Should the Nigerian government negotiate with Niger Delta Avengers?

Militants

This is a major question on the lips of every well-meaning Nigerian following the deterioration of the country’s economy in recent times.

In the real sense of things, if the government is keen on negotiating with the militants, several seats need to be prepared for the occasion.More than a dozen groups have emerged since attacks on oil pipelines started earlier this year, each claiming their own constituencies and making their own demands.

While some in the Niger Delta say dialogue is the best way to save lives and quell the ongoing insurgency, others say the government’s July decision to talk with the militant groups is merely encouraging them.

What do the militants want?

Trouble started earlier this year when a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers took credit for a series of blasts targeting pipelines and other types of oil infrastructure that severely disrupted Nigeria’s oil output.They claim to be fighting for a greater share of oil revenue in the delta, which was also the demand of militant groups who fought in the delta until 2009, when the government started paying them off and offering job training as part of an amnesty program.

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Nigeria’s state-owned oil company said in a statement released last week that the recent violence in the delta could be “crippling” to the industry. Production has dropped to 1.5 million barrels per-day, from its usual level of around 2.2 million barrels.Nigeria is now in a recession due to a shortfall in oil revenue.

The Avengers have since been joined by other groups namely; Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, Utorogun Liberation Movement, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, Red Scorpion and the Reformed Egbesu Boys.

The militants are criminals

According to Mr Edward Ekpoko, the chairman of a development organization based in the delta city of Warri.

“They are criminals. Their activities are criminal.You see, it’s like saying government is harmonizing armed robbers, so they can dialogue not to rob again. It’s an impossibility.”

Many would agree that there is truth in what Mr. Ekpoko is saying but on the other hand, dialogue still remains the best option. The country as it is right now has not fully recovered from the Boko Haram menace……in fact we are still in an active war against them. Starting another battle in the Niger-Delta is not very sensible in any way and here is why;

  1. These militants are not just ordinary hungry,trigger-happy,attention-seeking individuals. a large number of them are trained and skilled in military tactics and amphibian training. They are intelligent and plan their moves ahead. They also possess state-of-the-art weaponry.
  2. Secondly, Starting a war with these militants will cost more lives and money. Money we are currently struggling to get.
  3. Thirdly, starting a war will do more harm than good. Our oil supply will further diminish and the nation’s economy will deteriorate more.
  4. The Niger-Delta will be ruined and countless lives will be lost. Also bear in mind that there will be prevalence of war-crimes.
  5. lastly, This is guerrilla warfare…the most difficult type of battle…..and it involves 2 terrains…land and water. If a war is started..it wont be like the war we had with Boko Haram…this one will be more perilous.
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In my opinion, The government still needs to push for further negotiation. The government recently launched ‘operation crocodile smile’ as a kind of show of force but honestly i don’t think that is the right path to tow. Lawrence Dube, the head of the governance team at the Niger Delta-based Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development openly said that negotiation would be useful in preventing violence in the delta from escalating. It is true that other countries like America do not negotiate with terrorists and we should follow in their footsteps but see…America has the resources to fight a long war…they have advanced weaponry and THEIR ECONOMY IS BUOYANT!..they can afford to say that they don’t negotiate with terrorists/militants. Nigeria for now cannot afford to tow that path.

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In his words;

“It’s very difficult to detect the real identity of these people. We’ve not been able to capture anybody. Our government intelligence has not been able to provide any reality regarding who is who and who is really not who”

Mr. Dube’s words are true in every sense. I still strongly believe negotiation is the key.

Written by Dumebi

Publisher, Politics Nigeria.

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