Nigeria's crude war on crude oil

May 25, 2009 02:00 AM

by Mcnezer Fasehun

The problem of Nigeria's Niger Delta has to do with the abundant supply of hydrocarbon in the region.
Ever since its discovery in commercial quantities in the late 1950s, neither God who created the mineral resources, nor man, the Nigerian persona, who by accident of human geography found himself occupying the geographical space, has known rest.

It was quite convenient at inception of nationhood to blame the European colonialists for amalgamating their northern and southern protectorates, forcing to live together, as it were, strange bedfellows of grossly divergent ethnic shades and colours. Proponents of political independence and self-determination had preached that a new dawn would break the moment the intruding colonialists were sent packing.
Barely half a decade into political independence, disillusionment had set in. The nationalists had become the new feudal lords. Of course, the granting of independence by the colonialists had a corrupt tinge to it. Largely negotiated by the vociferous South, the colonialists created a misbegotten political arrangement in which a pragmatic political power lay in the hands of a Prime Minister from the North and a figure-head (they call it ceremonial) president from the South. The landmine was well laid out for foreseeable political crises.

And they have come serially -- political upheaval, military putsch, suspension of republican constitution, military adventurism into power, state creation, civil war, a no-victor-no-vanquished conclusion in the episodic war, protracted military rule, political hegemonism, bureaucratic corruption, economic ill-being, breakdown of law and order, infrastructural decay -- the materiality of a failed state.
At the heart of the crises is the crude oil deposit in the Niger Delta. The ambition of the secessionist Biafra was not unconnected with it; the desire of a region to retain political dominance was hinged on it; the idea of foreign intervention in the political affairs of Nigeria is basically tailored to suit their divide-and-rule whims and caprices as it relates to vested interest in the oil minerals in the Niger Delta.

The struggles of pressure groups like the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Movement for the Emancipation of the of Niger Delta (MEND) and the like had resulted in the destruction of oil stations and pipelines, the kidnapping of oil workers -- citizens and foreigners alike -- the culpable homicide among the Ogoni people, the death-by-hanging sentence passed and executed on the likes of Ken Saro Wiwa and so forth.
While people of the region had sought the audience of the Federal Government to implement a responsible fiscal federalism that would ensure equitable share of the national patrimony on the basis of unto-whom-much-is-given-much-is-expected and unto-whom-much-is-expected-much-ought-be-given, the regional hegemonists, as represented by their lawmakers at the parliament, had rebuffed them, asking them to swallow their request or go to hell.

Incidentally, as the saying goes, those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. Nowhere in the world today is the aphorism more appropriate. Monstrous youths begotten of the social inequalities in the Niger Delta have made it a pastime, nay vacation, to incessantly attack oil installations and kidnap innocent citizens and oil workers alike for ransom. To get the kidnapped out of the chains, huge sums of money have been negotiated and paid to the kidnappers.
At other times, legislations have been contemplated whether to mete out capital punishment to convicted offenders. The procurement of hi-tech machine-guns by the militants has gone on unabated.

Earlier, this writer was regaled with stories by some military informants that some of the military men deployed to tackle the problem of the Niger Delta under the aegis of the Joint Task Force (JTF) must have been killed by the militias. According to the source, the wives of the officers affected might not have known anything about their husbands' well-being; having lost contact with their husbands, they might have enquired from the Base and be told that their husbands were on active service.
Media reports showed that the JTF, in what might be regarded as reprisals to the attack of the militants, must have carried out series of aerial attacks on Gbaramatu communities using helicopter gunships and fighter jet-planes. The attack was indiscriminate of militias and civilians. Observers say they should have granted some time for the civilians to leave before the attack.

Neither the militias that have turned their regional home into the theatre of war, a den of kidnappers and a haven of outlaws, nor the neighbourhood communities harbouring the hoodlums, nor yet a political structure that obstinately remains recalcitrant to yielding to the demands of the people whose environment has suffered from degradation to the benefit of others can rightly be absolved of blame in the crude war on crude oil that is at the moment the lot of theNiger Delta.
The question is: what do the militias want? Given that the budget for the construction of roads in that swampy mangrove will triple what it would take to do the same in say Sokoto or Zamfara, how do we address the problem of infrastructural development in the Niger Delta?

In what ways have the militias been fighting a just and reasonable cause when, as in the recently reported case of 23 year-old student of College of Agriculture, Obio Akpa, in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Aniefon Aniediabasi Udo, who in spite of the paid ransom of 10 mm naira, she was still slaughtered? Would the Niger Delta militias claim they have identified the enemies of their people and are doing the reasonable thing to seek redress?
What were the civilians caught in the ceasefire waiting for in an impending situation of attack when the ominous signs were palpable enough? Were they just criminal accomplices providing hide-outs for the hoodlums?

And what is the Federal Government doing about constitutional reforms that would address the problems of the Niger Delta beyond the cosmetic creation of the Niger Delta Ministry? For how long would we have to fight a crude war over our crude oil?
These questions are indeed begging for answers.

Source / Daily Independent
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