Sustaining Security Gains in the Niger Delta

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Pockets of security breaches in parts of the Niger Delta in
recent times call for immediate attention if the Federal Government’s
Amnesty  Programme would not  be in vain. As experienced before the emergence
of militancy, youth bodies have started active cult and gang activities in the
Niger Delta.

But more troublesome is the current re-involvement of the
Niger Delta youth in illegal oil bunkering and the apparent struggle for
supremacy and territory. So worrisome, we understand that some young people
dwelling in some parts of a city now feel unsafe to reach other parts for fear
of possible attacks.  This should worry
the authorities.

We are aware of some efforts being made by the Rivers State
Government for instance to avert a resurgence of youth restiveness. Indeed, the
demolition of the Abonnema Wharf slum at the Mile 1 Diobu Area of Port Harcourt
was said to be an intervention in that direction.

Similarly, some alleged cultists operating at the Elechi
beach area of Diobu have also had their property destroyed, while the Chairman
of Eleme Local Government was also constrained to impose a curfew to deter
rival youth cult groups in the area.

Also worthy of note is the apparent offensive on illegal
bunkering, criminal refining and transportation of stolen petroleum products
across the Niger Delta. But we think that a lot more needs to be done to fully
re-direct the energies of the youth.

In the first place, we are disappointed that security
breaches of this magnitude would be allowed to assume a ground swell under the
watchful  eyes  of the Joint
Military Task Force (JTF) stationed at strategic places and communities
in the Niger Delta.

The Tide believes that the situation which has started
affecting  the peace of some local
communities may not afterall be a case of pampering but one of mutual economic
benefit of the parties at play.  If this
continues, the violent eruption of the Niger Delta may only be moments away.

Of course, to protect their illegal business, the cult
groups will acquire more guns, drugs and recruit many to swell their ranks as
the days go by.  Thus emboldened, they
will intimidate lawful authorities and even try to infiltrate the government of
the day. In fact, in some places, there is already name dropping  to the effect that legitimate officers of
state may be backing separate groups.

This is where it becomes very important for the security
agencies and the governments of the Niger Delta States to do something quickly
to sustain the gains achieved some years ago. The zero-tolerance for cultism
and illegal bunkering must be made abundantly clear at every opportunity.

Apart from the avoidable loss of lives and living – day fear
that ravaged the population, the failure of the authorities to keep  the brewing security challenges  in check, will endlessly pollute the
environment, corrupt the youth and make life meaningless in the region.

Already, the value system of the region has been altered
beyond words and the prevailing poverty in a place that produces much for her
country had tended to support the adoption of negative life styles. Indeed,
some of the youth leaders are becoming even bigger and more influential.

Some of the reasons for this development is the failure of
some of the youth to understand government’s inclusive tactics for what it
truly is. In fact, the use of some of them as security or surveillance
contractors by the oil and gas firms also appears to have been misunderstood
and abused.

While we call on parents, community heads and opinion
leaders to call the youth in the region to order, we think the security
agencies need to do much more. They cannot pretend to be un-mindful of the
criminal empire being rebuilt in parts of the region.

The security agencies must be clear as to who they owe
allegiance, the one they must protect and the ones they must pull down. To play
a double game and allow the existence of other power centres for whatever
reason cannot be accepted. Certainly, not when a backlash would spare nobody,
not even the indigent natives.

We still expect the Federal Government to put the post
amnesty promises in place, but until then no one should  forget the need for a sane, safe and
progressive society. Any state where laws are blindfolded and the perverts
given the air of legitimacy cannot serve the best interest of all.

That is why a very conscious effort must begin and with
reasonable force to check youth cultism and involvement in illegal
bunkering.  Apart from the fact that they
are killing the environment and themselves, the ill-refined products they pump
into the market kill even more.

The Niger Delta has gone through so much and so much has
also been given for its peace.  Let no
one or any ephemeral consideration take the region to that ugly past where life
meant very little.