FEATURE ARTICLE

Priye S. TorulaghaMonday, July 20, 2009
[email protected]
Boston, MA, USA

ANNOUNCE THIS ARTICLE
TO YOUR FRIENDS

IS MILITARY OPTION VIABLE IN THE NIGER DELTA?

fter the recent military bombardment of various communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Delta State of Nigeria, Nigerians who have been itching for a full blown military action applauded and encouraged the expansion of the operation to other oil producing states in order to put a death nail on armed opposition to oil and gas exploration in the Niger Delta. There is no doubt that those who applauded the military action were buoyed by reports that the operation was a complete success. As a result, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Joint Task Force: Operation Restore Hope, many Nigerians, especially from the non-oil producing regions, some political leaders in the oil producing region and the National Assembly jubilated and recommended the expansion of the military operation throughout the oil region, particularly to Bayelsa and Rivers States.


advertisement

Arguments

It is argued that those who applauded and gave a green light for the expansion of the military operation to other parts of the oil region did so due to the following reasons: (1) they have no clue about what to do with the situation in the Niger Delta; (2) a vast majority of Nigerians, especially from the non-oil producing regions, including political and military leaders of the country, have no clear understanding of the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations; (4) they are not aware of the logistical difficulty of operating militarily in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta and (5) they applauded and encouraged further military action because they were fed false information about the success of the Gbaramatu operation.

It is believed here that if Nigerians who supported, applauded and encouraged expansion of the military operation were fully aware of the circumstances, they would have been more cautious in encouraging the military option in solving the Niger Delta matter.

Therefore, the purpose of this write up is to explain (1) that Nigerian military and political leaders, including a vast majority of the members of the National Assembly have no clue about what to do in order to stabilize the Niger Delta, (2) that they have no clear understanding of the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations in a riverine topography, and (3) they are not aware of the logistical difficulty of operating militarily in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta.

1. Nigerian political and military leaders have no clue about what to do in order to stabilize the Niger Delta.

  1. First, the region was neglected for almost forty years as if the territory was not part of Nigeria. The neglect continued even after the region became the major source of revenue for the country starting during the civil war (1968) and continuing up till 1997. Nigerian leaders rarely visit the region and when they do they fly in either by helicopters or take luxurious boat trips. Most often, they stopped in Port Harcourt and Warri and ignored the riverine part of the region. They rarely visit rural areas to see how oil operations actually work.

Based on the reaction of those who support military operations to supposedly stabilize the Niger Delta, it is possible to say that a sizable percentage of Nigerians, especially from the non-oil producing regions only seem to care about using the oil wealth to build the infrastructure in their own regions, states, and communities, as well as enrich themselves. They are not interested in the fact that oil and gas operations are very polluting and destructive to the environment and the people. Since they do not care much about the environment and the inhabitants of the region, they insist that oil production should increase, regardless of the ecological damage that petroleum and gas exploration causes in the Niger Delta. They want the indigenes of the region to either die away through biochemical poisoning and suffocation or disappear so that they can reap the oil benefit without any impediment. These Nigerians feel that any body or group which threatens the exploration of oil and gas should be eliminated. This is why Nigeria has tactically eliminated the sons and daughters of the region who made efforts to educate the world about the problems faced by the indigenes of the region. For instance, Nigeria had no reason whatsoever to kill Ken Chief Saro Wiwa but it did because the leaders of the country and those who stand to gain believed that anybody who interrupts oil and gas exploration must be eliminated.

First, it is obvious that Nigerian leaders have no clear understanding of the situation. Hence, the country seems to go after those who are willing to talk. For instance, among the armed elements in Rivers State, Dokubo Asari was the first to voluntarily agree to disarm. As soon as he surrendered his arms, Nigeria went after him. Finally, he was tricked, arrested, detained and tried for treason. On the other hand, those who were still carrying their guns were allowed to roam free. While Nigerian leaders talked about amnesty, Mr. Asari was arrested and detained again in June 2009 on returning from Germany. Again, among those who have been associated with the armed elements, Government Ekpemupolo, otherwise known as TOMPOLO is the most forthcoming. He helped to bring federal, state, and local leaders together. He even engaged in peace talks with the Federal Government and the oil companies. Yet, it is Tompolo who is willing to listen and talk which the JTF went after with all its guns (army, navy and airforce) blazing. If Nigerian leaders really want a peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta problem, why is the JTF going after those that are willing to negotiate? By going after those who are willing to talk, Nigeria is tactically forcing those who do not want to talk at all to continue fighting. This means that there are Nigerians who benefit from a state of conflict than from a state of peace. Hence, the tactical effort to destroy the peacemakers while embracing the war makers. There must be a strategic reason why peacemakers are quite often more targeted than the non-peacemakers in the Niger Delta. The implication of the Nigerian tendency to go after those who are willing to talk is that Nigeria really does not want to solve the matter peacefully. Nigeria actually seems to prefer a military solution, otherwise, it would not be going after those who are willing to talk.

