A STITCH in time saves nine. This saying of the wise seems to have lost its meaning and appeal in Nigeria especially among the leaders in government. Over the years, successive governments have ignored potential signs or warnings of trouble and preferred to wait for it to break out instead of taking pre-emptive measures to stop it and even nip it in the bud. In this way, they always prefer to spend money to stop trouble instead of preventing it to save the money. A case in point is the persistent ignoring of signs of trouble in the Niger Delta by successive federal governments before and after political independence. Long before independence, the colonial government at that time, had identified the Niger Delta as an immanent trouble spot. Even though it had turned down the demand of its people for a Calabar/Ogoja/River(COR) State, the colonial government, nevertheless, recommended to the then federal government that the region be regarded as a special area for purposes of development. For this reason, it recommended that an interventionist agency to be known as the Niger Delta Development Board, be set up to handle the development of the area. This recommendation was treated with levity over the years by successive federal governments. It took a series of violent agitations and militancy which adversely affected oil production and its attendant effect on the national economy for the government of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to take the Niger Delta problem seriously.
Apart from continuing with the interventionist programmes initiated by his predecessor, Yar’Adua also came up with an amnesty scheme for militant youth who were ready to denounce violence and embrace peace. This innovative scheme was also adopted by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. So far, more than 9,000 militants who embraced the scheme have benefited from various skills acquisition programmes within and outside the country. But the big question now is: After the successful completion of their training programmes and acquiring the needed skills, where do they go from there? This is the same question which Lawrence Pepple, technical assistant to Kingsley Kuku, Jonathan’s special adviser on Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, wants the federal government, indigenous and international oil companies to provide an immediate answer. Pepple chose the Nigeria Oil and Gas conference which ended recently in Abuja as an appropriate forum to pose that question. He feels that if nothing is done immediately to absorb the large army of skilful ex-militants in the oil industry and other sectors of the national economy, they could use their newly-acquired skills to start a new wave of militancy which could be more devastating than the one that has just ended. According to Pepple, he receives an average of more than 29,000 phone calls daily from unemployed ex-militants who had completed their training programmes asking: Where do we go next? It is a worrisome development. Realnews is also worried and feels something must be done to avert the trouble lurking at the corner to strike. This explains our choice of the cover story for this week entitled: New Level of Niger Delta Militancy: A Ticking Time Bomb. It was expertly crafted by Maureen Chigbo, the editor. Happy reading.
Apr. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT