The threat by Niger Delta Avengers
The Niger Delta Avengers has threatened to unleash violence on the nation’s oil facilities. This they said is in reaction to the killing of innocent people by herdsmen across the country.
The group then went ahead to reiterate its demand for restructuring the country, because in their words ‘anybody who is against restructuring is an enemy of this country’. It is sad that by design or by default, the country is sliding into anarchy.
The lackadaisical response of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency to sensitive issues of national concern is, no doubt, fueling deep tension in the country.
This newspaper does not subscribe to or endorse violence as a means of redressing perceived problems in the country. But these are fluid, dangerous times. This militant group has the capacity to inflict pain on the Nigerian economy and the Federal Government knows this. It has largely been held in check by the intervention of elders in the region.
But the plan of the Federal government to commit one billion US dollars to the North east while the oil-bearing zone is in distress is an insult to the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people. This has been compounded by the inability and outright refusal of the Federal Government to listen to the cries of the people who voted it to power.
The issue of restructuring the country has to be addressed now in order to guarantee the nation’s stability and the corporate survival of Nigeria. It beats the imagination why the President is so intransigent and stuck in his anti-restructuring stance?
What the people of the Niger Delta have experienced is the worst of oppression. Gas flaring goes on unabated. The Federal Government does not have the will to compel the oil-exploring companies to stop this degradation and pollution of the environment. The headquarters of the oil majors have not been relocated in spite of the Presidential directive last year.
The government has paid lip-service to developing the region. The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and the Ministry of the Niger Delta have been reduced to mere bureaucracies. At no time has the Federal Government committed the kind of funds it is planning to deploy to the north east to the Niger Delta which produces the wealth.
The Niger Delta Avengers also alleges that over one thousand of their men are in detention while the Federal Government recently released captured Boko Haram fighters. If this is true, then the government is open to accusations of maintaining double standards. The impunity of the herdsmen and the acquiescence of the Federal Government therefore supports the narrative of parochialism and clannishness.
What this means is that the Niger Delta Avengers and the people of the Niger Delta have enough reasons to be disenchanted and angry with the antics of the Federal Government. Sadly, the presidency is sending out discordant tunes.
It is important to remind Nigerians that when Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President stepped into the Niger Delta crisis, tempers cooled down. Such intervention has not come from the president when it is most needed now. States go to the Federal Capital monthly to share oil proceeds.
The Federal Constitution enshrines seven-hundred and seventy-four local governments in its provisions. In spite of the lopsided and unfair distribution, the Federal Government has refused to take any action.
Top leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, who once went ahead to create extra development councils areas in Lagos State during the Obasanjo administration have suddenly gone silent over true federalism. In saner climes, with their party now in power the necessary change in the constitutional provisions would have been changed.
The letter and spirit of federalism do not promote a strong centre to the detriment of the federating units. Federalism does not support the practice of dictating to the states how their resources should be spent or how they should be governed. Each constituent part is expected to generate internal revenues and pay a percentage to the Federal government in the form of tax.
This was the practice when the nation gained independence in 1960. It was the military juntas that ruined the true federal arrangement that had been put in place in the First Republic. What Nigeria practices now is the unitary command-and-obey culture which the military put in place during their years of misadventure in power. The regular breach of security will be curtailed with the creation of State Police as part of the restructuring process.
The Federal Government should therefore ensure that hostilities do not return in the Niger Delta. No effort should be spared to redress the acts of injustice now being perpetrated by the government. A restructured Nigeria with well-defined rules of engagement will serve all sections of the country better than what currently obtains.