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N’Delta: Aftermath of Disarmament

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On the 4th of October, 2009, the period set for the amnesty process will come to a close. A review of the process so far will reveal some modest success but there are a lot of challenges. First and foremost, It is clear that the amnesty process has been politicised. As Jide Ojo has argued.

Perhaps, the greatest threat to the amnesty deal is the frosty relationship and muscle flexing between two Timis. The administration of Timipre Sylva, Governor of Bayelsa State has accused the Honourary Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Matters, Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe of undermining his authority. The Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government had in a reaction to the disarmament that took place at Azuzuma, Bayelsa State accused Alaibe of introducing politics into the amnesty exercise. The SSG also said the protest in Yenagoa is politically motivated to erode the gains recorded by his governor in the amnesty programme. It is an open secret that Timi Alaibe has his eyes fixed on the governorship of Bayelsa State and would want to make capital political gain of his present position. However, the issue at hand needs to be dispassionately tackled so that the amnesty deal does not get scuttled. There is need for the two Timis to sheath their swords and work together in the larger interest of Nigeria and their Niger Delta region.

It would be recalled that on September 6, 2009, thirty-year-old South Wing Commander of the MEND, Mr. Kile Selky Torughedi, a.k.a ‘Young Shall Grow’ submitted a large cache of weapons to Timi Alaibe. They included assorted guns and rifles, grenade launcher chargers, grenades, dynamites, bombs and gun boats. He claimed he had 350 fighters and that he speaks French and has soldiers from Liberia and Gabon. In a footage of his village shown on one of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) on September 17, I saw a Nursery school founded and funded by Kile as well as old women he engages on environmental sanitation on N10,000 monthly salaries each. Talk of failure of governance!

Secondly, there has not been professional execution of the process. The laid down process of disarmament and demobilisation was not followed in all cases leading to demonstration by militants in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State on 4th, 7th and 25th September, 2009. The militants complained of being accommodated in dilapidated buildings in rehabilitation centres and non-payment of their allowances.

Thirdly, the root causes of the crisis in the Niger Delta have not been tackled. Peace requires justice. For the amnesty process to succeed, the injustice done to the Niger Delta people over the years must be redressed. Peace. without justice is peace of the graveyard and is not sustainable.

Furthermore, the level of participation of international and local observers, communities and stakeholders in the process is low. Peace process requires robust participation of stakeholders to increase confidence. In particular, the participation of women in peace building is key because women’s participation not only put new items on the agenda but also because women are perceived to be more empathetic which enhances their reconciliatory and political work as negotiators and possibility of fostering confidence and trust.

As has been alluded to above, disarmament and demobilisation without an effective reintegration programme will only produce “temporary peace” of the graveyard. A successful amnesty process or DDR should create the basis to right the wrongs of the past and help to create a just and equitable society. By the time that the amnesty period expired on 4th October, 2009, it was unlikely that majority of the militants had handed in their arms and ammunitions.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had requested for extension of the deadline. At the expiration of the moratorium period, the Federal Government is expected to resist the temptation of launching a new military action against militants who may not have surrendered. That will only escalate the crisis and create a new wave of militancy. As General Luke Aprezi, a former Commander in ECOMOG and Force Commander for the African Union Force (now UN Force) has counselled,I can tell you point blank that the war is not winnable by the Nigerian Army. Military can never solve the problem in the Niger Delta. Because Sri Lanka fought the Tamil Tigers for 26 years and now they seem to have defeated the Tamil Tigers, but then, you win the war, have you won the peace? It is what will come out of winning the peace that will determine whether there would be further uprising or not.

I can categorically tell you that Nigerian army cannot win the war in Niger Delta. From my experience all over the world, at best military will carry out a holding action till a political solution is found.

Secondly, every effort must be made to avoid the politicisation of the re-integration phase of the amnesty process which will determine whether or not there will be reversion to violence.

Furthermore, the capacity of the relevant officials must be built to proper handle the reintegration process. The errors that led to the demonstration of militants in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State must be avoided.

Another important point is that states and local government areas in the Niger Delta must change their ways in terms of transparency and accountability to ensure that the vast amount of resources that have been flowing into the Niger Delta since 1999 can be translated into improvement in the lives of citizens. From 1999 to 2007, Delta State received the sum N463 billion from federal allocation. This amount is more than allocation to five states (Anambra, Gombe, Ekiti, Nassarawa and Plateau) put together. This is why Mr. Konyinsola Ajayi pointed out that “it is a shame that Delta State is not a mini-Dubai today, given the enormous resources that have been allocated to the state.” Until the people of the Niger Delta see politics as service to the people and not an avenue to “come and chop” either alone or in conjunction with others, there will be no meaningful progress in the region.

Igbuzor is a guest of the editor.

