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Ceasefire in the Delta?

It’s encouraging to learn that the latest and most vicious but faceless Niger Delta militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has declared a ceasefire…

It’s encouraging to learn that the latest and most vicious but faceless Niger Delta militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has declared a ceasefire in its relentless sabotage of our national oil assets. On the night of Saturday, 20th August, 2016 the NDA announced a “cessation of hostilities” declaring that they were ready to negotiate with “the Federal Government of Nigeria, representatives from the home countries of all multinational oil corporations and neutral international mediators.”
“But we will continuously adopt our asymmetric warfare during this period if the Nigerian government and the ruling (All Progressive Congress) continues to use security agencies, formations and politicians to arrest, intimidate, invade and harass innocent citizens, suspected NDA members and invade Ijaw communities”, warned the self-styled Brigadier Murdoch Agbinibo, the spokesman of the anonymous group. Ahead of the announcement of the ceasefire, the NDA had bickered with a splinter group calling itself the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) which had expressed its displeasure and impatience with the original group’s defiance of calls for ceasefire.
There are several explanations as to why the NDA had to stop the bombing of the pipelines and oil flow stations. The RNDA removed the anonymity of NDA and named former President Goodluck Jonathan as the grand patron of NDA, and their sponsors as Tompolo, Governors Nyesom Wike  of Rivers and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa states; former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio, Kingsley Kuku; Patrick Akpobolokemi; Raymond Dokpesi,  etc. They also mentioned Udengs Eradiri, the President of the so called Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) as Brigadier Murdoch Agbinibo, the spokesman of the NDA. They also threatened to spill the beans further.
These revelations were frightening and believable because they were done by insiders.  The RNDA should know who is disturbing the peace in their locality. They are also in a position to know who is sponsoring who. The last time Jonathan went to see Buhari, he simply said they would speak to everyone – traditional rulers, elders, community leaders, etc. to ensure peace was restored; Jonathan didn’t condemn the NDA. However, at every given opportunity, he had denounced the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) which had been opposing him since 2010 and also declared their support in the 2015 presidential election not for him (their brother) but for Muhammadu Buhari. Could it be that NDA agreed to a ceasefire in order to leave out a window for its patrons and sponsors to save their necks?
The declaration of ceasefire by NDA also coincided with NDA’s mindfulness of the arrival of sophisticated weaponry to deal with their recalcitrance. The Avengers themselves had revealed that federal government’s ordered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) would arrive the country latest August and they were to weaponised and targeted at the militants. Since the militants claim that they could wreak havoc on the country’s oil assets and hide in the creeks, the federal government could deploy these drones to help seek out and eliminate them without risking the lives of soldiers in a physical combat. There are stories also that the federal government had used helicopters and smoked out the militants and arrested some of them after being immobilised by the smoke.
There are also speculations that the federal government through the oil minister and oil companies had as usual channelled plenty bribe to the militant leaders it could reach, but even more importantly, to some of its lead negotiators in the Niger Delta. Bribe money it is said, especially if it is given in hard currency could, any day, help break the resolve of the most intractable militant group.
The on-going show of military power by almost all the arms of the Nigerian Army has also sent a chilling message to the militants and their sympathisers that the Niger Delta is on the brink of a bloodshed on a far greater scale than Odi and that the safest strategy is to stave this off. It is believed that the elders of the Niger Delta had convinced themselves that unless they reigned in the militants, President Buhari would no longer be restrained from giving the long awaited orders to the army to crush everything and everyone suspected of aiding and abetting the destruction of critical national oil assets on which the nation’s economy depend.
If one has written so much on NDA and the Niger Delta, it is because the region unquestionably contains resource central to the well-being of Nigeria’s economy and continuous instability there threatens our survival as a country. In large measure, the current economic crunch has everything to do with shortage of foreign exchange which itself has been caused by our inability to sell oil in the volume and price envisaged by our national budget. At the moment, petroleum is about the only readily available commodity that Nigeria can export and obtain the much needed foreign exchange to support the local currency and import raw materials for industries that expected to produce goods for the local market and provide employment. There is no other magic to obtaining the almighty dollar!
Therefore, to the extent that the militants try to hold the jugular of the country’s economy by disrupting oil production and export, to that extent war on the militants and their sympathisers will remain justified. Up to the 1970s and 80s, the Americans said any shut down of oil supply by middle eastern countries would be deemed as inimical to its national interest which justify sending the Marines to ensure the commodity’s availability. Consequently, if Nigeria fights in the Niger Delta, everyone will understand why it has to!

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