We have watched with studious silence how the mainstream media in Nigeria have glossed over the heinous crimes of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). For months now, the country has lost innocent citizens to the wanton killings that accompany the sabotage of the nation’s economy through the blowing up of pipelines which the NDA vowed it would continue until the states comprising the Niger Delta are allowed to secede.
And needless to say the various Southeastern rebel movements such as IPOB have keyed-in to this enterprise of sedition, pursued nonetheless with the killing of unwary Nigerians. In recent weeks, fragments of this militant group wreaked havoc by attacking communities in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State killing over 20 innocent souls.
Prior to that time, there have been deaths meted out to oil workers as well as military personnel posted to that region. Surprisingly enough, there were no screaming headlines and no call whatsoever for either condemnation of the act, a military action or the appropriate labeling of the act as terrorism.
What we had rather were calls ‘restraining’ the government not to resort to the use of force, but to dialogue, engage and listen to what the group wants. Be that as it may, this has emboldened the militants to the point of calling the bluff of the President even when he seemed yielding to the various pleas and advise for a ‘diplomatic’ approach to resolving the crisis
Even the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group Afenifere known for its ferocious issuance of threats and condemnation on events like this couldn’t find its voice, as it did in the recent Fulani herdsmen episode. It could only bemoan the lack of adequate provision of security by the federal government; and even at that, was concerned that Yorubas have not been adequately taken care of in the nation’s security (and other) arrangements.
It would not talk about the crime of killing and destruction of which the same Yorubas it claimed to protect were victims, since it shared a part of the sentiment of the NDA even if only to feather the nest of the elites in its circle. We should not quickly forget that elements of this socio-cultural group were comrades-in-arms with what has now morphed into the NDA in the twilight of the Jonathan administration, as they were awarded security contracts that they were neither equipped nor trained to carry out.
One is surprised that while the Fulani herdsmen episode was treated and interpreted in the media by those individuals with the privilege to have their opinions heard as the continuation of the hegemonic agenda and internal colonialism by a section of the country, NDA’s actions were justified with the usual ‘environmental degradation’ excuse, even as PMB began a clean-up of the mess in that region which their ‘own son’ (to put it in their own parlance) never even had the wit to think or talk about.
To some of these analysts and ethnic apologists it does not matter whether the same Niger Delta earns twice or thrice than the rest of the country in per capita terms with the 13 per cent derivation, the Niger Delta Ministry, monthly Amnesty stipends and such other opportunities that accompany allocation from the Federation Account.
For instance, a release of budgetary allocations to states between June 1999 and July 2004 signed by then Finance Minister, Ngozi Okoknjo Iweala, had the entire 20 states in the north (including the FCT) earning N1,84 trillion which comes to N9.22 billion as per capita for states/local governments in that region. Compare this to the nine oil producing states which earned N985.58 billion which comes to N10.95 billion per state/local government in the Niger Delta.
When broken further, it will be found out that the average Niger-Deltan must have earned twice or thrice than any of his Nigerian counterpart based on population density of the geo-political zones. But where did all these monies went including those taken through the back doors?
Every concerned Nigerian should also be perturbed that one of the conditions given by these petulant militants to the FGN for cessation of sabotage, maiming and killing is that all cases of corruption probes involving individuals from that region be dropped: And we call this a justified cause? Even for MEND which happens to be the grand parent of all militants in the region could not fathom the basis of this new aggression in the light of what was obtained as concessions for the region in the last few years was concerned.
Hence the NDA is more or less a reaction to the will of Nigerians for changing the drum beat from that of profligacy, waste and unconscionable looting of the nation’s treasury characteristic of the PDP’s 16 years rule and especially the last six years of Jonathan, in a civil process of democratic electioneering. Invariably NDA’s sponsored activities of sabotage; killing and destruction are nothing less than attempts at truncating a legitimately elected government.
If the demand is for ‘total’ control of resources which has been laundered in some other guises as ‘true federalism’ for instance,a la Romeo Afenifere and its newly found Juliet Atiku Abubakar, can we then have a road map for that, rather than resort to senseless killing and wanton destruction?
Can we set up a commission to investigate what each state has, assist in developing them to commercially viable levels and then evolve a fresh allocation formula? Is this not the crux of the much touted ‘diversification’ for which our pseudo-elites are less prepared to walk its talk? We ought not to forget that the initial funds which went into prospecting for the oil in the Niger Delta were from the sweat of other regions.
Finally it should be sounded again as a note of warning that violence obtains nothing but destruction. Those close to the Avengers are advised to caution them to tread softly. A military encounter/scenario with the Niger Delta region as the battle ground will only have hapless women, children and the elderly as unintended victims; the same class of people who have been sufferers of the wanton looting that has impoverished the region.
And retaliation in whatever form will not get to the seat of power (Abuja) as the Boko Haram episode showed. If anything, such retaliation will only be localized (Lagos, Southwest, South-south and Southeast) as the Ikorodu killings have shown. It is time public opinion is collectively directed to dissuade the NDA from courting calamity and self-destruction. And the way to begin is to label their activities of killing and maiming innocent Nigerians as what it is – Terrorism
By Yekinni Shakiru A, Director, Center for Global Peace Initiatives (CGPI)
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