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Niger Delta Restiveness: Do We Blame President Buhari?

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Unknown gunmen blew up the all-important NNPC crude and gas pipeline in the Niger Delta. Journalists have interpreted this to signal a possible resumption of hostilities in the relatively peaceful region.

The story coming out of the crude oil rich Niger Delta region isn’t good and the timing is troubling. Suspected armed militants reportedly bombed a strategic crude oil facility in Delta State which is the corner stone of electricity power supply to Lagos and much of South West of Nigeria.  

Since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board the international asking price of crude oil has consistently plummeted and only few hours back it was reported to be hovering between 30 USD per barrel or lower. Exchange rate of Naira to USD has become all time high and the value of Naira has virtually collapsed. 

As one of the nations relying so much on the mono export of crude oil for externally generated and indeed much desired revenues, there’s no gainsaying that the downward trends in international asking price of crude oil and the resurgence of bombing campaigns by armed Niger Delta militants are twin evils that would further drive the economy to an unfathomable fate and may threaten the economic stability of Nigeria. 

Has this House fallen? Better still, is Nigeria then about to collapse, or to whom do we blame for these serial misfortunes that crept in on the national stage since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office?   

From an objective standpoint I think President Muhammadu Buhari’s policies that significantly presents him as working actively to promote or grow exclusively the regional economy of the North have led to the escalation of mutual suspicions amongst people of the North and Southern Nigeria.  

Apart from picking virtually his entire inner cabinet members from the North with North East dominating, the current President has inaugurated two gigantic projects that are favourable exclusively to Northern Nigeria. 

This one sidedness is absolutely illegal because the South East of Nigeria suffered 30 Months of military bombardments from the Federal forces but till date there hasn’t been any Marshall plan or any deliberate governmental intervention to reconstruct the devastated infrastructures of the South East of Nigeria by all the numerous federal administrations that we have had in nearly half a century. 

If Buhari will rebuild the North East what is wrong if his government also introduces a reconstruction agenda for the old South East which also includes Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross Rivers and Bayelsa states which were theatres of war during the last civil war which raged for 30 months? 

It would be recalled that earliest job Buhari’s administration did was that he travelled to meet US President Barack Obama and officials of international funding agencies such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund but basically only the North East gained by way of receiving a Billion Dollar soft credit facility for the infrastructural development of the North East devastated by the dare devilry of the Borno State originated Boko Haram terrorists.

The author 

Then in what is generally believed to be a possible wasted adventure the President has voted over N40 billion to be used to search for crude oil deposits in the  Chad basin area of Borno State which does not carry any significant prospects of any successful discovery. For two decades all effort made to discover crude oil around the Chad Basin has proven futile.  

Then the Niger Delta amnesty programme started by the late Alhaji Umar Musa -led Federal Government which was sustained by the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan -led administration but this current government has no clue as to how best to continue to implement these range of professional skills training ventures for the disadvantaged youth of the oil rich but heavily neglected Niger Delta region. 

The new Special Adviser on Niger Delta Amnesty Programme who reportedly is a retired Army General was published picked from his Kaduna retirement home and anointed  has practically no experience on how best to implement this programme and the result is the several miscalculations and misfortunes that have befallen both the programme and the enrolled beneficiaries.  

Some of the beneficiaries of the now mismanaged Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, who were sent to the UK on scholarship, were recently repatriated because the agency couldn’t meet up with the financial obligations. In the South East which is also crude oil rich the current government failed to pick any citizen of South East of Nigeria into any strategic military or civilian office thus shutting the Igbo out of this government and importantly out of the constitutionally created National Defence Council meaning that over 50 million Nigerians of Igbo origin are denied their constitutional rights by this government.  

The groups that have so far sprang up to speak for the South East have had rough time even peacefully expressing their opinions as armed military and police operatives are unleashed on them with bloody consequences. Fake Religious prophets who parade around the corridors of power have been recruited to see visions and to blame critics for the imaginary plots on the life of the President. Such is how badly freedom of speech has suffered.

 Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB) have suffered bloody victimisation from the Nigerian State under President Muhammadu Buhari and the Leader of the group Mr Nnamdi Kanu has spent 100 days in underground cells of the Department of State Service under the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari who has publicly professed his desire to keep him as long as possible even against three binding bail orders granted Mr Nnamdi Kanu by different Courts of competent jurisdiction ranging from Magistrate to the Federal High Court. 

