Niger Delta militants are unhappy that the 16-point agenda reached with the federal government about a year ago has not been implemented to the letter, hence its decision to start blowing up oil and gas pipelines in the region from September 10, and reverse the economic gains since pipeline vandalism stopped sometimes ago. Will the federal government fold its arm watch this happen?
NIGERIA, for now, is euphoric. The cause of the excitement is none other than the news that the country has exited from recession. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, which made the disclosure on Tuesday, September 5, in a press statement, attributed the development to peace in the Niger Delta, increase in oil production and rise in oil prices, among others. But the euphoria may be short-lived.
A group under the aegis of the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, CNDA, has threatened to renew its attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta on September 10, unless the 16-point agenda of the federal government for the region is implemented.
It also stated that the notice to quit issued to Hausa and Yoruba in the Niger Delta had not been withdrawn.
The group expressed disenchantment alleging that more than 90 percent of the oil wells in the Niger Delta are owned by northerners, the Yoruba, seven percent, easterners two percent while Niger Delta indigenes owned one percent.
“We are not talking only about the notice to quit; we are also talking about the Niger Delta Republic. We have seen that the federal government is not serious about the Niger Delta issue. Let me make a point here; the Academic Staff Union of Universities is on strike and the government has set up a committee to engage in a dialogue with ASUU.
“This has never happened in the case of the Niger Delta; the Federal Government has never inaugurated a committee to handle the Niger Delta issue. The only language the Federal Government seems to understand is violence. September 10, is the day we will resume attacks (on oil installations). By September 10, which is on Sunday, over 5,000 members of the Niger Delta Coalition of Agitators will shut down no less than over 20 platforms,” the group said in a newspaper interview.
Besides, the CNDA said it had decided to take the dramatic action because it believed that the negotiation between the federal government and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by Edwin Clark, a former minister of information and notable Ijaw leader, was not sincere and would not resolve the issues concerning the region.
In addition, the coalition said those that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with while acting as president, were not the right persons and that they had no credentials to represent or speak for the region.
“The Coalition unanimously adopts to stand by the previous demands, which are: 100 percent control of our resources. The federal government should hand over all oil blocks owned by the Northerners/Yorubas to Niger Delta indigenes. All Oil companies operating in such oil blocks/wells should vacate October 1st, 2017.
“Relocation of NNPC to any of the Niger Delta state and replacement of the Group Managing Director with an indigene of region. All the Multinational Oil, Gas, Servicing and Marine Companies must relocate their operational base to the Niger Delta, sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with Niger Delta people which would include Niger Delta indigenes being paid same salaries with foreigners.
“We demand independence and sovereign Republic of Niger Delta, all the companies and business owned by the Northerners/Yorubas in Niger Delta should be vacated before 1st October, 2017, we accept and congratulate the Yorubas for demanding Oduduwa Republic and we wish them success,” the NCDA said in a statement issued on September 3.
Consequently, the group said it had directed all agitating groups to resume attacks on all oil and gas pipelines, especially the exporting lines across the Niger Delta region from September 10, 2017. This, it said, would ensure zero oil and gas production before October 1.
John Duku, leader of the CNDA, said the group was already interfacing with other militant group to ensure total compliance.
“We shall from henceforth, fight to liberate ourselves from the shackles of neo-colonialism and rule ourselves under a Niger Delta Republic, with diplomatic and economic relations with the peoples of the South East and Middle Belt,” he said.
What, perhaps, makes the situation very serious is that the CNDA had decided to go solo with its members, while neglecting the PANDEF, which has elders of the region as leaders. In fact, the CNDA, in its statement, said it had severed its relationship with the PANDEF, which has been negotiating with the federal government, especially on the 16-point demand by the region. It, therefore, said it would be a futile effort to negotiate with the group on behalf of the region.
The group, which said that the PANDEF leaders and agencies had failed them, were represented by General John Duku; Niger Delta Watchdogs and convener Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators; General Ekpo Ekpo, Niger Delta Volunteers; General Osarolor Nedam, Niger Delta Warriors; Major-Gen. Henry Etete, Niger Delta Peoples Fighters; Major-Gen. Asukwo Henshaw, Bakassi Freedom Fighters; Major-Gen. Ibinabo Horsfall, Niger Delta Movement for Justice; Major-Gen. Duke Emmanson, Niger Delta Fighters Network; Major-Gen. Inibeghe Adams for Niger Delta Freedom Mandate and Major-Gen. Abiye Tariah for Niger Delta Development Network.
The CNDA is not alone in its decision. About three weeks ago, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, pulled out its delegates on the PANDEF, saying it no longer had confidence in its leadership to negotiate on behalf of the region.
Jomo Gbomo, spokesman of the MEND, who disclosed this also accused Clark and Alfred Diete-Spiff, a king in Bayesla State, of insincerity.
The MEND said, in a statement: “Our decision to abandon PANDEF stems from the commercial and political motives of the leaders and most of the members who now see the platform as a means to bounce back financially and politically.
“It is also as a result of the lie told by Chief Clark to State House correspondents after the PANDEF volte-face meeting with the acting president on Thursday, August 3, 2017, where he said that MEND was part of the parley when the group wasn’t represented.
“It is annoying working with pretenders who conspired to keep silent when (former President) Goodluck Jonathan wasted the opportunity of the region and were part of the conspiracy to suppress the voice of Henry Okah and MEND.
He said Clark, who had direct access to his “son” Jonathan did not advise the former president to address the root issues and develop the region, but instead using the current PANDEF to feather their nests.