A second noticeable behavior is that the JTF always try to provoke the armed groups when those groups announce a ceasefire. Is it a coincidence that whenever the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) or the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) announces a ceasefire, the JTF will carry out a provocative action that forces the armed group to renounce its ceasefire in an effort to retaliate against the JTF? It should be recalled that the JTF killed about 13 innocent civilians who were traveling from Fropa to Yenagoa in Bayelsa State at a time MEND had announced a cessation of operations in August 2008. The action of the JTF forced MEND to announce that it will retaliate for the killings.

A third observation is that whenever President Umaru Yar'Adua and top officials of the Nigerian Government announce that the government would seek a peaceful means to end the crisis in the Niger Delta, the JTF always carry out a military operation. For instance, as soon as President Yar'Adua first floated the idea of amnesty around August/September 2008, the JTF carried out series of attacks against militant positions. It happened in Tombia in Rivers State and in Bayelsa State. The president barely finished announcing the creation of the Ministry of the Niger Delta when the JTF carried out the Alakiri attacks and the shooting of a boat that was carrying peace negotiators in Rivers State

Thus, the JTF attack on Gbaramatu followed the intensification of the president's effort to establish the amnesty program. The timing of the attack against Gbaramatu was incredulous in the sense that at the time, the leaders of various armed factions were contemplating whether to accept the amnesty before the JTF launched the ill-fated operation at Oporoza which led to fierce resistance and the lost of lives of soldiers. The lost of soldiers angered the JTF. This resulted in the launching of the aerial bombardment against Gbaramatu communities in retaliation for the lost of lives of soldiers.

A fourth observation is that while President Yar'Adua insists on one hand that the Niger Delta matter would be solved through peaceful means, on the other hand, he constantly provokes the situation by taking actions that violate the spirit of understanding and peaceful co-existence. For instance, while he maintains the position that the Niger Delta matter would be resolved peacefully, he slaps the peoples of the oil producing region on the face by appointing mostly officials from the non-oil producing regions to head the significant positions in the oil-related government agencies. Similarly, while the president was floating the amnesty program, the Federal Government announced that the Petroleum University will be located in Kaduna and not in the oil producing region. He did not hesitate to approve the decision for aerial bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom by the Nigerian Airforce, knowing full well that such action could instigate further destruction of oil pipelines and flowstations. In a nutshell, the president and high government officials are sending mix messages about what to do in the Niger Delta

A fifth observation is that while the Federal Government tries to create the impression that it is doing everything possible to put teeth into the amnesty program and to gain the confidence of the armed groups, the JTF is busy making sure that civilians who were forced to flee during the aerial bombardment of Gbaramatu do not return to their homes. If the JTF does not allow the civilians to return to their communities, how can it guarantee that when the armed boys give up their arms, they would not be tactically eliminated by the JTF? It is obvious that the lack of trust is prolonging the regional matter. The president can build trust by unconditionally releasing Henry Okah. So far, there is no desire to show any willingness to forgive..

A sixth observation is that the JTF engages in extrajudicial killings in the oil producing region. Any unfortunate person who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time is subject to summary execution. Quite often, there is no punishment for military personnel who carry out extra-judicial killings. Added to this is the fact that military officers who carry out extra-judicial killings are promoted quite easily by the armed forces establishment. For instance, Maj. Paul Okuntimoh was promoted after destroying and killing Ogoni people. Col. Akabiagba was promoted to the rank of a Brig. General after burning down Odi. The officer who carried out the Odiama operation was not court-martialed even though the military establishment acknowledged that the Odiama operation was not approved by federal authorities. There is no doubt that the officer who led the operation to bombard Gbaramatu communities would be promoted soon.