 

Otive Igbuzor

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NCWS Hails RSG’s Steps Against Illegal Refining

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The President of the Rivers State Branch of the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Princess Mariam Tolofari, has commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for taking decisive steps against illegal oil refining, air pollution and environmental degradation in the state.
Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt, state president of NCWS maintained that Wike’s physical visit to some sites of the illegal refineries, mandating and supporting the state security agencies, local government chairmen and chiefs to swiftly end illegal refining has significantly reduced the menace of soot and its attendant environmental degradation and health hazard in the state.
Tolofari said that the governor’s resolve to end the soot in the state was heroic and valiant, while also backing the governor’s call on the Federal Government to respond to the issues giving rise to the soot epidemic in the state.
“We appreciate the governor for taking the bold initiative against operators of illegal refineries and the hydra-headed monster of black soot in Rivers State. We pledge to sustain and support a Green State that is healthy and beneficial to us all”, she said.
She further urged women to restrain their children and wards from joining persons engaged in ‘Kpo fire’ activities and ensure they stay focused in the pursuit of academic excellence and genuine business goals not associated to crime.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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Join War Against ‘Kpo Fire’, Monarchs Tell Rivers People

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Some traditional rulers in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area have called on Rivers people to support the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on the war against illegal oil bunkering.
The traditional rulers include the Paramount Ruler of Woji community, Eze Emeka Ihunwo, the EzeRisi/Ohia Mbam Abali, Eze Christopher Wonodi, and the Paramount Ruler of Iriebe community, Eze Jeremiah Worenwu.
The monarchs, who spoke in their palaces on the issue, said the war against ‘Kpofire’was a collective one as the situation has reached a dangerous point.
They also dismissed the claim that unemployment was responsible for the menace, adding that there was no society in the world where government employs everybody.
They also noted that the stealing of crude oil did not start today.
Speaking, Paramount Ruler of Woji community, Eze Emeka Ihunwo, said the situation has taken a serious pitch, adding that a lot of lives were being lost as a result of the soot.
Ihunwo also described the action of the governor as timely.
According to the Woji monarch, those in the business of illegal oil bunkering do not know the health hazard they were causing to the people.
Ihunwo said that, in 2018,he invited the youths to his palace and mobilise them against operators of illegal refineries using Woji as conduit channel for evacuation of illegally refined products, and stressed that because of the collective understanding and collaboration of all stakeholders, Woji has not recorded any such criminal act within the community.
He, therefore, challenged other monarchs to emulate the Woji example.
The monarch also acknowledged a reduction in soot in the atmosphere in the state capital, while the amount of oil spill on surfaces of water has also reduced.
Also speaking, the Eze Risi/Ohia Mbam Abali, Eze Christopher Wonodi, said the intervention of the governor has saved the people of the state from series of health challenges.
Wonodi said it behooves the people of Rivers State to give their maximum support to the governor to succeed in eliminating the scourge of the soot pandemic in the state.
He also advised the youths to desist from the nefarious act and find other legitimate means of eking out aliving.
Wonodi also said that his kingdom has started sensitising the people against involvement in illegal oil bunkering.
On his part, the Paramount Ruler of Iriebe community, Eze Jeremiah Worenwu said Wike has shown that he has the capacity to solve societal problems.
Worenwu said that Iriebe community would comply fully with the governor’s directive to stop illegal oil bunkering, and warned those who may want to delve into the illegal business to stay away from the community.
While describing the governor’s action as welcome, the Iriebe monarch said the war against ‘Kpo fire’ needs the support of all members of the society, including the security agencies.

By: John Bibor, Oribim Ibama

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ABOLGA Boss Declares Zero Tolerance On Oil Bunkering Activities

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The Chairman of Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Hon. Daniel Daniel has thrown his weight behind the ongoing war against soot in Rivers State, assuring that his administration would do everything humanly possible to smoke out the criminal cartels involved in the illicit business.
The chairman, who declared that his administration would not condone activities of artisanal crude oil refineries in Abua/Odual, said he would demolish all illegal oil refining sites in the LGA, as directed by the state governor.
Speaking after visiting one of the uncovered artisanal crude oil bunkering sites in Odau Community, Daniel commended the efforts of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his relentless pursuit towards bringing to an end the menace called soot, which was threatening the very existence of the people in Rivers State.
He added that the practical steps taken by the governor within the last few weeks was yielding results.
Daniel used the opportunity to caution those who play politics with the fight against soot in the state to desist forthwith.
He further added that it was not proper to politicise this all important issue, which was causing harm to the environment and killing the people slowly.
The chairman called on all indigenes and residents of Abua/Odual Local Government Area to join forces to nip the danger posed by the soot the bud.
The ABOLGA chief executive alsosaid that anyone with useful information onthe locationsof the sites and names of operators where illegal oil bunkering activities are taking place within the area should report with immediate effect, to him or the DPO of the Abua/Odual Divisional Police Command for necessary action.
He disclosed that as the chairman of council, he has knowledge of all forests/communities in the LGA, adding that his administration would leave no stone unturned in implementing the directives of the state governor.
The site visited in Odau Community has over 15 boiling pots and occupies an estimated geographical area of over one hectare of land.
The Tide learnt that the site is bounded by communities from Ahoada-West LGA of Rivers State and Ogbia LGA in Bayelsa State.
Those who accompanied the chairman on the enforcement visit are the DPO of the Divisional Police Command and his men; the C4i LGA commander and his team of gallant men.
Others are the Chief of Staff to the Chairman, Hon. Okpokipoiy Peters; Supervisor for Environment, Hon Vincent Reuben Obu; and his works counterpart, Hon. Zinami Fyneroad Iwariso; Special Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs to the Chairman, Hon Alex Walters who is an indigene of the Odau Community, among others.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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