively.

From almost any perspectives therefore, advocates or agitators for better, fairer treatment for our people, our land and all living beings in our Niger Delta Region, are agitators for a worthy causes.

I have in the past written that the plights and predicaments of our people in the Niger Delta Region ought to be vigorously addressed in the most expansive and robust manner.

These are simple and clear issues, such as the polluted lands and ruined rivers and streams, which constitutes the age-old livelihoods of our people in the Niger Delta.

Polluted rivers and streams, in clear terms, means the elimination of fishing and or farming for our rural dwellers in the Niger Delta. Nothing therefore can be worse, than taking the means of livelihoods in this region, from our people. It is as basic as the destruction of Niger Delta Region’s way of life. Fishing and farming. Added to the mix, is the reduction in life expectancy.

Our Niger Delta has become a most hazardous part of our great country to live in. There is the daily flaring of gases which has gone on endlessly for decades without end. There have been many deadlines or ultimatum set for the oil companies to discontinue this backward. But the deadlines and ultimatums continue to get extensions!

These are the complexities of issues that our Niger Delta presents it presents challenges that require delicate; And very intricate strategies as best policies for amicable resolution. As a corollary, scorched-earth and slash and burn policies are the worst possible policies in the circumstances

How much in investment dollars would it take to provide basic amenities, such as medical clinics, a few good primary and secondary schools? Compare that with the agonizingly high losses and tolls it has taken on all concerned? Losses incurred by our Niger Delta people, the governments and the recalcitrant companies etc. Imagine the high losses in terms of interrupted productions which results from violent sabotages by the militants. Imagine the effects on all concerned; the effects on the individuals and society at large, the kidnappings and hostage takings!

The thing is, these same corporations maintain company towns, sponsor cultural activities and adopt roads in America and Europe, just as they spent so much on advertising. They seek to do the exact opposite in Nigeria and other developing countries. These companies even resist auditing and best business practices, such as the Extractive International Protocol. Oil is a major earner for government and it continues to occupy very important but delicate partnership with the powerful multinational oil companies. These multinational corporations are richer than both the Nigerian government and the government of their home countries.

Despite the worthiness of the Niger Delta cause; I however draw a line in the sand regarding approaches, methods and tactics.

The current strategy which advocates gratuitous violence, for the sake of violence, is completely unacceptable to all reasonable persons. I abhor violence. I part ways with anyone who even for a moment, subscribes to violence as means of attaining justice, fairness and better treatment for our deprived people in the Niger Delta.

In expressing my abhorrence to the sight and sounds emanating from the mangrove swamps in which the weapons wielding militant-kidnapper-hostage-takers have choreographed their appearances appearing to have orchestrated every appearance with caches of weapons intended only to intimidate the Nigerian military and law enforcement agencies.

Four questions comes to my mind are, what is the source of the purchase money for all these state of the art weapons? How did these militant bypass customs, police and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria to import or receive these weapons? Who is responsible for weapons procurements for these militants?

Are we witnessing an admixture of apathy, inefficiency & corruption in Nigeria? Are these militants merely sophisticated and manipulative illegal bunkering actors and their agents? Is there foreign involvement? What unsearchable diplomatic bags bring in these sophisticated weapons? Is illegal bunkering the real issue that we miss?

Some have argued that the illegal bunkered oil is what pays for the weapons, brought in by sea, also through the foreign participants in the illegal bunkering. Hence attempts to stamp out illegal bunkering saw to the escalation of violence by the militants? Illegal bunkering remains illegal. Militants and some other persons seem to defend it with some twisted logic as to who the true owners of the hydro-carbon is.

Are these just a matter of personal greed gone too far? Are we witnessing the result of corruption by retired military men and or serving military men?

The Nigerian Navy could not have allowed the crossing into our territorial waters with such very sophisticated weapons. The Nigerian Police would not permit such treachery either. Nigerian Customs Service will never consent to clearing of such dangerous weapons for individuals who are not members of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air-Force or any of our Military Intelligence Agencies. But who did then? How was it possible?

Troubling questions lead to more troubling questions! What manner of persons and what level of greed permit any Nigerian to allow the importation of grenade launcher and shoulder-fire missiles into Nigeria? It would look as if the Niger Delta Militants are having the maximum effects because they display intimidating arsenal and armada of sophisticated weaponry. More lethal weapons than Nigerian Armed Forces combined?

Why did it have to get to this? Some have argued that the government has been deaf to advocacies and agitations hence the militants upped the ante. May be so, may be so.

Clearly, the government of President Obasanjo has been more forthcoming than any other Nigerian federal government as it was his administration which engineered the highest revenue allocations to oil producing states, based on the derivation principle. The current spate and intensity of the Niger Delta crises cannot be seen as supportive of President Obasanjo’s previous efforts and bettering the situations and dire circumstances in our Niger Delta’s dirt- poor-as-field-mice conditions, no apologies to an ex-hostage/captive.

The truth and fact of the matter is that President Obasanjo’s government inherited the myriad challenges in our Niger Delta, these challenges have existed and persisted since the discovery of hydro-carbon fuels in Nigeria several decades ago. It is disingenuous to seek to blame President Obasanjo for all trails of our people, despite his best effort to ameliorate such conditions in their enormities and cascading effects on our people.

Advocates, agitators and the militants must avoid injuries and loss of life of those who they keep in captivities. And prodigal-like attitudes must be avoided. Nigeria and all the resources in all the subdivisions of Nigeria belong to all of us!

Advocates, agitators and militants who seek the betterment of our people must cease and desist from words, pronouncements and actions that are bound to cause more tension than Nigeria can resolve peacefully. The militants have publicly stated that they are not interested in the disintegration of Nigeria. But they are working so hard doing just that, even if unwittingly. Militants are blowing things up on a daily basis, while promising escalations of violence. These are actions or environment encourages investments and tourism in Nigeria. These are not actions that encourage peace and stability. These are actions that can quite easily escalate and culminate into full-scale war and disintegration.

Our government on its part must act reasonably and responsibly. It is a delicate balancing act. The government should not be too kind to the hostage takers, lest it encourages copy-cats and anarchy. No responsible government should reward kidnappers, or hostage takers. And yet, the government must be magnanimous as well. Ensuring the life and liberty of hostages, negotiate the real issue, while enforcing the law or keeping an eye on doing so soon after.

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