Pipeline vandalism: We are our own enemies

Pipeline vandalism: We are our own enemies

Monday, May 23, 2016 3:49 pm

Edward Dibiana

Edward Dibiana

By Edward T. Dibiana

The increasing wanton destruction of oil pipelines in the South-south region of Nigeria by some Niger Delta militant groups should be a source of worry to not only the Federal government, but also all well-meaning Nigerians, who love peace and believe in the economic survival of the nation.

It is somewhat akin to self-emulation when people take up arms against their nation, environment and the well-being of their own people, for whatever agitation, anticipated gain, or even provocation, especially as such acts often lead to collateral bruises that yield no meaningful benefit, but collective pain.

Such recent unpleasant developments in the country, leave one with the sad conclusion that Nigerians are their own worst enemies. Some of us hurt ourselves, hurt our environment and the economy more than any foreigner could ever have the temerity to inflict on us.

Records show that since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, most conflicts and the horrendous human and economic devastations the nation had grappled with were all self-inflicted, as a result of internal rifts.

The weird ideology of these elements and the objectivity of their criminal actions against the nation and the Niger Delta environment, are still largely in question, having so far failed to convince many, whether in the region, their communities or elsewhere, of the propriety of their dastardly actions, to merit any form of genuine sympathy or support, going by the outpour of condemnation they have received from the region, government and across the nation.

It should be noted that while government loses billions of dollars in revenue as a result of these vandalisms, the integrity of the already degraded region’s environment is further compromised due to the avoidable oil spillages from the damaged pipelines. The aftermath effect of this self-inflicted environmental pollution and the overall damage to the health of the people might never be documented.

This self-destruct phenomenon plays out in every facet of our nation in variant degrees, with different shades of devastation. At a time the nation’s economy is at a precarious situation, as a result of global collapse of oil price, which has led to serious economic crunch, with the country’s current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) crashing to a 25-year low of -0.36 per cent from 3.96 per cent same period the previous year, according to a recent document released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Yet, these devious, deviant elements, in the oil-rich, but environmentally degraded region, chose this time to blow up oil pipelines in the region, leading to a further deep in the nation’s revenue and the corresponding collective hardship for Nigerians, as a result of the almost mono-product dependent economy.

Apparently disturbed by the sheer brigandage and the far-reaching negative impact of the actions of the vandals on both the economy and the already devastated Niger Delta environment, Brig-General Paul Boro (rtd), Special Adviser to the president on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), rightly stated that “pipeline vandalism is an avoidable self-inflicted agony. It is unreasonable to engage in such criminal activity not only because of the resultant economic effect on the country but particularly as it also negatively affects the Niger Delta environment”, adding that those involved in this nefarious activities “are economic and environmental saboteurs”.

Also, Governor Seriake Dickson of Beyelsa state, while addressing traditional rulers in the state over the vandalism issue, brought the message further home by emphasising that “every pipeline that is blown up in the state is a direct attack on the revenue base of Bayelsa”. Who else could understand the adverse effect of dwindling revenue than the state governor who has not been able to pay salaries of his state’s workers for several months.

While the impact of long years of neglect by successive governments which has reduced the region to grave environmental decay, abject poverty and psychological injury is well documented. Some positive steps have also been taking by the Federal government, since the return of democracy in 1999, to address the genuine agitation of the region, by setting up the Niger Delta Development Agency (NNDC), Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Presidential Amnesty Programme, by the administrations of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua, respectively. All these agencies were designed to address the poor state of the region by fast-tracking development and ultimately bringing Succour to the impoverished region.

But have these intervention agencies in all sincerity been able to meet their mandate of physical and human capital development of the region? Or has the self-destruct system that services the interest of the elite few allowed to erode the overall interest of the people? Several indices indicate a systemic decay that bothers on the character and integrity of successive drivers of the intervention agencies. In fact, the alleged poor work ethics and the lackadaisical attitude of the contractors handling projects for these government intervention agencies and apparent lack of willpower by the heads of these agencies and the organs of government that oversight their activities are in the public domain.

Pipeline bombing

Pipeline bombing

For instance, there was a recent disclosure about the discovery of tons of expired drugs in an NDDC warehouse. These multi million naira drugs, procured with government scarce resources, which were supposed to be delivered to various health facilities in the region, never left the warehouse until they were expired.

While that singular inaptitude of the agency denied the people the opportunity of receiving free drugs, government resource that was used for the procurement, sadly, became a waste. The only persons that possibly benefit from such waste, are the fat-cat indigenous contractors and their insider-friends, that ensured they got the contract. When things like these happen, they reinforce the argument that we are our own enemies.

