I have long been an advocate of resource control for the oil producing states in Nigeria. This much is evident in my writings that predate the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000, the Ministry of Niger Delta in 2008, and the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme by former president Umaru Yar’Adua in 2009. All of these establishments were created to bring about meaningful development to the region regardless of the wanton destruction the militants and war lords of the Niger Delta region have inflicted on the nation. Former president Umaru Yar’Adua granted amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta. What more can a people ask for?
But the question is: Is there any moral justification for renewed hostilities by the group called Niger Delta Avengers in a country that has spent more than N500 billion alone on the Niger Delta Amnesty programme in the last 6 years? In a country were over N621 billion was allocated to the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2014 and 2015 alone? This is definitely an anomaly.
I would like to add that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere with the Niger Delta region and its agitations. We were all witness to the despicable remarks by the same Niger Delta militants in the build-up to the 2015 presidential elections. We were also witness to the kind of patronage that government gave to the supposed war lords even at the expense of the integrity of the Nigerian Navy. We all kept quiet and prayed for peace to reign. Then former President Jonathan was their president and not the president of Nigeria. We all still kept quiet and allowed the agitators from the Niger Delta region continue with their rascality and waste. Now the tap has stopped flowing and they are threatening fire and brimstone. Are we going to continue to keep quiet?
As a background, according to a report publish by Edinburgh International, The Amnesty Programme is estimated to have cost the Nigerian Government close to $500m a year since 2009. “In 2014, $12,245 was spent per militant captured. The majority of those 30,000 enrolled in the programme receive cash stipends of around $325 per month, however some former militant leaders received much larger, multimillion dollar payments, creating a new wave of socio-economic imbalances in the region.”
The report also stated that “Many ex-militant leaders have also been awarded lucrative government security contracts to guard the oil installations they once protested against and attacked., Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, is understood to have been awarded a $103.4m contract in 2012 to supply 20 vessels to federal security forces and is widely believed to control a maritime security company which operates counter-piracy patrols on behalf of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.”
Today, it’s now called Niger Delta Avengers with a mission to ‘cripple the Nigerian economy.’ that economy that gave them a life. As at today, the renewed activities of the militants in the Niger Delta are seriously affecting oil production; in fact, it is now down to 1.65 million barrel per day against the projected 2.2 million barrel per day in the 2016 budget. This is not even the crux of this article, but the unthinkable effrontery exhibited by the group by demanding for the unconditional release of Nmadi Kanu and former NSA Sambo Dasuki. This is nothing but economic terrorism and as such the govermnet should treat them as terrorists. Are we going to keep quiet again? The answer is a huge no. The government must deal decisively with the sponsors of this group of miscreants. The call for the release of Nnamdi Kalu and Sambo Dasuki should ordinarily point at the sponsors and collaborators of the Niger Delta Avengers.
This is not about ethnic or religious sentiments. This is about national interest. We can’t afford such economic sabotage in the face of dwindling resources to continue and for perpetuators/sponsors to go unpunished, not when the country is facing a tough one as a result of gross mismanagement of our resources by the past administration.
The government must rise up to the occasion and deal decisively with this situation. I strongly believe that the Niger Delta region has been treated very well in the last 7 years. Aside the Amnesty Programme, there is also a ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission. So there is no basis for this renewed hostility, especially one borne out of outright mischief and of no relevance.
Nigerians must rise up against ethnic and clannish sentiments and see this more as a national affront. Not also in a period where the price of crude is beginning to show promising signs and our production capacity is dropping due to the activities of the militants.
International news agency Reuters reports that “militant activity in the Niger Delta has taken out some 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil production from… companies in Nigeria, pushing oil output in Africa’s largest-producing nation to more than 22-year lows”. This surely doesn’t sound good for us as a people and as a country, especially when the agitation is purely misplaced and intended to serve no good.
****Attah is a civil rights activist and Secretary General, Stand Up Nigeria based in Abuja.