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S/East, Niger Delta: Why Nigeria must tread softly

Thank God for the Federal Government’s recent successes in the battle against the Boko Haram insurgency. For about one month now, quiet has been the word in much of the heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency. Nigerians have, for that period, been spared news of unconscionable attacks by the sect.

Suddenly, it would appear that the pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari to bring the Boko Haram insurgency to an end by the end of December 2015 may not be a fluke afterall. Now, many times when news of attacks on worship centres are reported, they are more likely to have occurred in nearby Cameroon. We are also now hearing stories of suicide bombers being brought down before, and not after, they had succeeded in their evil enterprise.

Nigerian troops should not, however, rest on their oars. The fight to keep the sect in check must go on without flagging until a final end is brought to the insurgency and Nigerians on every inch of Nigerian soil can live in peace and without the fear of bombs suddenly exploding and terminating their lives.

But, even as we relish the renewed hope for peace in the North-East of the country, it is necessary for the Federal authorities to take great care to ensure that a Boko Haram-like scenario does not come up in the South-East and South-South of the country. The government must be cautious in dealing with the matters relating to those geo-political zones, especially with regard to the detention of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu;  the issue of the Second Niger Bridge that has been on the drawing board of  Nigerian governments for ages: the matter of ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aliasTompolo) involving  an alleged  N34 billion fraud at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)  and now, the bombing of  pipelines in the Escravos area in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.

The bombing of the gas pipelines belonging to the Nigerian Gas Company has reportedly affected the flow of gas to the electricity power plants and prevented the flow of oil crude oil to the Warri and Kaduna refineries, resulting in a shutdown which is costing Nigeria about N95 million daily, while the cost of repairing the pipeline has been put at about N120 million.

Nigeria’s security agencies have since begun a hunt for the arrowheads of the attacks while the communities involved have been ordered to produce those who carried out the bombing. Leaders of communities in which pipelines are destroyed have also been warned that they will be held responsible for the destruction of oil facilities in their communities.

From the tone of this warning, it is clear that the Federal Government is not finding the destruction of pipelines, which are like daggers thrown into the heart of the Nigerian economy, funny at all. At a time like this that the price of Nigeria’s main revenue earner, crude oil, has crashed in the international market and the country needs to sell all the oil that it can to shore up revenue until the non-oil sector is properly developed and alternative sources of revenue established, the destruction of pipelines is like toying with the country’s jugular . It could lead to severe recursions which may in turn precipitate further crisis in the Niger Delta

These are all scenarios that Nigeria can ill afford at this time. Taking these matters one by one, I think the issue of the Second Niger Bridge and the East-West Road is one that this administration must settle once and for all. It has, indeed, begun to sound like a broken record but this is one issue that is close to the hearts of the people of the South-East zone. The projects should be delivered within the life of this administration if, indeed, this is a regime of change. The government must go beyond the failed promises of past regimes, make the dreams a reality and rest the issue for eternity.

The matter involving the IPOB leader is another that ought to be speedily resolved. It is one affair that has been fuelling the rise of ethnic agitation in the South-East. The government must weigh the gains of the continuing holding of Kanu with the cost of the rising agitation for Biafra, especially if there is any demonstration of remorse on his part. As even the Holy Bible puts it, all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.

The government must strive to do what is expedient to the cause of peace and national cohesion at all times. A speedy resolution of the Nnamdi Kanu case will free the government to deal with issues that are of far greater importance to Nigerians and help to reduce the restlessness in the South-East. All other issues relating to the perceived marginalization of the South-East should also be dealt with through engagement of the agitators, and not necessarily force.

On the renewed bombing by Niger Delta militants, this is one issue that is central to the Nigerian economy and the continuing survival of the nation. Nigeria cannot at this time afford any tampering with its oil resources if the 2016 budget is not to get into a bind. Although not up to a sixth of the budget estimates is based on oil receipts, there is no doubt that the commodity is critical to the economy. The falling price of crude oil is responsible for the situation in which many states are unable to pay their workers’ salaries and there is little hope for the repair of dilapidated public infrastructure, in spite of all the good intentions of the Federal Government. It is also these pipelines that carry gas to the power plants. When they are destroyed, there is certain to be a negative impact on public power supply, which is so central to economic activities in the country.

In a nutshell, Nigeria cannot at this time afford any unrest that has the potential to lead to ethnic restlessness and insurgency in the country.  There is no debating the fact that it is only in an atmosphere of peace that there can be any progress in the country.

What is required now is for us to do everything to cement the seeming peace in the North-East and prevent anything that could lead to rumpus in the South-South and South-East. We cannot afford to open another front in the battle against militancy. We will be much better off managing potentially volatile situations in a way that will promote peace and unity of the country, not only because that is the only way that the country can have a chance to develop, but also because we cannot afford to fund another war against insurgency in any part of the country.

There are many things calling for funds in Nigeria. We have the problems of dilapidated infrastructure such as roads and bridges; unemployment; education and health. The challenges in all these sectors require a lot of money if we are to have any chance of surmounting them.

We cannot afford the human and financial cost of another insurgency so appeals must go to both the present and potential militants, and the Federal Government, to tread softly on these matters. All Nigerians have a responsibility to maintain the peace and avoid acts that can lead to avoidable waste of human lives and our dwindling financial resources. On the South-East and South-South agitations, and, to the South-East and South-South agitators, I say softly, softly.

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Posted by on Jan 26 2016. Filed under Headlines, Niger Delta, South-East. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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