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The unsustainable military presence in the Niger Delta



Late last year I was assigned by my employer to manage and supervise a project somewhere close to the Atlantic ocean in Bayelsa State; a flow station precisely.

I noticed that the number of military security there was as almost equal to the number of people working at the flow station.

At the flow station, we had a permanent stationed houseboat full of armed military men. There were several gun boats as well.

The over twenty room house boat was filled with military men; all protecting us and the facility. Each time we visited Amassoma, we always had two gun boats escorting us from behind and in front. There are also over three military check points along the River Niger, all comprising of Navy, Civil Defence and the Army.

If you are familiar with the Niger Delta oil locations, you will agree that these locations are the most secured locations in Nigeria. Every flowstation has a mini barrack, every road leading to a wellhead has a military check point.

A multinational oil company I visited last week recently changed their policy on security; every single staff visiting any site must have a minimum of two security vehicles, one in front and another behind. These multinationals spend a lot of money on military security.

It is not an accident to see that every oil location has a mini barrack to protect the workers and the facilities. It is a well planned strategy to suppress the ever reoccurring agitations arising from the exploration activities in those locations.

The Federal Government knows that it is stealing from those oil communities and locations, it also knows that agitations will always arise due to perceived injustice and environmental degradation.

In order to permanently control such uprisings, the Federal Government and their partners (IOCs) resolved to use permanent military confrontation as a way of eliminating the anticipated uprisings.

Even CBN headquarters does not have the kind of military security you find in oil locations. What does this tell you?

If oil producing communities are made stakeholders in the exploration activities in their territory, military security will be unnecessary. If your community is making $80,000 dollar monthly from the exploration activities in your community, I am sure your community will provide guaranteed security for the oil workers and the facilities within the community, even for free.

This is the point I am trying to make. The Federal Government is not only a thief, it is also the major cause of insecurity in the oil producing communities and the whole of Nigeria.

When you alienate people from their land and their natural resources and keep them in poverty, they tend to revolt and see both the oil workers, the oil facilities and the govt officials as their enemy. Militancy becomes inevitable.

When you make oil communities become stake holders in the exploration activities, thereby making them wealthy, the protection of the oil workers and the facilities become their responsibility. Every attack on the oil facility is an attack on their income. This is common sense security measure.

This is one area the Federal Government has refused to look at. I am sure if the oil producing communities receive just 10% of every wealth extracted from their lands, there will be peace.

Never! The Federal Government of Nigeria will rather spend a billion Dollar on military security than give the same amount to the communities and make security the community’s responsibility.

The oil producing communities of Nigeria are the biggest losers of this unitary-military system. Their lands are degraded, their health threatened, their future bleak, their wealth stolen and their economy is miserable. Yet it is from their backyard that the whole country is sustained. Militancy, bunkering and vandalism becomes inevitable.

These are all forms of protests and survival tactics. It is unfortunate that the youths have to steal their own crude oil to survive and be labelled as vandals while the country and its politicians lavishes the crude oil wealth all in the name of running a unitary-military ‘feeding bottle’ government.

The part of the PIB which was suppose to make communities become stakeholders and enable them provide security guarantee for oil facilities in their domain has been tactically suspended from the bill without any meaningful explanation.

Nigeria is a criminal state. The earlier we unbundle this country and entrench true federalism, the better.




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