Emma OKAH , firstname.lastname@example.org, 08111811227
No nation can afford sections of its population romance violence in sequences that frighten the citizenry. Nigeria runs on purely ethnic platforms and each group tries to compete and outwit the others using all means. The effect is that while many people give allegiance to their ethnic consideration, only a microscopic few think about Nigeria. That is why every ethnic bracket in Nigeria is associated with one militia group or the other.
The amnesty programme of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, which was energized by the present administration, has only achieved a temporary relief for the nation as the core issues that gave rise to militant agitations in the Niger Delta are still unresolved.
Underdevelopment, lack of infrastructural facilities, unavailability of social amenities, unemployment and deficient manpower profile, environmental degradation, etc, are some of the issues that triggered off the violent struggle in the Niger Delta. For now the oil has continued to flow without the activities of militants although the question of oil theft has equally proved more economically lethal. In all these sad events, the search for better conditions of living by the people of the region has remained at the forefront.
Nothing has proved to the federal government and those who hate to hear about better living for the Niger Delta people what peace can do to an economy. It has often been said by analysts and admitted by those saddled with the task of upping power availability in Nigeria to 6000mw that without gas which comes from the troubled Niger Delta, the target in power supply would never be met soon. Now, if peace can come to the oil region, if gas can flow, if oil export can resume, if the economy can bounce back to earn huge revenue from selling about 2mbpd and above, if Nigeria can edge out Angola as number in oil in Africa, would the FG and Nigeria not be on the course of economic recovery?
For now, everyone seems to be carried away by the noise of amnesty and the temporary peace it offers. Instead, the governors and their opponents are busy profiteering from the oil earnings. The governors of the region seem to have abandoned the credible part they towed when they did not understand what the amnesty package meant to the people.
The amnesty period is almost over but no one in the region seems to understand what happens next. Will there be resumption of hostilities? Would the FG not utilize this window to announce what it intends to do next? Why won’t the FG begin a heavy mobilization of all the influential leaders in the region to arrive at a consensus of opinion on what should happen to Nigeria and oil henceforth?
The key militant groups still holding out have made it clear that they do so for want of a clear agenda to address the real issues that caused the agitation in the first place. Even if they are accused of ulterior and selfish motives, they still have a point strong enough to form a rallying point after the amnesty period.
Now, what is hollow in the entire scheme and which was the great expectation was the need to announce that the FG acknowledges that injustice led to the violent agitations and what the FG would do to resolve the crisis in the first place. The amnesty, to reasonable humans, merely offered a ceasefire kind of window in a no-victor-no-vanquished style. This would have given the FG the opportunity to pursue the peace by announcing activities, post-amnesty, that would lead to a kind of consultation/summit, conference that would finally or seriously put the issues to rest. Such issues as the split-of-the-barrel would have come up, even if fiscal federalism is not squarely addressed. What this would mean is to say: look, for every barrel of oil drilled, the owners of the land/community would get ‘xyz’ percent, the local council would get this, and the state would get that. The implication would be that each time, henceforth, that oil is spilled or pipelines sabotaged, the community, LGA and state where the loss is suffered would lose their share.
The FG could say, this agreement would begin by say, January 2014, but that revenue earned above 1.5mbpd between October 2009 and December 2013 would be used to execute massive infrastructural development of the region, and that the amounts owed the development agencies such as the NDDC would be released in full within this period.
It has been said before in this column that the law setting up the NDDC stipulated 15 per cent of oil revenue that must be remitted to them, but when the nation earned N2.9trn between 2000 and 2007, according to the former acting managing director of the NDDC, Power Ziakede Aginighan, the Obasanjo regime chose to remit a mere N110b and failed to remit the remaining N326b. We had seriously observed that between 1999 and 2009, the FG had run the OMPADEC, NDDC, Coastal States Forum, Oputa Panel, Father Kukah Panel (on Ogoni), 45-Man Technical Committee and now the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, but that the simple task of releasing arrears of debts owed the NDDC has been tactfully left undone.
Instead, the FG over the years has given the base impression that fault of the underdevelopment is the leaders of the region. The FG has finally convinced the people that the only language it respects is violence and that the peaceful moderates were not important. That is why I am deeply disturbed that the absence of a sustainable guarantee in the amnesty package that the nation will not relapse into violence in the region in the near future. It is too late in the day for the people of the Niger Delta to accept empty assurances from the FG. Only cast-iron guarantees that the days of agony are over would do.
Many elected officials from the region are either too weak or visionless to take the FG head-on on issues of development of the area. The lawmakers from the South-south in the National Assembly are not presenting any bloc except for a microscopic few saying something and getting muscled down and muffled by the hawks in the Chambers who do not care about the good of the Niger Delta region.
The way out remains for the FG to ensure the amnesty scheme does not break down.
The FG must ensure that the ex-militants have alternative sources of sustainable income, considering some of them are used to huge earnings through oil bunkering, hostage-taking, armed robbery, etc. There should be gigantic projects that the boys can see and connect with their struggle. Even if others see them as criminals, the creek giants regard themselves as heroes in the caliber of Major Adaka Boro, Ken Sara-Wiwa etc. That is why they have used every opportunity to remind the FG that the agitation is not over until they see a change of heart on the part of the FG. There must be proper education to turn around the minds of the youth of the region, a new revenue formula other than 13 per cent. The FG must monitor what the funds sent to the region are spent on and probably set up an independent monitoring body which reports to the Federal Executive Council.
Finally, the FG must come out strongly against oil bunkering, which thrives in the region. So far, security agencies have been often indicted or heavily fingered in this area. These people ship in all the weapons of mass destruction we talk about while they orchestrate insinuations that politicians are the ones arming the youths to rig elections. The FG must realize that Obasanjo pardoned militants and arms more than the present ones were surrendered, but now, where did these ones come from, if not from oil bunkering mafias?
The FG must come up with a clear line of action, post-amnesty, if Nigeria is to seize this wonderful opportunity to turn things around. The moderates are warning again that if this is not done, the current peace in the creeks will give way to a renewed and more sophisticated violence since that is the only language that moves the nation.