How Not To Contain Niger Delta’s Oil War

831 views | Akanimo Sampson | July 16, 2021

The Nigerian state is currently making a seeming frantic effort to contain the uprising of Boko Haram in the North-East, banditry in the North-West, the herders bloodletting in the Middle-Belt, the hot Oodua Republic agitation in Western Nigeria, and that of Biafra in Eastern Nigeria. Before now, the oil-bearing creeks of the Niger Delta have been excessively garrisoned to ensure steady flow of oil. Garrisoning the oil and gas region has never prevented the ‘freedom fighters’ from striking when necessary.

Now, Abuja has opened another window for a fresh unease in the oil region. This is even as the leadership of the House of Representatives has submitted its magic bullet for Nigeria’s security crisis to President Muhammadu Buhari for urgent implementation. Sadly, that magic bullet is not likely to take care of the security challenge the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as passed by the National Assembly will be throwing up in the Niger Delta, the country’s vastly polluted oil and gas region.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, led principal officers to the State House in Abuja to present the report of its Special Committee on National Security to President Buhari. In their view, the report contained far-reaching recommendations by the committee, which was chaired by Gbajabiamila, on how to tackle the festering insecurity in the country.

The House panel held a Special Summit on National Security in Abuja on May 25, where major stakeholders x-rayed the security challenges of the country and came up with recommendations as part of the legislative interventions to address the situation. The report which is broken into two major categories has seven recommendations for Legislative actions and 19 others for Executive actions.

At their Tuesday’s plenary, legislators considered and adopted the panel’s report before the House leadership proceeded to the Presidential Villa to submit the document to Buhari.

Before the report was passed, Gbajabiamila recalled how the House was disturbed over the rising security challenges and had to respond within the means available to it to support the Executive arm. He said, ‘’the committee met with experts and came up with several recommendations on the legislative steps to be taken and the executive steps to be taken to address insecurity.”

After submitting the report at the Villa, Gbajabiamila told State House Correspondents that he believed with the calibre of people Buhari invited to attend the brief event, the report will be given adequate attention, pointing out that the Legislature has  done its work and passed over the remaining part to the Executive, which is expected to act expeditiously on the recommendations.

“There’s a legislative part to it, and it ends with us. In terms of the Executive, we’ve kicked the ball to them. You could see that the Service Chiefs, SGF, the Chief of Staff and the rest were all there. We were just coming to submit the report, but Mr President brought all his team and that alone is a sign of good faith. We believe that reading the report, it will be implemented”, Gbajabiamila said.

Adding, he argued, if implemented, the report will go a long way in resolving the security challenges in the country, adding that among some of the legislative steps were the nine bills recently proposed to the House for passage, dealing with different aspects of insecurity.

Disappointingly, the same federal legislators who are pushing for the resolution of the country’s security mess have laid landmines in the Niger Delta with the PIB. Like a political activist, Dr Nnamdi Onochie, rightly said, the PIB passed by the National Assembly will bring more problems to Nigeria than resolving them. The PIB in its current form, according to Onochie, has been fashioned to divide Nigeria the more, with the reduction of royalties payable to oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.

Federal legislators on July 1, passed the PIB after 20 years, setting the tone for the legislation to be exploited in the effort to revamp the country’s petroleum industry. But, there are growing concerns that the consequence of PIB as passed by the lawmakers will increase irredentist agitations, vandalism of oil installations, bunkering, revenue loss and endemic militancy in many oil-bearing communities in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

Already, Nigeria is being asked how it can justify the view that passage of pipelines through a community is equivalent to actual exploration or extraction of oil and gas; hosting production facilities or actual production?

Onochie is insisting that once President Buhari assent to the PIB, the law will become another instrument of division, oppression and disunity in Nigeria, especially in Niger Delta communities. Like many others concerned citizens, he is urging the federal legislators to revise the PIB or defer it to the moment when restructuring will further unite and strengthen Nigeria.

Our logic is that the gold currently being extracted commercially in Zamfara and Osun States is transported by road and by air. Does it make states along the passage routes gold-producing states? The new position on the passage of oil and gas pipelines has become the basis of re-categorising oil-producing communities. Was that re-categorisation guided by truth and conscience to the glory of God?

However, the seven Legislative Actions adopted by the House are:

1. Set a declassification period and process (backed by law) for security votes: Security votes at all levels should be declassified at the end of four years for legislative review and four years thereafter for public access, towards improving the utilization of the votes for Enhancing security;

2. Establish development commissions across all six of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones: e.g South-South Development Commission, South West Development Commission, North East Development Commission, South East Development commission, etc.

3. Strengthen the Federal Character law, to ensure better and more vigorous enforcement and implementation. Every Nigerian deserves to be treated with dignity and rights irrespective of where they may physically be located in the country;

4. Establish an interventionist agency (or add to the role of an existing Agency) to identify and provide little investment and sustenance opportunities to ex-convicts, jobless youths, discharged but indigents military and paramilitary personnel, among others; it is being alleged that most of the violent crimes are committed by these classes of citizens. Maintain a central database of convicted persons, persons who have served out their terms, and persons in prisons and awaiting trial;

5. Establish a national transitional justice framework. The absence of a unifying Transitional justice framework remains a challenge in addressing Nigeria’s intractable conflicts. Existing Transitional Justice frameworks e.g., designed to address the Niger- Delta or the Boko Haram insurgency, will require review, towards applying them to the many victims of the other security challenges.

