ReceNT bombings of oil pipelines
in the Niger Delta again raise the
spectre of escalation of conflicts
in the region. While we cannot
say the reasons for the incidents,
it does appear to be calculated
acts of sabotage rather than mere
vandalism. In cases of vandalism
the motive routinely is the stealing
of crude oil or refined petroleum
products. Where pipelines are
bombed in the manner the current
incidents have been reported, the
signal is that these are political
actions. However, no one has
claimed responsibility. That is
against the grain.
It should be noted that political
actions do not have to be partisan
in nature as they can be carried
out by persons or groups that are
simply disenchanted with existing
political system. They could also
be orchestrated by persons or
groups whose vested interests are
threatened. If these are agreed as
possibilities, we should be able
to come to the conclusion that
the recent bombings may not
necessarily be the hand work of militants. Fishing for culprits would
require extra-wide nets.
Militancy in the Niger Delta arose
as a result of accrued disenchantment
with both the government and the
transnational corporations over
minimal expectations from the local
population. The fact oil being so
alluring cannot be denied. It always
offers communities dreams and
hopes of social services, employment,
infrastructural improvements and
dramatic societal transformation.
What is offered in reality has routinely
been environmental degradation,
disruption of social structures,
corruption, disease and death.
Sadly, communities in countries
where crude oil is discovered are still
being offered the same promises that
the resource scarcely delivers. And
as sure as fire burns, the hopes and
promises are bound to be dashed.
And then the conflicts start.
Oil theft, bush refineries and related
businesses operate at an industrial
scale in the Niger Delta. Unfortunately.
When poorly maintained facilities
are added to the mix, the result is
extremely toxic and the consequences
are well documented. Responses have
often reinforced the crises, rather than
mitigate them.
What has been the response to the
recent bombing of pipelines including
those in the Gbaramatu area of Delta
State? Predictably the response has
been heavy militarisation of the
area. The question is, to what extent
can militarisation protect the over
7000 kilometres of pipelines in the
Niger Delta. We hope the reign of
the gunboats in the Niger Delta will
not lead to a replay of the levelling
of communities that was virtually
routine a few years ago.
Looking back, we recall that in 2009
attacks at Odi cut down 2,483 persons,
while another heavy handed attack
occurred at Odioma in 2005. In May
2009 the military response to militancy
saw the massive destruction of
Gbaramatu community. In December
2010 there was a replay of the same
scenario at Ayakoromo, where at least
20 persons were killed.
All these avoidable attacks
on communities were said to be
legitimate ways of smoking out
militants from their hideouts in the
communities. It is not clear how many
militants were captured through those
punishing assaults on communities.

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