A seventh observation is that the Federal government continues to treat the Niger Delta region as a colonial possession, rather than as part of Nigeria. Nigerian leaders always find it difficult to embrace and treat the region as part of the country. As a result, Bakassi was ignored and treated as a mere outpost until Cameroon seized the opportunity to grab it. Now, the Federal Government is playing with Cross River State. All of a sudden, the state is no longer considered a littoral state. At the same time, it is no longer part of the oil producing region, hence, its allocation in the Federation Account has been drastically reduced. The lack of national sensitivity could instigate an armed opposition.

The eighth observation is that Nigeria has consistently refused to locate any major institutional or infrastructural facility in the oil region. Every major project which is capable of generating massive employment and capital is always located in the non-oil producing regions. By so doing, Nigerian leaders create the impression that the oil producing region is merely an economic plantation to generate national revenue.

Basically, Nigerian political and military leaders, the National Assembly, the Arewa Consultative Forum etc. have decided that oil is more important than the people who inhabit the oil producing region, therefore, if there is a need to kill twenty million of them so be it. Bluntly speaking, Nigerian political leaders have concluded that the indigenes of the Niger Delta are disposable to make way for unrestrained exploitation of oil and gas. Thus, the actions of the president in approving the Gbaramatu bombardment and the support for further military action by the National Assembly is that Nigerian political and military leaders have decided to adopt some elements of Sudanese tactics in Darfur to either neutralize resistance or drive the indigenes away through infliction of serious harm. This conclusion is drawn because no Nigerian leader has ever spoken about the need to initiate proactive measures in cleaning the environment in the oil region.

2. The Nature and Complexity of Oil and Gas Operations in a Riverine Topography

It is possible to infer based on the support given by the National Assembly, the ACF and others that a large proportion of the Nigerian population, especially, from the non-oil producing regions have no clue about the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta. They seem to confuse the way gold, tin, coal, diamond, and other minerals are mined in land-based territories with the way oil and gas are mined in the riverine areas. The reality is that oil and gas exploration is quite different from the way gold, tin, coal and other minerals are explored or mined.

  1. Oil and gas exploration is unique compared to the exploration of other minerals. Whether it is gold or tin or coal or diamond, an explorer or miner must first identify a particular spot, conduct a survey to determine the availability of the mineral and then begins to dig for the mineral. The mineral is extracted through digging or excavation, loaded into trucks or trains and taken to a processing center and processed. Sometimes, individuals are hired to manually process the mineral at the excavation site before being taken for further refinement. Quite often, the mining is done in one area at a time. Oil and gas exploration works differently from gold or diamond or tin or coal exploration. The oil and gas explorer or miner must first conduct a seismic survey, identify potential oil and gas spots in different locations of an area and then sets up instruments to extract the oil from the different oil and gas wells. Pipelines must be laid to transport the oil and or gas from the extraction points to a tank farm or a refinery for processing or export terminal since it is not quite possible to process the mineral right at the spot of excavation. This means that if oil or gas is spotted in Owerri or Ughelli or Yenagoa or Engene land, the oil or gas must be transported through a pipeline to the Eleme or Warri or Kaduna refinery for processing or to an export terminal for onward shipment overseas. In Nigeria, to ship crude oil to oversea destinations, pipelines must be connected to the Bonny, Brass, Eket and Escravos loading terminals. It is from these terminals that the extracted product is loaded into ships and carted away for processing. For gas, the same process follows, however, it must be sent to a waiting gas farm such as the one being built in the Ondo/Ogun States axis.

    Thus, due to the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations, pipelines criss-crossed the entire oil producing region because every oil and gas well must be connected by a pipe to a major trunk line or lines that moves the oil to the refinery or export terminal. There are hundreds, if not thousands of oil wells and these oil wells must be connected to a major trunk line(s). In a remote riverine area such as the Niger Delta, it is not possible to secure the wells and pipelines militarily.

    Generally, in goal or diamond or coal or tin exploration, most of the extraction activities are done in a particular location or spot. A company can extract gold or coal or tin or diamond from a particular spot on the land for ten or even twenty years without having to necessarily move around. In oil and gas exploration, there is a constant search since a particular oil well might only contain a few thousand barrels of oil or gas. Therefore, oil and gas exploration requires searching all around the oil and gas region for more oil block locations. This is why the entire Niger Delta is being explored by different oil companies. The more oil wells a company controls, the more money it makes. On the other hand, a company can make all its money in diamond or goal or cold in one spot for years.