6. Invite representatives from Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter to a special dialogue to discuss a voluntary Platform Regulations framework that centres the need for platforms to have content regulation policies themselves that are well designed and consistently enforced in Nigeria. (Increasingly complex phenomena such as the use of automation to manipulate algorithms that control the digital information, we see mean that it is ever more difficult to navigate online spaces. Social media analysis has revealed that the Nigerian online space shows evidence of up to 19.5% bot usage; that is to say, programs or scripts were written to artificially increase the visibility of certain kinds of content. In recognition of this, social media companies themselves have an ever more important role to play in moderating content on their platforms).

7. Resolve legislatively, the crisis of overlapping mandates amongst the various security-related agencies.

For the Executive actions, the following 19 recommendations were passed by the House for immediate execution:

(1) Instruct the immediate enhanced training for the Police Mobile Unit to improve their capacity to deal with insecurity. A special team of 40,000 Police Mobile Unite officers should undergo this special training. 1,000 should then be deployed to every state for immediate operations.

North East, South West, South East can receive the officers remaining out of the 40k.

(2) Create a new team under the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to train and work with the guards of Nigeria’s forest. This unit will collaborate with the current Forest Guards who will remain under the control of states

(3) Encourage the Intelligence Agencies (working with the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Defence Staff) to initiate a screening and vetting program of all frontline officers of the Nigerian military to fish out moles and double-agents who have so far compromised most  efforts at combating insecurity and win the war against insurgents and terrorists.

(4) Strategically, the Executive should initiate a Presidential Police Reform initiative that will be resident in one central place within the Presidency. Also, an operational specialised unit should be established within the NPF to champion and drive all the change initiatives (based on a Presidential Policing Reform Roadmap) from within the institution.

(5) Direct the use of the Nigerian Police Trust Fund to procure some of the immediate equipment need by the rank-and-file police officers in Nigeria. This intervention will include the procurement of modern critical equipment for the Nigeria Police Force as specified by the leadership of the NPF.

(6) Give immediate consideration to the use of Private Defence Contractors for targeted security operations to combat insurgency and terrorism especially.

(7) Urge the Executive to use all means at its disposal (while Legislation is pending), to require the creation of a protocol that will compel intelligence (as a matter of necessity) sharing amongst all security agencies.

(8) Deploy Early Warning Systems nationwide including installation of CCTV cameras and other surveillance, satellite and electronic equipment along major highways, public places, and major cities and our borders.

(9) Establish and strengthen a National Crisis Centre (NCC) within the Nigerian Police. The NCC will be the national coordinating centre for all civil security response actions and monitoring of resolutions of such with monthly reporting on all incidents. It will also be the central place for any Nigerian to report major security incidents.

(10) Through an Executive Order, initiate a Civilianisation programme in all our security agencies. This should compel the agencies to use civilian staff to perform most back-office and non- tactical duties. This initiative will free up thousands of security personnel for frontline duties immediately;

(11) Encourage and resource the National Orientation Agency and the Federal Ministry of Information to begin a structured strategic Communication and orientation campaign using  all available media channels and platforms to promote peaceful coexistence and national  unity.

(12) Support for the creation of Local Security Committees in all 774 Local Government Areas. This panel should include Traditional Rulers, Religious institutions, and local opinion leaders. This should be managed by the NPF as part of its Community Policing mandate;

(13) The use and development of grazing reserves and ranching should be pursued in lower population areas. Pilot schemes should commence immediately in all states that are positively disposed to it.

(14) Strengthening the judicial and law enforcement administration through a Digitisation initiative for the judiciary. This will speed up the administration of Justice and reduce corruption. Swift administration of justice will help reduce causes of disaffection which feeds into insecurity.

(15) Strengthen and instruct widespread use of the centralized national criminal database by the NPF and mandate access for other security agencies, providing resources to ensure this can be done. This should also include modernization of the national fingerprint database.

(16) The NSA in collaboration with civil security agencies should identify, map, and arrest cult group leaders, violent agitators, and networks of criminal groups at tertiary education level as well as society at large;

(17) The country’s dependence on the import of basic security requirements should be reduced by enhancing the existing military production facilities and private companies across the country  for immediate supply of needed security equipment.

(18) Target poverty as a must; as poverty is the main driver for all the insecurity issues currently prevalent across the nation. This can be done through a focus on infrastructure and a new jobs’ creation drive and initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Executive is also urged to consider doing even more by declaring a state of emergency on job creation-considering the high rate of unemployment;

(19) That Nigeria must take major steps to control the flow of illegal arms into the country. The first step must strengthen the control of our borders to detect and seize any illegal shipment of arms into the country, and arrest and prosecute any person associated with the illegal flow of arms into the country. In the next step, Nigeria should reach out to overseas arms dealers to enlist their cooperation against the sales of arms to non-state actors. A third step should be a major diplomatic initiative with the governments of countries known to have companies engaged in selling arms to non-state actors. Continuous Arms-Collection and Depository scheme should be established national to encourage disposal and collection of illegal firearms.

 

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