When afrobeat legend Fela used the phrase “double wahala for dead body”, he must have thought of suffering that continues after death. That is akin to the Game of Thrones’ Wights who are dead people facing the prospect of another death. We can also think of buried bodies that are dug up and body parts stolen for creepy purposes. That’s truly double wahala—rest eluding the dead.
The Obasanjo administration had the inglorious honour of being the first to be disturbed by “militants” in the Niger Delta. From bombing of oil pipelines and other installations, to the kidnapping of industry workers, these militants did enough to degrade Nigeria’s oil production rate, bringing it below 1.4 million barrels per day (mbpd). With the drop in oil revenues, President Obasanjo deployed Nigeria’s military might to the region’s creeks to flush out the production-impeding militants. This approach failed to solve the problem.
Enter the Yar’adua administration. In 2009, after a grace period in which militants were asked to return their arms, the government instituted an amnesty programme. This programme, with monthly stipends for “ex-militants” and the training of some (both locally and in foreign schools) helped to restore relative peace to the restive creeks. Oil production could then increase to over 2 mbpd. The “peace” was sustained through the Jonathan regime, until now. A new group, the “Niger Delta Avengers” has now started Militancy 2.0.
Before we proceed, a brief look at the Niger Delta area. This area occupies about 8% of Nigeria’s land mass, yet contributes over 80% of the nation’s foreign income. Years of oil exploration and production have devastated some areas, destroyed farmlands and made some rivers and streams unfit for humans. This degradation is accompanied by a lack of suitable infrastructure for the golden egg-laying goose. Several oil-rich areas neither have electricity nor potable water nor employment prospects. With oil money swimming in the hands of oil workers, these communities get consigned to high costs of living. These debilitating problems form Wahala #1.
We return to the issue of militancy and the avengers. When the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was mending the Niger Delta, their actions attracted global concern. Events in Nigeria, as a leading oil producer, coupled with Iraq’s instability, were affecting world oil prices. Thus the world was concerned, not necessarily because humanity is humane, but because the blown oil facilities were pinching the wallets of other countries. Compare that time to 2016 where oil prices see the prices of MEND’s time as the holy grail of prices, the utopia of prices. The Avengers are striking at a time of reduced global demand and a massive supply glut. Presently, shutting down Nigeria’s entire oil infrastructure would barely affect the price of crude oil. With this in mind, we should not be expecting global intervention in Nigeria any time soon.
Still on the Avengers’ Militancy 2.0, I wonder why they have chosen to “overkill” a dead horse. It is as if the existing environmental degradation is insufficient wahala for the dead environment. Now, they are topping up the Niger Delta’s “deadness”. The oil companies have succeeded in spoiling the environment. Does it make any “logical sense” to show annoyance by blowing up oil facilities? Whose environment are the blown facilities further polluting? The Avengers should allow the people of the region to lick their wounds in peace. No fire has ever been quenched by adding more fuel. Why then do the Avengers think the problem of oil spillages can be solved by causing more spillages?
With Nigeria’s dependence on the ignored Niger Delta’s oil, the Avengers have economic destabilization on their agenda. Let’s look at this with clear eyes. The Niger Delta, as part of Nigeria, also depends on a functioning oil industry. It is impossible to degrade Nigeria’s financial strength without flattening the Niger Delta’s income. When governments cannot pay salaries, who suffers? Certainly not the government. It is the man having no savings, who depends on his monthly salary, that would feel the greatest pinch. Presently, no state in the Niger Delta can pay salaries without oil revenue. Even in the private sector, a good number of companies have business models linked to the oil industry. These companies pay taxes (IGR!) and employees. This is something the Avengers should think about.
Is the Niger Delta being marginalized? Yes! Ignoring ethics and pragmatism, can the violence in the region be justified? Yes. However, I don’t think this is the right route. It is self-destructive. To start with, I don’t believe the Avengers have any integrity. At least, nothing compared to Marvel’s Avengers who fight for justice. These Niger Delta Avengers are just another ragtag group fighting to get a piece of the pie, just like the previous set. They would use the injustices in the region as a rallying cause to gain attention, then negotiate monetary rewards.
Let’s even assume that the Avengers are the real deal, brimming with integrity. The bombing isn’t the solution to the region’s problems. Before we think of tackling the blind-and-deaf federal government, have we tackled the problems at home? Have we held our state governments accountable for the monies received so far as derivation? The 13% is unfair, but have we used it judiciously? If we don’t fix our leaking drum, getting more oil into the drum would be a demonstration of wasteful foolishness.
The Niger Delta has suffered enough. It would be unfair to cause more wahala for the region. The current degradation and militarization is sufficient, no need for more. Captain America, leader of Marvel’s Avengers is an embodiment of patriotism. The Niger Delta Avengers should learn from him. If they would not develop patriotism for Nigeria, they should at least become patriotic indigenes of the Niger Delta. Then they won’t cause double wahala for our dead body.
Image Credit: ibtimes.co.uk