These agencies are not however, all about sad stories. There are physical evidence of critical bridges built to connect riverine communities that were hitherto cut off from the rest of the world by endless stretch of swamp. There are also roads, health facilities, jetties, schools and other such infrastructure, completed by these agencies in the region. But government must make them to do more.

It is worrisome to note that the lingering restiveness and criminality in the Niger Delta, are unfortunately being sustained by the entrenchment of inequality, impunity and crass accumulation and also, unchallenged circulation and celebration of illegal wealth, in our society…even in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Inordinate political patronage of these youths during elections by political office seekers also unwittingly creates Frankenstein out of them.

The alleged institutional connivance in oil theft which provides cover for these elements and embolden their brazen criminal enterprise is also a factor. Tales are told of some security operatives who suddenly become inexplicably very rich shortly after being deployed to the region to check pipeline vandalism. And you ask: Who will save Nigeria from Nigerians?

Records have shown that through the federal government Amnesty programme, several Niger Delta youths have benefited from skill acquisition trainings that would add value to their lives, while hundreds others who indicated interest in university education were also sponsored in universities and aviation institutions both in Nigeria and abroad. Several pilots, aeronautic engineers, medical doctors and other professionals from other fields were produced through this programme. You don’t expect a trained pilot or petroleum engineer to be blowing up pipelines in the bush. Such people are reformed and refined youths with positive life ambitions. Obviously, not these vandals.

It is worrisome to note that the lingering restiveness and criminality in the Niger Delta, are unfortunately being sustained by the entrenchment of inequality, impunity and crass accumulation and also, unchallenged circulation and celebration of illegal wealth, in our society…even in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Inordinate political patronage of these youths during elections by political office seekers also unwittingly creates Frankenstein out of them.

Those beneficiaries and others who believe in peace time objective engagement with the government for further development of the region, are the true Niger Delta agitators, whose genuineness of purpose in the quest to better the welfare of the region and it’s people, are not in question. And therefore, must not be ignored by government. But certainly not this crop of vandals such as the Niger Delta Avengers and their ilk who probably never presented themselves for any of the above trainings available to youths from the region. Or could it be that their life ambitions are not beyond being tools of criminality and chaos in the creeks?

It would be difficult for these “Avengers” to convince people that they are fighting for the interest of that downtrodden fisherman and his community in Ogbia, Bayelsa state, or the retched roast-plantain seller and her hungry children at Enere, Warri in Delta state. Their fight, i think, is self-serving. They are most likely fighting to announce their grave “arrival” in the committee of illegal oil-money billionaires in the region. It could also be that the opulent larger-than-life lifestyles of the supposedly repentant “former” militant leaders have become irresistible allures to these deviants. And they reasoned it is their time to also “shine”.

For instance, one of their demands is the release of the embattled former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, who is currently facing trial over allegation of diverting funds meant for war on terrorism for other uses. The nexus between this demand and the development of the Niger Delta is still a puzzle.

Now that the federal government has given a matching order to the military to deal with the situation, as these deviants continue to beat drums of war, they may not need to be reminded of Odi carnage during former president Obasanjo’s era, because they obviously know the ugly story. How the military unleashed a dark cloud of terror and permanently extinguished the life of that community.

Nigerian military could not possibly be trusted to deal with any internal irritation without resort to maximum violence. The recent horrendous massacre in Zaria, Kaduna state, over the controversial disagreement between the military and a rancorous religious sect, is an ugly reminder of the brutality of the military against perceived enemies. The innocent indigines of the Niger Delta region should be spared of such senseless and abhorrent military operation.

Indeed, the futility and senselessness of war are incisively underlined in the anti-war novel of late Ogoni, Rivers state born writer, Ken Saro Wiwa’s, Sozaboy. No matter how localized.

In the concluding chapter of that thought provoking novel, written in “rotten English”, the protagonist, having experienced war first-hand and seen the human and material wastage, dehumanization, emotional and psychological nightmare in the refugee camps, said: “And I was thinking how I was prouding before to go to soza and call myself Sozaboy. But now if anybody say anything about war or even fight, I will just run and run and run and run and run. Believe me yours sincerely”.

Just as responsible leaders within and outside the region are currently doing, these people should be persuaded to abandon their violent, destructive agenda in other not to further compromise the genuine interest, aspiration, security and survival of both the region and it’s environment.

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