  2. Unlike gold or tin or coal, oil and gas are very flammable minerals. This means that the slightest spark can ignite a huge ball of fire. Consequently, it is not possible to provide a fail-proof security for oil and gas facilities. On the other hand, it is much easier to provide security for gold or tin or coal or diamond facility due to the fact that most of the exploratory activities are done in particular areas and pipes are not needed to transport the minerals. On the other hand, due to the highly flammable nature of oil and gas, posting or stationing soldiers and police officers in an oil or gas flowstation or a major trunk pipeline does not provide security for the resource or the security personnel. It takes just one propelled grenade attack to ignite a major fire on a flow station or a pipeline. In the event of an explosion, there is not much the security personnel can do apart from running away to save their lives from the explosive fire that would take place.

  3. It is not possible to protect oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta because the facilities are located in every part of the region. Even if three hundred thousand troops were to be stationed in the Niger Delta, there would still be no security for oil and gas facilities.

  4. It is not possible to protect oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta due to the nature of the terrain. There are thousands of creeks, thick equatorial and mangrove forests, shallow and deep waterways. Moreover, the region is severely underdeveloped. This makes it exceedingly difficult for military forces to operate.

  5. The president, Nation Assembly, the ACF and others supported a continuation of military operation in order to wipe out the armed groups and stabilize the Niger Delta because they are told that the JTF is wining the war. They believe what they are being told due to the fact that most of them do not have any clear understanding about the true nature of oil and gas operations. Likewise, they have no understanding of the logistical problems that the JTF faces. The truth is that the JTF is not winning the war at all and it is desperate to reverse the situation. It is only taking a political posturing in order to create the impression that it is winning the war against the armed groups.

3. The logistical difficulty of operating militarily in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta.

The operational mandate of the JTF originated from Operation Hakuri II. Ret. Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the former defense minister (1999-2003) spelt out the goal of the military operation after the destruction of Odi by saying that the purpose of the military deployment to the Niger Delta was to protect oil facilities and secure the lives of oil workers. From Operation Hakuri II, a military division was permanently stationed in the Niger Delta. Evidently, the purpose of JTF is to secure and protect oil facilities and stabilize the Niger Delta to allow for unrestrained exploration of oil and gas. On the other hand, the goal of the armed militants, it appears, is to force a change in the status quo over the relationship between the oil producing region and Nigeria by intentionally disrupting oil exploration. To disrupt oil and gas exploration, their mission is to destroy oil facilities, thereby, drastically reducing the capability of Nigeria to produce oil. They believe that if Nigeria's capability to produce oil is drastically reduced, the country would be forced to negotiate in good faith, thereby, resulting in establishing a new relationship which would be beneficial to the oil producing region as well as Nigeria in general.

Obviously, for the JTF to accomplish its goal of securing and protecting oil and gas facilities and stabilizing the oil region, it must develop a security system capable of preventing the destruction oil and gas facilities and disruptions in oil and gas operations. For the armed groups to achieve their goal, they would have to destroy oil and gas facilities and disrupt oil operations.

The following provide reasons why the JTF is not winning and why a military solution will not solve the problem.

  1. As stated above, oil and gas facilities are scattered all over the region. The pipelines extend for miles upon miles, thereby, making it exceedingly difficult to secure them militarily. Even if three hundred thousand troops are deployed, it is still not possible to provide security for the oil wells, flowstations, pumpstations and pipelines. A single pipeline can extend for 10 or more miles from the oil well to the tank farm or oil refinery or trunk line or the export terminal. It is not possible to station a soldier or a policeman/woman along the entire length of any pipeline. This means that no pipeline can be fully protected. This also means that an angry youth can at any time blow up a pipeline if he or she wishes to do so.

  2. Most of the oil and gas wells are located in remote areas of the region. This means that it is very difficult to protect them. For some of the oil well locations, it is suicidal to station soldiers to maintain security.

  3. The Niger Delta contains thousands of creeks, waterways, inlets, islands,

    and thick equatorial and mangrove forests. To patrol the riverine areas of the region would require thousands of boats and highly trained marines with very specialized equipments. The Nigerian military does not have the technical capability to do so. Sen. David Mark understands the incapability of the military to perform in the riverine areas, hence, his suggestion for training in marine warfare.

