Monday, February 22, 2016

The Niger Delta Cauldron

By Julius Oweh
The recent bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines in some communities in Warri South West local council of Delta State has once again raised the ugly spectre of militancy and the threat it poses to the economy. Coming at time when the price of crude oil is nose-diving and the resultant dwindling revenue, those responsible for the pipeline bombings are the very enemies of the nation.
(pix: Vanguard)
No matter the degree of grievances and given the generous amnesty programme of the federal government, these criminals must be sanctioned according to the relevant laws of the nation. And this was the theme worked on by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina while appealing to the community leaders to tell the government the whereabouts of such people and that it was no use shielding them.

This is how Adesina couched his appeal: "Ijaw communities need not fear. What they can rather do is to hand over culprits hiding in their midst to the authorities. If they have identified those who blew up pipelines, and who are taking refuge in their communities, as good citizens, they should hand them over to the law enforcement agents." This is the civilized and best approach to the matter and it subtracts very much from patriotism for some people using jaundiced reasons to justify the blowing up of the pipelines, the economic lifeline of the nation.

It is also not tenable for the various former militants to be trading blame as to those that blew up the pipelines. Equally reprehensible is the threat issued by some of the ex-militants to the federal government. The reality of the situation is that nobody should blackmail the government about the Niger Delta question and anybody deluding himself about the policy of appeasement, such person should wake up from such hallucinations.

The amnesty programme midwife by the Yar`Adua government is still very much on course and President Muhammadu Buhari has stated his intentions to continue to implement the programme. If some people are talking about the failure of the amnesty programme, the leaders of the Niger Delta region who have made profession of pandering to the whims and caprices of these militants should be blamed.

If some of the militants are being used as thugs by the political elites as recently and shamefully showcased in the Bayelsa elections, then such people should know where to direct the blame. Since the amnesty programme provided opportunities for such militants to hand over their weapons, any other person bearing arms, apart from the security forces, is a criminal and must be so treated. That is the more reason the security forces should go the whole hog to fish out those still bearing illegal weapons. This blackmail of disrupting the flow of crude oil and gas must stop.

The government has the constitutional role to protect lives and property and in this case, the source of revenue. Nothing should be left to chance. Beyond the bombing, it is time for the federal government to focus on the derivation money given to the oil bearing states of the Niger Delta region. Further more, the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission should be investigated.

There are too many uncompleted projects doting the landscape of the region and there is the belief that the NDDC has derailed from its original concept of impacting positively on the lives of the oil bearing communities. Rather, the commission has acquired the unique but dubious distinction of producing a parasitic class of millionaires whose only source of income is that they get contracts from the agency which are hardly executed. It would not be out of place to audit the accounts and activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission and those found to have misappropriated the funds should face the music. For too long, the owners of the areas whose bowels gush out the black gold are the victims of poverty and deprivation coupled with environmental degradation. The Buhari administration has the historical burden to right the wrongs of many years and give hope to the despondent people of these areas.

As the various security operatives hunt for those that sabotaged the national economy in some communities in Delta State, this is the time for all stakeholders to close ranks and fight the common enemy. Those Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders issuing inflammatory statements should put the greater interest of Delta State in particular and nation in general beyond personal parochial gains. It is an open secret that some people benefit from crisis in the Niger Delta and when there is semblance of peace, such people relevance are reduced.

That is why the Delta State government should continue its trouble shooting measures and preach to the people what they stand to gain in an atmosphere of peace. The era of blame game is over. It is the duty of all stakeholders to make sure that what are due to the Niger Delta people get to them and some unruly elements should not be allowed to derail the good intentions of the federal government.

What should be paramount in their minds is the activities of the oil prospecting companies, provide them peaceful atmosphere, check instances of environmental degradation and let the benefits of crude oil flow to all by provision of jobs and social infrastructures. But if some people believe in the continuous boiling of the Niger Delta cauldron for their material benefits to the disadvantage of the majority and stoking the embers of hatred and disharmony, then they should be ready to face the powerful might of the federal government. The stakes are too high for the government to wave the appeasement card.

Julius Oweh is 
a journalist,Asaba, Delta State.

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