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In conflict resolution, it is always pertinent to establish a common ground which dialogue should revolve around. It is also important to note reconcilable differences in every parley where such ground can be envisaged.
This is why there is a great difference between the insurgency in the North East and the militancy in Niger Delta. While such common ground is absent in the North East attack, Niger Delta struggle is not bereft of such rallying point. The fact that, the boys in the creeks have not hidden their demands makes negotiations even more possible.
A group that shows willingness to negotiate should be given some forms of attention. On a negotiating table, there are issues that can easily be discarded or regarded by both parties where their desirability is objectively debated and considered. Whatever an issue may be, it is always advisable to bring it to the table for discussion. It is also noteworthy that energy spent in discussion is far less than the one spent in war. Therefore all parties should first explore the possibility of negotiation.
That is why the recent threats by Niger-Delta Avengers to resume its suspended hostility against oil and gas installations in the region should not be treated with levity. Their activities, you may recall almost crumbled the nascent administration of President Buhari, bringing oil production to 30 year low.
Resumption of destruction of oil facilities this time that there are signs of a possible end to recession would be the most unthinkable thing to be allowed to happen. It should be nibbed in the bud.
With an oil-sensitive economy like ours, any threat to its free-flow is a direct attack on the socioeconomic dynamics of the national economic development. The claim by the agitators that FG is only interested in their oil-well and not their well-being evokes a two-way emotion either for an action against the government or for government to do something about the apparent neglect of the region.
Apart from such activities halting the oil business in the region, many subsidiary businesses that depend directly or indirectly on the thriving petroleum business in the Niger Delta would suffer great losses that may lead to joblessness, hardship and further depreciation of naira. Do not forget that human lives would also be lost either by direct confrontation with the security forces or indirectly being a victim of pollution or oil-spillage as a result of explosion of oil installation.
With a statement conveying a threat of a possible brutal and bloody attack that will not spare any oil facility, it would therefore not be weakness but wisdom for government to address the contentious issues raised by the Avengers.
It is a pity as we have elected to remain behind in a fast changing globalized economy. While the world is gradually gravitating away from oil, we are increasingly dependent on it to drive the economy. Even now civilized world is exploring massive discoveries in Nuclear Technology Innovations. With this modern technology, there are increasing demands for nuclear-based technology. Even as it is today, with the mass production of electric cars with their less carbon emission, the global demand for fuel-powered technology is declining.
The nation’s mono-economy experience is like a proverbial farmer who put all his eggs in one basket and lost all of them in event of an accident. It is this unfortunate situation that constantly emboldens proliferation of adventures in oil-pipeline destructions by many youth groups. A country with diversified sources of revenue earnings would not be held to ransom this way.
But the government has no moral justification what-so-ever to continue to pay lip-service and give deaf ears to the yearnings of Niger Delta people, a region that is the mainstay of the nation’s economy. Take for instance, the deplorable living conditions of the inhabitants of the region who daily face the worst livable condition occasioned by pollution due to activities of oil companies in the region.
When an average Niger Deltan sees how Abuja, the seat of government is being transformed into a modern world class city with the resources from their region, the desire to protest becomes immanent and almost irresistible.
The plight of the people here is both deplorable and lamentable as life expectancy is lower than many regions in Nigeria. The daily inhaling of some pernicious substances being released to the atmosphere in the process of gas flaring and refining of crudes are quite harmful to the health. Take for instance the recent black soot plague experienced in Port Harcourt at beginning of the year. Experts say that such lethal substances can cause bronchitis, respiratory illnesses and cancer leading to premature death.
Those black substances were easily seen, what of others not so easily detected that dissolve in drinking water and settle on open food displayed for sales in markets?
The need for the FGN to meet with Niger Delta Avengers is both pertinent and imperative. Therefore, the recent assurance by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Usani Usani of the federal government’s readiness to meet with them is quite welcoming. One would only appeal for sincerity of purpose by our leaders in handling the obvious problems of the region.