The governors of Delta state (Emmanuel Uduaghan), Rivers state (Rotimi Amaechi) and Bayelsa state (Timipreye Silva) came to Chatham House London. Chatham House is the home of the Royal Institute of International affairs, equivalent to the Nigerian Institute of International affairs. The governors came for a roundtable on Niger Delta, and also to argue against the travel advice given by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Britons against coming to these areas. Part of the advice read thus, “We advise against all travel to the Niger Delta States of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers (including Port Harcourt) and advise British nationals in these States to leave. This is because of the very high risk of kidnapping, armed robbery and other armed attacks in these areas”. Akwa Ibom State, Bauchi State, and Plateau State were also listed as danger zones.
The governors’ visit to London was reported by Guardian newspaper of Saturday 28th February 2009 online version. The contrast to the governors’ visit appeared on the same paper. The same edition of Guardian reported that the Joint Military Taskforce (JTC) operating in the Niger Delta area killed six suspected militants during an invasion of the militant’s camp in Daroama enclave of Bayelsa state. The paper also reported about shooting between the militants and the men of the Joint Military Taskforce. The question is how will the governors’ visit convince the British people and the world that the area is safe with all the negative reports that appeared on the same paper?
Three days later, Thisday newspaper of 3rd March 2009 online version reported that oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta areas are suffering from declining outputs, forcing them to withdraw expatriate workers due to kidnappings and militant attacks. There has been increased rate of kidnapping and violent crimes in the Niger Delta areas. The true situation in the Niger Delta as reported by these newspapers makes the governors’ visit to be fruitless. The entire world knows the true situation in the Niger Delta. They read and watch Nigerian news regularly.
The cost(s) incurred by the visit of these governors would have been enough to establish a cottage industry that would engage at least five youths. The governors need not visit London to make a point, they could have called a press conference, invite the press to Niger Delta or make their submission to the British Embassy in Abuja and Lagos. Am sure it was the British Embassy in Nigeria that sent in the report to their foreign office to warn their citizens against coming to Niger Delta.
The Niger Delta crisis is a by product of the corrupt system in Nigeria and the true militants are actually the politicians who loot the treasury thereby spreading poverty and causing restiveness among the youths. When a poor man is hungry the rich cannot sleep, a hungry man is also an angry man. The truth is that the federal government has failed the Niger Delta regions. In addition also, some of their former governors made matters worst by excessive looting. Examples are, former governor of Delta State James Ibori who has a case of money laundering worth over £30 million pounds in the UK. He also has a case with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Former Edo State governor, Lucky Igbinedion has a case of money laundering with the EFCC. Former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili was mentioned in a scandal of lending N2 billion naira to Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN). Former Bayelsa State governor, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was arrested in London for money laundering. He jumped bailed and sneaked into Nigeria. He was later arrested by the EFCC.
All these looted funds would have gone a long way in engaging the youths or developing the region. Lootings of this magnitude will surely cause people to be jobless. Many will die because there would be no money to provide them with social amenities like hospitals, good water, housing etc. That’s why I consider our corrupt politicians and leaders as the true militants. Mismanagement of funds, corruption and maladministration is a recipe for agitation, kidnapping etc. The youth have limited choices. I have the following suggestions on how to bring peace to the Niger Delta region.
The Federal government should withdraw all their armed forces (JTF) in the area. I have said this because no force on earth can defeat a determined people. Fighting or wars have never solved any problem. Dialogue has always been the way out. The federal government should declare amnesty to all agitating youths. The solution is political. The federal government needs to be transparent and honest in their dialogue with these youths. The government should deal directly with the youths. No intermediary or third parties. Discussions should be continuous till a solution is found.
The Niger Delta state governments should also declare amnesty for these youths. Offer these youths post in their government. I suggest a government of unity between various Niger Delta state governments and their youths. Being part of their state governments will reduce tension and guarantee communication with the youths. Local governments should offer positions to these youths and also form unity government with them.
Finally the youths of Niger Delta should form a political party like Hamas did in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) In West Bank. Many people have transited from hunted insurgents to state presidents (Yesser Arafat, Fidel Castro, Mandela etc). With a platform like a political party, they can contest elections into local government levels, state levels and federal level. If they manage to win elections, which am sure they will. Then they should develop their area. Being in power will be a better way to fight for resource control and redress injustice. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK