No doubt, since the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, there has been a barrage of condemnations from across the nation, particularly as it concerns the blowing up of pipelines and gas plants. Also, the obvious negative consequences the incidents have continued to bring to bear on the country’s economy remain unquantifiable, given the importance of the region as the revenue hub of the nation.
Like many are wont to say; so central is the Niger Delta to Nigeria’s nationhood and status that it takes just a sneeze from the coastal area for the entire nation to catch a deadly fever. Put more succinctly, the Niger Delta is very central to Nigeria’s economic wellbeing, especially in terms of foreign exchange earnings, electricity generation, since the gas used in powering most power plants in the country is piped from the region and related coastal resources.
That since the renewed wave of militancy occasioning the blowing up of oil pipelines as well as those conveying liquefied petroleum gas products the country’s revenue from crude and refined products have dipped underscore the relevance of the region to the health of the nation. Thus, the nationwide cum global condemnation that has trailed the new wave of restiveness in the Niger Delta is not without reason. The concerns these have raised too remain as worrisome as they are gripping.
We note that Ijaw national leader, Edwin Clark, governors of Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta States who by every description fit into the frontline states of the militancy arena, as well as some ex-Niger Delta militants under the auspices of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, have severally condemned the renewed militancy.
However, while the foregoing were on, we disagree with the Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Matters, Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd), who declared at the weekend that the military was in Oproza Community, Gbaramatu Kkingdom of Delta State, to recover illegal arms and other military related items in the possession of criminals. Boroh also noted that the military was to keep the peace, ensure stability and not to molest them in view of the recent pipeline bombings by a new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA.
Rightly so, the presidential adviser who was at Oporoza to consult with leaders and stakeholders in Gbaramatu described the effect of the activities of the NDA as “economic sabotage,” pointing out that it is affecting the nation’s economy. We also agree with him that investors and their investments were being threatened by the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, which is already pulling out investors from the region.
But against the backdrop of reported cases of casualties and sacking of communities to the extent that residents of such areas, including Gbaramatu, have deserted their kingdom and now reside in the thick of the mangrove forest common in the area, we call for caution on the part of the military. Although Boroh cautioned that people should not be afraid of the presence of the military in the area, we note the alarm raised by the paramount ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri Southwest Local Government Area of Delta State, His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe Agadagba, that his life is in serious danger following last Saturday’s invasion of Oporoza Community, his home town, by the military.
Speaking with Boroh when the latter visited him, the monarch called on government to come to his rescue. He said the military invasion had turned Oporoza, the headquarters of Gbaramatu, to a ghost town as the once bubbling coastal community has been deserted as military intensify efforts in search for members of Niger Delta Avengers. The monarch, who was visibly touched by unfolding episode of persistent invasion of his kingdom and the unpalatable experience of the 2009 bombing by the military, said he was threatened by the presence of the military in Oporoza as nobody knows the fate that would befall them, as the military has occupied houses vacated by his subjects.
Hear him: “They came with bundles of army, beat up people, loot our houses, descended on our people, humiliated my people and even injured an 80-year-old chief. Some women are even looking for their children. I sit down here seeing the military parade my people as if they are criminals. I am in deep pains. I cannot move out of this palace. In fact, I am under arrest. All my chiefs have run away from the community. I am here alone and I don’t know what will happen to me next. The soldiers are now the owners of this kingdom.
“I am in danger as you can see. You met me here in the dark. I am in the dark! Before this time I told them that we are prepared to work with government. We have been working with government before now and I don’t know why they are treating us this way. I am in danger. I am in the dark! They switch off the generating set that supplies electricity. No water, even since morning I have not taken my bath; I am afraid. No member of my community is around. They have invaded my palace, claim some houses. I want to say that I am in danger,” the monarch lamented.
We view this development as a factor capable of escalating the raison d’être for the military invasion of Gbaramatu Kingdom. We appeal to the military to employ result-oriented measures that will ease tension, reassure the people of their safety and security. At the end of the day all must note that we all need one another for a more progressive Nigeria.