  4. The Niger Delta is the least developed part of the country. This means that there is no easy way to travel around. For soldiers to move from one location to another, they need boats. A boat tends to render soldiers automatically powerless to react effectively if attacked. In short, being in a boat in the water is like being trapped in a gage. In other words, the neglect of the most economically strategic region of the country has come back to hunt the national security of the country. This is why this writer has maintained for a long time that Nigeria does not have an effective national security plan.

  5. To patrol or launch attacks against the militants, soldiers and naval personnel must use gun boats. To use gun boats effectively, they must have enough arms and fuel to move boats around. When a boat is loaded with arms and fuel, it becomes a bomb unto itself since the arms and the fuel can explode any time there is a forceful impact. Anyone who is familiar with water situation knows that it is very dangerous to be in a boat that is fully loaded with fuel and arms.

    There is no electricity and clean drinkable water in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta. This means that troops stationed in any part of the riverine areas must be provided everything they need from the outside, including houseboats, food, water etc. Soldiers are exposed anytime they take a trip on the waterways. In the interior part of the riverine areas of the Niger Delta, there is no escape route if ambushed because one can only run to the water or to the bush.

  6. Many creeks and waterways are not navigable by modern gunboats. Quite often, such creeks are surrounded by thick forests, thereby, perpetually creating the feeling that one is trapped.

  7. As major inland rivers flow toward the ocean, they are impacted by the cycle of full and ebb tides. Some of the military boats might be able to navigate some of the waterways during full tide. However, the same navigable waterways during full tide could spell doom for military crafts during the ebb tide when the water flows toward the ocean. Thus, the captains of the military crafts must be aware of this change in the water cycle.

  8. Due to severity of under-development, the Niger Delta provides a perennial logistical nightmare for military operations. Thus, unlike Sierra Lone, Liberia, Somalia, Darfur, Bosnia/Kosovo etc. the Niger Delta is a waterlogged region that is very antagonistic to an outside military force. Nigerian troops performed excellently in their peace keeping operations because most of the areas of operations were land-based, thereby, making it easy for mobilization, transportation and logistical support. Evidently, even though Nigerian troops have a high reputation internationally for carrying out military operations, they are not particularly trained for a riverine topography like the Niger Delta.

  9. It is very difficult for large naval ships to navigate most of the rivers and creeks in the Niger Delta. This means that the Navy cannot even use its big guns effectively. Even if it does, it would end up destroying many oil and gas facilities. Therefore, the Navy is not in a position to launch long range attacks using its large guns the way the US Navy did during the 2nd World War to drive away Japanese forces from the Pacific Islands. Most of the Pacific islands which the US attacked were located right in the ocean, thereby, making it possible for large naval ships to launch attacks against Japanese positions. In the Niger Delta, apart form the coastal areas that border the ocean, most oil wells are in areas that are beyond the ocean coastline. This means that a military force can only use smaller crafts to maneuver and patrol

  10. Due to the difficulty of the terrain and the manner in which oil and gas facilities are scattered all over the place, neither the Navy nor the Army can use long range guns or rockets. Such guns would eventually hit all and gas facilities and set them on fire. Consequently, the military forces can only operate in small units.

  11. The dedicated armed fighters operate using classical guerrilla warfare tactics because the topography of the Niger Delta provides them an excellent cover to move about at will. Moreover, the militants are indigenous to the region. This means that they are quite comfortable living and being around water. On the other hand, most Nigerian soldiers and naval personnel are from land-based areas of the country and are not generally very comfortable being around the water even though they can swim. There is quite a big difference between knowing how to swim and being comfortable around the water. It is only those who live around water which generally feel comfortable doing so. The following explains the reasons why Nigerians troops find it difficult to operate in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta:

    1. Due to the fact that most of them are not comfortable being around water, they are very jumpy when posted to guide oil flowstations and pipelines in the Niger Delta. A lot of the extra-judicial killings which the JTF has carried out is due to the extreme fear of being around water. Thus, they shoot indiscriminately, hoping to save their lives from being taken away by the militants.