Gbomo warned: “The assets they have acquired are now forfeited to the region or the EFCC. Those ill-gotten assets cleverly hidden from the EFCC that we discover will be attacked and burnt to the ground.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as acting president, in a bid to stop the incessant bombing of crude oil and gas pipelines in the Niger-Delta, initiated peace talks with stakeholders in oil producing states.
Clark himself sensing what could be a grouse with the federal government, warned it to speed up implementation of the 16-point agenda reached with the government early in the year, saying failure to do so would attract restiveness in the region. He said: “I wish to urge the Federal Government Dialogue Team to engage PANDEF, towards resolving the pending issues contained in the forum’s 16-point demand on behalf of the people of the Niger Delta region, by or before November 1, 2017 (one year anniversary of our meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari).
“Human endurance has a limit beyond which one cannot predict what the outcome will be. We submitted a 16-point demand to Mr. President on November 1, 2016, and we had expected that by its next anniversary, the 16-point agenda would have been comprehensively sorted out.
“If, at the expiration of the November 1, 2017, ultimatum, the federal government fails and/or refuses to accede to these lawful and legitimate demands of the Niger Delta people, PANDEF may consider pulling out of the ongoing peace process in the Niger Delta.”
He said the militants had been impatient with him and have been disturbing him with a series of telephone calls and messages, “with some of them even giving notices to disown us.”
[caption id="attachment_24638" align="alignright" width="266"] Clark[/caption]
However, Clark has since withdrawn the ultimatum after meeting with Osinbajo on Thursday, August 3.
The Presidency, on its part, said, in a statement, that long-standing grievances were being addressed, including the opening of the Nigerian Maritime University by next year and approval of two modular refineries for each of the states in the region.
The government was also said to have doubled annual budget for ex-rebels, while it also approved funds for the clean-up of devastated Ogoniland. But the cleanup is yet to start thereby causing anxiety and doubts among the Niger Delta people about government’s sincerity.
In any case, the remaining demands include the Presidential Amnesty Programme; Law and Justice Issues; The Effect of Increased Military Presence in the Niger Delta; Plight of Internally Displaced Persons; The Ogoni Clean-up and Environmental Remediation; Key Regional Critical Infrastructure and Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure.
Others are relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of international oil companies; power supply; economic development and empowerment; inclusive participation in oil industry and ownership of oil blocs; restructuring and funding of the NDDC; strengthening the Niger Delta ministry and The Bakassi question and fiscal federalism.
That, notwithstanding, the major concern is that should the bombing of oil and gas facilities start, Nigeria will be loser.
Before the current cessation of attacks, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said that Nigeria was losing about 150,000 barrels of crude oil to pipeline vandalism every day. At the current oil prices, this translates to about $6.5 million daily.
Apart from huge economic losses from pipeline and plant shutdown, the vandalisation of pipelines are also responsible for environmental pollution, fire outbreaks usually resulting in loss of lives; scarcity and shortage of petroleum products as well as decrease in electricity supply.
“Pipeline vandalism is one major reason why the refineries will not work. Finished products pumped from the refineries leak through compromised pipelines into the waiting vessels of pipeline vandals, a thriving business, which cost the country over N150.5 billion annually,” Chris Ubah, an expert and analyst said.
According to the NNPC, the combined working capacity of all the 21 Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC, depots nationwide, excluding holding capacities at the refineries, can provide products sufficiency of up to 32 days for petrol, 65 days for kerosene and 42 days for diesel. But attacks on any of the facilities can upset the industry to produce less and cause shortage.
Not only that. The Jesse incident of October 18, 1998 could easily come to mind when one looks at the effects of the human carnage that may from result from such vandalisation of oil pipelines. In the Jesse incident, hundreds of people were killed at surrounding farmlands and villages when some oil thieves broke up an oil pipeline in order to siphon off oil.
In the same vein, both the NNPC and PPMC are believed to have lost a number of personnel, while, trying to repair pipelines damaged by the vandals. “This nefarious act is the reason petroleum tankers come to Lagos to ferry fuel from the Atlas Cove to upcountry consumers, causing major traffic challenge in the city,” Uba said.
Besides, he said pipeline vandalism was another major reason for the sustenance of the fuel subsidy regime. “Curbing pipeline vandalism is very essential in resuscitating the nation’s ailing refineries by ensuring ease of petroleum products transportation to local depots, eliminating importation and crashing fuel prices,” he argued.
To address the problem, the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration once engaged the services of former militants and members of the O’odua Peoples Congress, OPC, to guard the nation’s pipelines. The contract was cancelled by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration shortly after coming to power in May 2015.
While the CDNA said that its members were tired of keeping watch over the pipelines and see the proceeds of the oil being used for development of other regions, the OPC simply took the federal government to court over the unpaid bills for securing the pipelines for a period of time.
“It is evident that the security of the pipelines cannot be achieved by the use of threat or the use of force. This strategy has proven itself ineffectual over the years. A viable alternative, therefore, is the integration of indigenous oil and gas companies, with the requisite capacity, into the pipeline management system,” Uba said.
Gail Anderson, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting firm, on his part said the militants were only concerned with cash inflow and as long as the tap was opened, there would be relative peace.
He said: “Government announced in March there will be $10 billion of investment in the Niger Delta, but of course money is tight and it will be a while before people notice any investment, so there is bound to be pressure.
[caption id="attachment_54857" align="alignright" width="289"] Buhari[/caption]
“As long as money keeps flowing then the militants will stay quiet. If the money stops flowing then things could flare up again.
But whether the militants and their new leadership are amenable to give government more time to implement the agreed 16-point agenda for the Niger Delta is difficult to fathom for now. In any case, September 10, is only a breath away.
Sept. 8, 2017 @ 13:05 GMT |