By and large it can safely be said that the current government has stifled the atmosphere of freedom of speech thereby compelling radical elements to go under and start these unfortunate bombing campaigns.  Before proffering panacea to this emerging dangerous scenarios of resurgence of the Niger Delta youth restiveness, let us vividly narrate what really happened which as reported may affect power supply across much of Nigeria.

Unknown gunmen in the early hours of Friday blew up the all-important Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) crude and gas pipeline in the Niger Delta. Predictably, journalists have interpreted this to signal a possible resumption of hostilities in the relatively peaceful region.

The facility which is the major supplier of gas and crude to Warri and Lagos is located in the Gbaramatu area of Warri South West Local Government area of Delta state. Ironically, that’s the homeland of one of Nigeria’s most highly rated former militant leader, Mr Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo [pictured left]. 

He has come under the searchlight of the Adamawa dominated EFCC over some contracts he won during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan which generously rewarded him for his impressive contribution towards ending the then armed restiveness in the Niger Delta during the regime of the late Umaru Musa Yaradua under which the man who would later emerge as President Dr Goodluck Jonathan was the Vice President. 

It could not be confirmed if the act was carried out by vandals or it was a reaction to the warrant issued by a Federal High Court in Lagos for the arrest of former leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpumopolo, otherwise known as Tompolo, so says news reporters. 

But Tompolo himself has cried out, saying his detractors were out to capitalise on his running battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to commit the act and blame it on him. Tompolo may be right because members of IPOB and MASSOB faced similar “government arranged” subterranean plots when after nearly three weeks of successful street’s protests, some paid hoodlums infiltrated the peaceful marches by IPOB and MASSOB  and caused violence including an unsuccessful attempt to set alight the central mosque in Onitsha Anambra State. 

Although the NNPC has claimed ignorance of the development, a source in the industry confirmed that the pipeline was attacked in what looked like coordinated act.

 “From all indications, the attack was a coordinated one because the facility was blown in three major points and this has made it difficult for immediate remedial measures”, he said.

 But Group General Manager (Public Affairs) of the NNPC, Mr Ohi Alegbe said the corporation was unaware of the attack. “The NNPC is not aware of this at all,” he said. 

But the denial by NNPC’s spokesman totally amounts to being economical with the truth because we don’t require Rocket Science to confirm if any attack was launched on our oil facilities or not because satellite images are available I’m sure to tell exactly what happened.  

Nigeria has blown away billions of dollars to launch the so called satellite in the orbits. So how come that officials of NNPC now feign ignorance of the widely reported bombing of the crude oil facility in the Niger Delta?

Meanwhile there are fears that the decision of Buhari to unleash the northern dominated Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to go after some major leaders of the ex-militants of the Niger Delta such as Tompolo may draw out sympathisers to carry out such attacks whether with his blessing or not. That is assuming it can be ruled out that the Federal Government did not sponsor fifth columnists to stage manage the attacks.

Tompolo however had prior to this reported bombing alleged a plot to bomb crude oil facilities by some faceless fifth columnists sponsored by government just to rope him into a treasonable felony case since this government has reinvented this draconian and military type decree to haunt perceived opponents.

 Aware of the notoriety of supporters of the current Federal Government and it’s one sided anti-graft crusade and the length they can go to try to rope in perceived enemies of their political master, Mr Government Ekpumopolo  (Tompolo) who spoke though his media aide, Paul Bebenimibo, has condemned the act, saying the coincidence of the ‘dastardly act’ with his ordeal in the hands of the EFCC was ominous. 

Hear him: “This is a condemnable act and all peace lovers of the country must stand up against this despicable act that is meant to frame me up in the face of the running battle that is currently ongoing between me and the EFCC. 

“I know as a matter of fact that since I accepted to embrace peace and pursue same after the amnesty offer, there have been several attempts at staging me back to the creeks under flimsy, sometimes personal excuses. 

“In this case for instance, my belief in the rule of law and due process had compelled me to drag the EFCC to court even before the purported warrant. We are in court and the court shall decide the case at the appropriate time. 

“I, therefore, call on the federal government to undertake a thorough investigation into this ignoble act.

With Tompolo ruling himself out of any plot to stage a return to bombing campaigns,  the most pragmatic solution to this atmosphere of deep mutual suspicions amongst people of the South and North is for the current President to be a national and stop being a Northern regional leader and give every region her due and rights under the law. 

Let Mr President not create the impression that he is above the law because the moment people sense that the President who swore an oath to respect the sanctity of the constitution is going against this sacred oath by the persistent disrespect to lawful court orders, then anarchists will begin to have a field day. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.


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