Nigeria: STOP THE FIRE!

Map of NigeriaPerhaps nothing less is best expected in the Niger Delta where the largest army in Africa is taking up a tiny group of dissidents with their military hardware.

The falling victims from the ongoing assault have been attracting plenty of attention across the globe.

The armed group who called themselves MEND, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta people, only came on board some few years ago and as they vowed to the federal government, they have truly cut the oil production in African leading oil producing country to more than half.

From their incessant kidnappings of several foreign oil workers to nearly turning the Nigerian oil region into the Afghanistan of Africa, they have certainly become very popular in the world media.

Of course the Nigerian army is no doubt famous with their intolerance. Many still wonder how a rebel could have ever grown under their nose, even though they reluctantly relinquished power to civilian government on May 29, 1999.

Now they are on the loose again and are pulling down anything that stands on their way.

Speaking at an art exhibition at the Italian Embassy in Abuja last week, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka decided to voice out his anger, as reported by This Day, one of Nigerian leading newspapers:

“These atrocities should be stopped immediately. Look at Odi; that is a shame and a slap to Nigeria. This kind of massive onslaught is being used in an indiscriminate way. You have more casualties among civilians than among the militants. It is unconscionable and unacceptable. Some of these sooner or later will feature in the international court for crimes against humanity and therefore it had better be stopped right now before the criminalities move to the level of that of Sudans Bashir.”

In another development, Daily Sun in his yesterday’s publication reported the comment of one Mr. FEMI ESEKU on the ongoing situation in the Niger delta:

“The month of May 2009 would, perhaps, go down in the memories of many Nigerian’s as one of the most catastrophic periods in the history of our country. The month represents the period when the Nigerian Government under President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, through the actions of the Joint Military Task Force(s) (JTF), comprising the Army, Navy and Air force, decided to bombard and extirpate a part of the Niger-Delta people, due to the exigencies of the few armed militants, whose agitation are mostly genuine, but allowed to degenerate into a quagmire of lawlessness and hijacked vision by both real and imagined freedom fighters. Also, it marked the month when the government, in spite of the agitation’s of Nigerians through the aegis of the Labor movement, ignored the call not to deregulate the downstream sector of the economy.”

MendThe ongoing crises would surely have led to a big swell of oil price in the international market, as it has been in the past few years, since the armed group took the multinational oil companies by surprise in the Niger Delta. But with the crumbling global economy it’s certainly not a good time for the business as usual, for which many Nigerian villages are been bombarded in their God given lands.

Not many right thinking people are in support of the federal government for the perpetual abuse or allowing the multinational oil companies to abuse the ecological system and the rights of the indigenous people in the Niger Delta. As some Nigerians continuously say however, fire for fire should not be the only option. It gives opportunities to some miscreants who want to hijack the genuine process for their personal aims and drag the country into an unimaginable depth of the same cheating and corruption that led to the problem in the first place.

“Employing all avenues including involving the international community for a peaceful solution should be encouraged in the Niger Delta,” a Nigerian said to me. Stressing his point further, he said:

“If MEND are not over trading confidence, they should have realized that they can never beat the Nigerian military force by any miracle. And should the trouble eventually escalate beyond control, Nigeria will be too small for them to hide. I’m not sure if there is any neighboring country that will be willing to take them in, without first considering the full weight of Nigeria military upon them, as a cross border conflict. Let put an end to all violence and seek for other means of resolving our problems. Besides, we will surely go to the round table after sacrificing our people who have already suffered so much in the hands of some unpatriotic leaders.”

Justice might not actually be denied after all. As published in the local news website, Niger Delta News Headlines, 16 foreign-based civil society organizations are dragging President Umaru Yar’Adua and the joint task force (JTF) to the International Criminal Court of justice, for their alleged abuse of human right in the Niger Delta.

The groups are the Trans Africa Forum, Centre for Civil Society, Environmental Justice Project of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Sweet Crude, Communities for a Better Environment, the Borneo Project, the Justice in Nigeria Now and the Center for Third World Organizing.

Others are Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Crude Accountability, Oil Change International, Counter Corp, Foreign Policy in Focus and Sustainable Energy and Economy Network.

According to the groups, the military carried out land, water and aerial bombardments of Oporoza, Kurutie, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene, Okerenkoko, Azama, Benikurukuru and Ubefan communities in Gbaramatu Local Government Area, under the guise of attacking militants.

Col. Rabe AbubakaAnd defending the operation of JTF, the spokesman, Col. Rabe Abubaka said:

“It is pertinent to note that in all the communities searched by the JTF so far, large quantities of arms and ammunition, as well as hostages kidnapped by the militants, were discovered. With the successes recorded so far in the course of this operation, the Task Force wants to debunk the allegation that its troops are targeting some individuals, or certain ethnic groups. We conducted the operation in the most professional manner and the security outfit is only focusing on the areas where there are militants and their hide
outs where hostages were being kept. It is not a random operation. We are soliciting for the cooperation of the public, especially those affected by this purge, to furnish us with information that will lead to the arrest of the miscreants who unleash terror on innocent members of the communities.”

 

Ewanfoh Obehi Peter

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