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Niger Delta: The factors of war

Posted by By IKENNA EMEWU (ikenna@sunnewsonline.com) on 2008/06/30 | Views: 2344 |

Niger Delta: The factors of war


The war drums sound louder in the Niger Delta today. It seems the forces that escalate the carnage of the area are on rampage this time. Quite unlike before when the words of the warlords used to be muffled and disguised, there is some abrasion and vehemence now. What we hear these days are calls for bombardment and more of them.

The war drums sound louder in the Niger Delta today. It seems the forces that escalate the carnage of the area are on rampage this time. Quite unlike before when the words of the warlords used to be muffled and disguised, there is some abrasion and vehemence now. What we hear these days are calls for bombardment and more of them.

Every passing day brings the government and the militants closer to the snapping point of full-blown crisis.
Every stakeholder in the area you talk to sounds tougher than ever and does not hide what the people of the region have in mind to do.

The decision of the Federal Government to draft a joint task force to the region to quell the disobedience has not yielded much dividend in restoration of peace - the real reason it was brought in.

When the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo came in 1999, there was some sigh of relief from Nigerians that the democratic setting will at last bury the ghosts of Niger Delta agitation. But that was wrong. At the national Confab, the issue reverberated culminating in an agreement to the increase of the derivation revenue of the region from oil. While the people pushed for as much as 40 percent, there was a subtle concession to 25 percent. But that Confab decision came to nothing.

The government factor
What brought the matter to this ugly pass is the initial highhanded approach of the Federal Government in making available to the people of the region the proceeds of the oil from their soil. They lost resources and environment. They lost means of livelihood, but got almost little in return. Worst of all, the returns were available to only the privileged who managed them on behalf of the rest who were to agitate and complain endlessly. At a point their patience snapped, they made their way to the trenches. Today, it is an endless tussle, like that of the Middle East. Because government thought the divide and rule policy would hold water forever, it overlooked the importance of nipping the agitation at the incubation stage.

The politics
What made the Niger Delta problem as bad is politics. Every government in the past made the issue a good capital of politics by pitching some against others. Whatever should have been done to rein in the ingredients of this war was cloaked in politics. Politicians made sure they used the proceeds they got from this gamble to empower themselves against their brothers who they knew had genuine complaints. Whatever came to the people through them became impetuses for them as lords in the locality. Through these proceeds accruing to the entire people, they built political empires, amassed arms, formed cult and terror groups to run opponents out of the political circus.

And when the agents are in want of what to do, they turn their arms against the arms givers and the oil companies. With the experience that attends practice, they later got seasoned and forged stronger with connections.

The gun, the money
The fight that started with bare hands, cudgels and clubs has taken the sophistry of armament. The guns came mainly from the politics of this socio-economic convulsion, and later, the actors opened another avenue of arms procurement. According to a discussion with a major public officer in Rivers State last year, the restive groups got wiser and devised means of getting part of the payment for every oil illegally moved out of the shores in kind. That kind is actually gun. As the oil vessels berth, they already know that their partners in the sleaze need money as they need guns. They are happy about it, because when the crisis gets tougher, the bunkerers – some Nigerians, some foreigners make more money through illicit crude sales from agents at cheaper rates.

Some years ago, a particular government in one of the states of the region called for surrender of arms in exchange for money. The government thought it was smart by that device. But it backfired as the militants handed over their less useful guns and got good chunks of money to finance renewal of armoury with better guns for better efficiency. Meanwhile, the government knew the source of the guns initially. They were actually guns politicians who desperately wanted political office supplied thugs to stop others from their ambition.

A certain insider once said that in these Niger Delta States, one would be dreaming to attain any political position without being a grand commander of some formidable cults that terrorise other groups and handle the killing and ballot snatching. The actors have tested money and cannot easily be called back from the fighting fields. Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers once said in reaction to kidnaps that the matter has left the domain of fight for resource control to outright criminality.

In the name of profit
The rumour is that all the known leaders of the militant and ethnic groups that fight this battle are stupendously wealthy. These men have got enough economic empowerment through the struggle. It is now a struggle in the name of profit. They are so strong that the forces that gave them momentum can’t stop them rolling.

As the leaders bask in wealth, the members who also want a taste of the cake split and form their groups, and it keeps multiplying, making the task of checking their activities cumbersome and impossible. It is common to hear and read of clashes among community members over loots and compensation from oil companies. The fights get so dirty to tear them apart in some cases.

The oil companies
The oil companies must have started with little or no regard for the natives in the fields where they extract oil. This would have been as a result of the impression the FG gave them that the locals don’t matter in a unitary avaricious state called Nigeria.
But when they realized the fight from the locals was becoming a cog in their wheel, they retraced their steps and turned a more human face.

There are a good number of projects executed by some of the oil companies in the region. They construct roads which many argue are meant to facilitate their access to the oil fields. Go to Ozoro, Ogbia, Imiringi, Eket and some other places, you will see them. There are also health and educational facilities for them, though they might not be enough.

Most of the benefits are the annual scholarships for students from the region to tertiary institutions. All the major oil explorers have this project. In addition, many graduates of the region get employed by the oil companies. They might be mainly middle cadre people now, but with time they are bound to grow and occupy controlling positions like Basil Omiyi, the Shell MD. Many believe that if the region had organized a mature means of using the benefits and opportunities presented by these companies, with time, the gains would be adequate to compensate for the loss and pains of the extraction.

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.