Thursday, 2 March 2017

Niger Delta: Between Military Operation And Dialogue

                             Niger Delta Militants

The people of the Niger Delta region of the coun­try have at various times requested dialogues so that the region gets a fair share of the wealth derivable from their God given crude oil but their compa­triots from the other parts of the country do not want to hear talks about the vexatious matter of true federalism.
It is pertinent to know that with the creation of the re­gions: North, West and East in 1954, the country operated true federalism before the diabolical truncation of the system by the military in 1966. Derivation on money derivable from palm oil, groundnuts, cotton, cocoa and rubber was 50 percent. This un­deniably promoted healthy com­petition among the regions then. But then military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon ceased derivation under the guise of seeking money to prosecute the Nigerian Civil War but never re­versed this policy before he was toppled.
The people of the Niger Del­ta started the call for true federal­ism owing to the devastation of the environment by oil companies that were careless about the remedia­tion of the damaged environment. Nigeria is probably the only coun­try where gas is still being flared! The federal government overlooks this heinous crime after collecting fines from the oil companies yet such fines don’t go to the region! So, to get ample share of the mon­ey derived from crude oil, the peo­ple of the region have always de­manded for a higher percentage of derivation so as to mitigate their sufferings but successive govern­ments have often opposed such demands!
The peaceful agitations for in­creased derivation and the devel­opment of the Niger Delta have caused the death of many innocent people of the region. Mr. Ken Sa­ro-Wiwa, a renowned playwright, environmental and minority rights activist who led the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in a peaceful manner was hanged along with other eight people of Ogoni under questiona­ble circumstances! Earlier, in Janu­ary 1966, Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, having foreseen the devastation oil exploration and exploitation would cause the region, declared the Ni­ger Delta People’s Republic. The Ni­ger Delta People’s Republic existed for 12 days before Adaka Boro, the Head of the Republic was killed on May 16, 1966, in a moot situation.
After the numerous deaths that followed the peaceful agitations by the people of the Niger Delta, oth­er agitations became violent lead­ing to the outbreak of militant groups such as Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Move­ment for the Emancipation of Ni­ger Delta (MEND) etc. Militancy in the Niger Delta region is usual­ly confronted by military brutality. The invasion of Odi and Gbarama­tu under the administrations of for­mer President Olusegun Obasanjo and late President Umaru Yar’Adu, led to the deaths of about 5,000 peo­ple and loss of property worth bil­lions of naira.
During the face-off between the military and the militants, oil output dropped from 2.5m bpd to a mere 1.2m bpd. However, late President Umaru Yar’Adua rejiggered his prag­matism and introduced the Amnes­ty Programme which coaxed the militants to lay down their arms. The ceasing of hostilities by the militants also led to increase in oil production, moving upward from 1.2m to 2.2m bpd! The amnesty programme was also sustained by former President Goodluck Jonathan, making oil pro­duction to remain stable throughout his tenure.
Nevertheless, in February, 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari stopped the payment of stipends to the ex-militants. Likewise, the budg­et of the Amnesty Programme was also reduced from N63b in 2015 to a mere N20b in 2016. The Maritime University located in Delta State which was one of the nine universi­ties established by former President Goodluck Jonathan was also re­voked while the remaining eight are still in existence! These anomalous actions of the government spurred another round of militancy leading to the bursting of oil pipelines across the region! But in the last quarter of 2016, the militants embarked on a ceasefire and later, the leaders under the auspices of Pan Niger Delta Fo­rum, presented a 16 point demand to the federal government.
It is needed to note that dialogue is much better than military con­flict against a people whose means of livelihood has been taken from them. It is also interesting to note that it is a herculean task to conquer the aboriginal in their own land! The killing of innocent people of the Ni­ger Delta can’t stop the agitations because no reasonable human be­ings maintain quietude when their means of livelihood is taken away from them! To this end, President Muhammadu Buhari should tread with caution and dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta so as to achieve lasting peace in the region.


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