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Hope for peace dims in Niger Delta

By Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Anietie Akpan (Calabar), and Julius Osahon (Yenegoa)   |   02 October 2016   |   3:29 am
 Niger Delta Avengers (NDA)

Niger Delta Avengers (NDA)

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The latest attack on the Bonny 48-inch crude oil export line penultimate Saturday, effectively reignited the existential danger to the Nigerian economy.

The attack on the facility, oil pipeline, which is believed to belong to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), was the first of such attacks since NDA unilaterally declared a ceasefire over a month ago.

NDA’s action was strategic and had a clear purpose. It would be recalled that the attack took place on September 23, shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari, while attending the 71st United Nations General Assembly, in the United States, said: “Niger Deltans who had looted the treasury are the ones sponsoring militancy.”

It would also be further recalled that the President had assured the United States President, Barak Obama, that his administration was making steady progress towards resolving the problem in the Niger Delta region.

NDA’s spokesperson, “Brig. Gen” Mudoch Agbinibo, in a statement posted on the group’s website, claimed that on September 23rd, 2016, its strike team at 20:40pm, destroyed the above mentioned facility, adding that the action is a signature to the over dramatisation of the so-called dialogue and negotiation process on the side of President Muhammadu Buhari, and his government.

While the oil companies have not confirmed the attack in Bonny, it is undeniable that NDA’s attack had adversely affected the revenue projection of the Federal Government for 2016.

It would be recalled that on the heels of the NDA ceasefire, the Nigerian Army, launched an exercise codenamed “Operation Crocodile Smile”, in
what many in the Niger Delta had presumed as preparation for a full offensive against the militants.
Some persons, who are opposed to the militants’ action, had anticipated that a military drill by the Nigeria Army would have been used to end the crisis.

But, the NDA’s attack in the midst of militarisation has bolstered militants’ assertions that they are determined to cripple oil production, and deflate the army’s assertion to flush them out of the creeks.

Additionally, the recent attack has further dimmed the possibility of a speedy resolution of the conflict in the Niger Delta.

Renewed Attack As Clog In The Wheel
ACCORDING to a lead fellow at 6th Column, Eugene Abels, the blowing up of the Bonny 48-inch crude pipeline came as a shock.

“I was of the impression a ceasefire was in place for the cessation of hostilities. I find it distasteful that our strategic oil facilities are been destroyed with attendant negative impact to our environment, as funding for replacement might be impossible. Most people in the region like me have not been consulted, and don’t even know what the objectives of the insurgency is all about and that is the position of the old woman in Ikensi and Finima,” said Abels.

He continued: “This portends danger as our capacity to produce our primary revenue product is being depleted daily. The attack on the bonny facility cripples our capacity to sell and evacuate the product, and becomes a cumulative degradation of our crude oil architecture. It has resulted to flight of investors from the region, a state of uncertainty, and with it comes the attendant negative impact on our national finances and reserves,” he said.

Abels maintained that even if some people say the Federal Government is not sincere in finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta, the depletion of its production capacity, coupled now with the crippling of its export terminal will negatively impact the finances of the government, and have forced it to search for solutions and faster resolution of the crisis.

On his part, a media consultant, Mr. Klement Ofuokwu, said it was worrying that NDA resumed attacks on oil facilities at a time the lifespan of its ceasefire was still on. But more worrying, according to him, is that
as the attacks continue, the Federal Government is losing its potentials to resuscitate the haemorrhaging economy.

“Unfortunately, these latest attacks without any tenable reasons, give an indication that the NDA lacks a credible leadership that cannot be trusted. What this means is that it would set off a chain of doubts that might result in the Federal Government and others who are sympathetic to its ideals not taking it seriously. If NDA could set aside a ceasefire agreement it made unilaterally, then it would be difficult to trust them when a joint truce is agreed upon,” said Ofuokwu.

Genuine, Transparent Dialogue Key To Enduring Peace
STAKEHOLDERS in Cross River State have expressed confidence in the Federal Government’s ability to foster lasting peace in the Niger Delta, if only genuine and transparent dialogue is put in place.

While they maintained that dialogue is always the way out of any crisis situation, they urged the government to step up efforts that would ultimately restore peace in the region, and the entire country.

According to immediate past Commissioner for Education in the state, Professor Offiong Offiong, “Basically, I believe that most of these issues can be resolved through a real sincere and open dialogue. As a person, I do not subscribe to the destruction of our country’s commonwealth.

“However any grievance may be, I would like to appeal to my brothers in the Niger Delta to sheath their swords and look forward to a sincere and transparent dialogue, where we can table whatever is our grievances, so as to move forward as a country,” said the professor of Chemistry, at the University of Calabar.

He continued, “I do not also believe that the wealth of our country should be the basis of our disunity because for me, the unity of Nigeria is paramount, and I believe that it is only through unity that we can build on our development, which will also leverage on every Nigerian, be they from the Niger Delta or from outside Niger Delta.”

Offiong stressed that, “There is need for the government to also show good faith and ensure that there is transparent dialogue with Niger Delta agitators and agitators in other geographical regions of the country. Even though I think the Federal Government is not committed to lasting peace in the region, I still believe that there is room for dialogue.”

Govt’s Lack Of Genuine Commitment, Political Will, Responsible For Breach
THE Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) believes that the lack of genuine commitment and political will on the part of the Federal Government led to the collapse of the latent peace, as it insists that it was becoming boring, monotonous and frustrating discussing same issue, proffering same solution to a deaf and dumb Federal Government.

According to the spokesman of IYC Worldwide, Eric Omare, “The Federal Government is not ready to listen to the advise of well-meaning persons and groups on how to resolve the issue. In sum, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is not interested in the resolution of the problems in the Niger Delta, and that is solely responsible for the renewed attacks.”

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