Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MEND - Non Compos Mentis Gang of Pirates

It is unconscionable and grossly maladroit that the situation in the Niger Delta has been allowed to deteriorate the way it has. We all acknowledge that there are very serious environmental degradation issues facing the people of the region, whose leadership has for so long paid lip-service to the matter and lived fat off the largesse and patronage of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and erring oil companies in return for their reticence and ineptitude. This of cause has resulted in the explosion of activist groups of all ilks, some with legitimate causes and others with illegitimate self-serving agenda.

From MOSOP to MEND, the clarion call has been for supporters to fight against the iniquities perpetrated by the FGN and oil companies in the communities. Countless souls have been lost to the cause, many of whom have been caught in the cross-fire between the FGN and activist groups.

The past few weeks have seen the escalation of frank terrorist acts by MEND in the wake of its spate of attacks on oil installations and kidnappings. The brazenness of these attacks and sophistication of the weaponry employed leaves one to wonder if indeed the Nigerian security agencies are up to the task of keeping peace and law and order in these regions.

The FGN should not stand akimbo and allow the breakdown of law and order to the extent that several of its security agents have been murdered as a result of MEND's seemingly unchallenged ambushes and acts of lawlessness. Even if they indeed have a legitimate cause, by setting fire to oil installations, murdering several Nigerian security agents and innocent civilians alike and kidnapping employees of oil operators, MEND has crossed the line, and no self-respecting government would condone such criminal acts.

MEND has several times admitted that it is a gang of pirates and oil bunkerers. Should the FGN be doing business with criminals? There are intelligence reports that MEND enjoyed the patronage of the impeached Bayelsa state governor, Alamieyeseigha, who bought their peace and quiet by paying protection money to the pirate organization in the name of security vote. In fact, one of MEND's primary demands in its January hostage taking was the release and reinstatement of the impeached and indicted governor.

It is disgraceful to say the least that this gang of a few hundred criminals can hold the FGN and indeed the world oil market to ransom. Their acts have led to the suspension of oil production activities in large sections of the Niger Delta, resulting in substantial reduction in daily national oil output (in excess of 10%) and indeed loss of revenue to the FGN. Allowing MEND free rein to terrorize folks with impunity in the Niger Delta puts the FGN in a bad light. It means that the FGN cannot protect the live and property of its citizens and expatriate workers. With no guarantees of security, economic activities are seriously hampered. The region will continue to suffer its state of abject underdevelopment as no business would invest in the unstable region.

The Niger Delta issue is a delicate one, but this is largely because many of these so called freedom fighters are dishonest, self-serving organizations whose agenda is to extort money from the FGN and oil operators. All one needs to do is ask what MEND and its ilk and affiliates do with all the monies they have over the decades gotten from the oil operators, the FGN and its agencies. The monies are shared amongst the leadership of these spurious groups and their patrons while the innocent indigenes of the Niger Delta are left to suffer the consequences of the environmental degradation that these organizations themselves perpetrate in their acts of sabotage and bunkering, during which they blow up oil pipelines in order to steal oil.

There should be no pretences. The FGN should stop seeking to be politically correct by its inaction while its security agents and innocent citizens are being maimed and murdered in addition to the attendant loss of revenue resulting from the shut down of oil production activities in these troubled regions. The solution, politically unpopular as it may be, is to come down hard on these murderers with maximum force. Route out every single member of these terrorist organizations and bring them to book. At the same time, the FGN should seek to do business with law abiding bonafide environmentalist groups who are genuinely pursuing the Niger Delta cause and not those wreaking havoc and asking for ransoms and billions of dollars in reparation to be paid to their leadership. No one has bothered to ask these pirates how the reparation money they demand would be disbursed to the common Niger Delta folk if the FGN is naive enough to grant their wish.

The FGN set up agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) into which it has poured several billions of dollars to cater to the developmental issues of Niger Delta. These agencies have been headed variously by indigenes of the Niger Delta since their inception in the 1960s, but alas have made little impact because they are replete with corruption. Should not these environmentalist groups in a concerted manner be directing their effort at ensuring that these agencies are properly run rather than perpetrating random acts of terror? Is it not better to garner the support of the international community through advocacy at international fora such as the United Nations assembly, Common wealth of Nations, European Union sessions etc? By their dastardly acts of terror, these belligerent groups deplore the Niger Delta cause, rendering it an unpopular cause to back by influential international environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace International and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who have the clout to engender lasting change in the region.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure yout treatment of the issue is fair. MEND has been pushed to the wall.

Veracity said...

True, but is murder, kidnapping and sabotage the right thing? These are criminal activities and so long as the Nigerian government is charged with keeping peace, law and order, then members of MEND must be brought to book.

Sam said...
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