by Umar Sa’ad Hassan
History will forever remember late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s handling of the Niger Delta Militancy when he was President.He vigorously pursued peace by dangling the amnesty programme and establishment of the Niger Delta ministry. Government ‘Tompolo’ controlled one of the most vicious groups then and he was the very last to drop arms and meet the President. I admired Yar’adua for meeting him personally and smiling through it all for the Cameras.Tompolo on the other hand, appeared shy and some what overcome.It was obvious a lot had been put into getting the much dreaded ‘Government’ to sit on that table in the mood he was in and President Yar’adua deserved very much to reap the reward of his hard work.That was crisis management at its finest.
The Niger Delta avengers is at the fore front of a recent bid to establish a Sovereign nation of the Niger Delta and it has promised to cripple Nigeria’s oil producing capacity to zero level till it wards off all resistance. The group has been on a crazy spree over the last few days, bombing two Chevron oil wells-RMP 23 and RMP 24 because the company embarked on repairs of installations it had bombed earlier and then a Shell oil facility on June 3rd to round up an unprecedented attack of key oil installations in a matter of days that had affected almost everyone from NNPC to Agip.
I seriously doubt if President Buhari can handle this crisis in the manner President Yar’adua did then judging from how he has gone about things. The attack on Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta state by the Nigerian military was irrational to say the least. The only thing it succeeded in doing was raising human rights questions in the international community and if one also considers the army’s massacre of innocent shi’ite members in Zaria along with the destruction of the sect’s properties and the continued detention without trial of its leader, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US and its cronies refuse to sell us arms on grounds of human rights violations. Like they did the Jonathan government when he sought to buy some to fight boko haram, such refusal could just be when we need the weapons most.
There are reports of how innocent people were harassed, maimed and intimidated in Gbaramatu and it is hard to figure out what the Commander-in-Chief and his troops were hoping to achieve.
Even if it had succeeded in arresting some members of the militant group, there was always the possibility of that inciting the others to increase the spate of attacks so as not to appear defeated as is common with such elements.
Well, shortly after the army’s visit, they bombed three key installations in quick succession to further buttress their readiness to see out their cause.
These happened after the deployment of about 100 gunboats and numerous warships to tackle the militants. That is a clear pointer to the fact that the government has adopted the wrong approach. Dialogue remains the government’s best option in this. There must be a tactical and ‘respectful’ wooing of the militants to the discussion table.Whether or not we can defeat the Niger Delta avengers is not what is important, the paramount consideration should be the damage they are capable of causing before they are subdued (that is if they are subdued). The country’s oil production has been cut down by more than 40,000 barrels per day and Delta state is already reporting a N2.6 billion loss in revenue due to the activities of vandals.Peace is cheaper than war and this war is quite expensive if you ask me.
The British high commissioner, Paul Ackright has lent his voice to the call for the government to tow the path of reason.There couldn’t possibly be a better way of resolving this crisis. It would heal the wounds the pathetic handling by the Buhari administration has already caused. A lot of regrettable comments have been made by key members of his administration before the militants increased the heat and it is advisable to watch whose help he enlists because of the heightened sensitivity involved at this stage.
People like Brig. Gen Paul Boroh (Rtd) the Presidential Amnesty co-ordinator must be immediately removed from the fore front.The man claimed to have practically relocated to the creeks to help get the militants to the table and went on to convene a meeting with 50 militant leaders at the Transcorp Hilton without those of the Avengers (the real threat). He not only dashed a lot of expectations but wasted precious time and resources as well.Such power should no longer be afforded such a man as his exercise of it could be counter-productive and outright wasteful. We have heard how millions of dollars were reportedly squandered by the Jonathan administration all in the name of negotiations.It is best to have only those who can reach out directly to the targets and no one else.
Furthermore, Boroh came out to categorically state that the government will not dialogue with the Niger Delta avengers and that has automatically made him a bad choice of go-between as it would be highly unwise to entrust him with the duty of luring them to the table. The government must avoid getting unnecessarily confrontational this stage.
All hands must be on deck to ensure the Niger Delta avengers give up their cause without further damage being done.
If the government can’t guarantee the security of our installations, then at least it must guarantee us that.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano