Pipeline vandalism and the military option
Undoubtedly, a more rewarding and sustainable path is for government at all levels, in collaboration with the oil and gas companies who are physically closer to the communities to fashion and implement wider reaching policies capable of being felt by the commonest of the community inhabitants, regardless of status.
Rewarding vocal or violent community members with contracts and other such incentives will only fertilise the mentality that violence and crime are more rewarding than peace. Government can adopt a strategy of rewarding communities that refrained from using violence in communicating to the authorities.
Meanwhile, grievances expressed via non-violent means must be attended to. Most times, these grievances are not necessarily monetarily induced. As a matter of fact, building community relations on a non-financial base would offer a more concrete pedestal for a more meaningful relationship.
In planning projects for community development, there must be a change of approach from throwing money at the community and abandoning them to embark on whatever project they like. Such approach ensures that the monies will almost always find their ways into private pockets. Any meaningful approach to community development must be designed to deliver an increased quality of life to the local communities. Training, follow-up, long term planning and capacity building for local authorities will empower the communities to take greater responsibility for their own lives and decrease the failure rate of community assistance projects.
Instead of giving more consideration to the military option, the Federal Government needs to reflect on why, despite years of military presence and the use of force, the problems of pipeline vandalism, oil theft, and illegal refineries and so on still persist? It is high time we deviated from the use of force and channel such resources to community engagement, inclusion and partnership. Giving them a sense of belonging and participation as important stakeholders within their respective communities is a key to lasting solution to the problems before us.
And who is in a better position to do this than the oil companies the people live, work and eat with everyday of their lives? All the government needs to do is to provide the right policy framework to encourage such companies. Whatever necessary concession on the part of the government will certainly be more rewarding than any spending on display and possible use of force and the inevitable casualties.
Onunwa, based in Lagos, can be reached through:firstname.lastname@example.org
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