By Leonard Oru
Many Nigerians had the feeling that the peace in the Niger Delta during the six year leadership of former President Goodluck Jonathan hung on a thin thread that would be cut off and give way for unrest immediately the president left office.
For those with this feeling it was a déjà vu when the Niger Delta Avengers embarked on bombing of oil facilities belonging to government and IOCs in the region.
The Niger Delta crisis resurfaced after the advent of the present administration and the purported move by the Buhari led government to cut wastages and excess spending.
The Buhari Presidency believes that the Amnesty programme of the late Yar’Adua and implemented by Goodluck Jonathan was mismanaged and created opportunity for looting the country resources.
One of the first steps taken by the president when he was sworn in was to revoke the pipeline contracts awarded to former Niger Delta militants. The contract awarded to Tompolo worth N23 billion was for the protection of crude oil facilities in the oil rich region.
The president directed that the fund should be forwarded to the Nigeria Navy and the marine police who are statutorily expected to carry out surveillance in the creek. This move and many others where seen as act of provocation by the militants.
However to cap it all, the government declared Tompolo wanted for a shady deal with NIMASA over the sale of a plot of land for a proposed maritime university. This was seen by some as a direct act of provocation. Nigerians see the emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers as a proxy reaction of the creek big boys to the government.
Ever since its emergence, the NDA have carried out series of attacks on oil and gas companies in the region. The group blew up the Bonny Soku Gas export line, the Agip Brass crude oil pipelines in Bayelsa, Escravos-warricrudeoil pipeline, Escravos -Lagos- Abuja gas pipeline, Alero Dibi Abiteye crude Crude oil pipeline and also, the Escravos -Abiteye gas line.
The effect of this is telling on the economy. Nigeria used to be the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa but due to the activities of the avengers; other countries have overtaken Nigeria on the ladder.
The fall is affecting the nation’s income. For a country that solely depends on oil, the avengers are doing no good to Nigeria and its far affecting all other sectors of economy.
At various instances there had been calls for dialogue between the agitators and the government in order to save the economy and foster peace in the region.
However NDA are insistent that there is nothing to dialogue about, although there are reports that the group is willing to dialogue.
The group through its spokes person said the only condition for dialogue is for the government to ensure there is an atmosphere in which independent mediators will be able to participate.
Recently the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, a splinter group from the Niger Delta Avengers, alleged that some eminent Nigerians are the sponsours of the NDA. The splinter group pointed accusing fingers at former President Jonathan, governor of Rivers state, Nyelsom Wike, Tompolo, former governor of Akwa Ibom, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Raymond Dokpesi, Seriake Dickson, IPOB, among others.
The avengers recently announced that it is ready for cease fire and dialogue with the government and multinational companies operating in the region. It is observed that the group has also been less destructive in the last two months. Some argue that their reason could be that the government is closing in on the group and its sponsors while others posit that it is the next phase of their agitation after a display of destructive prowess in the region.
The Niger Delta, despite being the cash cow for the whole country, is less developed compared to other parts of the country. Since the 1960s there have been agitations for development of the region by the government and the oil companies operating there.
Due to the corruption and greed of the leaders in the region, human development and advancement in the regions remain backward with few harvesting from the proceeds of the region at the expense of helpless and hapless Nigerians of the region.
It would be recalled that during the Obasanjo era, the movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) agitated and adopted the same approach of the NDA to get the attention of the government, nothing significant was done until late Yar’Adua introduced the amnesty programme that was implemented by the Jonathan administration.
One would have thought that the amnesty initiative would pave way for development in the region but unfortunately, the programme became a conduit pipe for corrupt politicians to siphon public funds.
Nigerians expect and hope that the agitation of the Niger Delta Avengers would not go the same way MEND went. But as the group has decided to sit at the table for dialogue, time would tell whether this would put an end to underdevelopment in the region.