    2. Due to the difficulty of the terrain, the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations and the difficulty of the assignment, quite often, JTF units dispatched to flush out the militants have ended up embarrassed militarily. At Odi, Odiama,, Tombia, Alakiri, Gbaramatu etc. they met heavy resistance, thereby, making it difficult for them to complete their operations. The anger emanating from the disappointment of not successfully completing their assignments led to the burning down of Odi, artillery bombardment of Odiama and the aerial bombardment of Obuama, Tombia and Gbaramatu Kingdom. It should be told that in Gbaramatu, the JTF was forced to use the Airforce because navy and army units originally sent to destroy Camp5 could not do so as the militants resisted. In the process, some of the gun boats were destroyed and about two or three were captured In fact, in the last two years, many Nigerian military gunboats have either been destroyed or captured. It could even be said that due to the difficulty of operating successfully in the riverine areas, the militants have been able to capture large quantities of arms from captured soldiers and gunboats.

    3. Although the president, National Assembly, the ACF and the general public are informed that the JTF is winning against the armed fighters, in truth, this is not the case. The main reason why the JTF bombarded the communities rather than attack the militants is due to the fact that they find it exceedingly difficult to get to the fighters. At Odi, they destroyed the community but did not captured the youths which they went for. At Odiama, the troops could not arrest members of the Esenesawo group that they wanted. At Gbaramatu, they could not get the boys which they went after. In each case, due to the frustration, they decided to destroy the communities nearest to the scene of battle. In battle after battle, most of the armed fighters have been able to slipped away because they are using guerrilla tactics.

    4. The JTF cannot militarily win the battle if the objective is to secure oil and gas facilities. In a full blown war, there is no doubt that the Nigerian military will dominate , control the entire Niger Delta and inflict unbelievable destruction on the people through aerial bombardment. However, even after winning the war, it would not be able to accomplish the goal of securing oil and gas facilities because the armed fighters would simply destroy the facilities as the try to slip away. The destruction of the facilities would impact the Nigerian economy drastically in a negative manner since the country depends greatly on revenue from oil and gas to sustain itself.

      As can be seen, this is already happening around Gbaramatu. Even though Nigerian troops are still stationed in those communities, the militants are still able to destroy oil pipelines despite the presence of the security forces. Thus, the capturing and occupation of a town or village has no bearing on the protection of oil and gas facilities since most of the facilities are spread far and wide. It is not possible to militarily contain the armed fighters if they decide to destroy petroleum facilities due to the difficulty of the terrain and the nature of oil and gas exploration.

      Consequently, the information being spread about the success of the JTF operation in Gbaramatu hides the fact that most of the militants escaped to fight another day. It was mostly the civilians that bore the brunt of the aerial bombardment. In fact, in almost every confrontation between the security forces and the militants, the militants, operating as guerrillas, have been able to slip away. Therefore, to say that the Gbaramatu operation was a success is to ignore the fact that most of the militants escaped. It is not surprising that after the JTF claimed to have captured Camp 5, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta carried out an operation in the same vicinity, almost in the presence of the military forces.

    5. President Umaru Yar'Adua and the military establishment should be very careful in dealing with the Niger Delta situation. If they keep sending the security forces to the Niger Delta, they could help to cause dissension in the lower ranks of the armed forces. The reason is that most of the foot soldiers who are now stationed in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta have begun to realize that the region is severely underdeveloped even though the region lays the golden egg that produces the national economy. Before the stationing of troops in the riverine areas of the oil region, many Nigerian soldiers did not believe the extent of the infrastructural underdevelopment. Now that they are in the region, they are seeing things first hand and digesting the information to make personal decisions about their presence in the region. By experiencing the severity of underdevelopment and the poverty of the people in the region, many foot soldiers could easily develop sympathy for the people and refuse to fight when ordered to do so. Similarly, due to the severity of underdevelopment, many soldiers stationed in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta could conceptualize their posting to the region as a form of punishment and become very angry toward the higher ranks of the military for sending them to a place where they have no room to maneuver.

    6. Most of the foot soldiers, police men and women and naval personnel know that most of the oil wealth is embezzled by a few individuals in the country. As the level of hardship increases while being stationed in the Niger Delta, some members of the security forces could easily conceptualize that they have no moral reason to be fighting against the militants since only a tiny minority of the Nigerian population benefits from the oil wealth. In fact, it is believed that only 1% of the Nigerian population controls about 70 to 80% of the country's wealth. It is also believed that about 75% of the private wealth is stored away in oversea banks. This means that most foot soldiers are suffering like other Nigerians while the top generals and those who are politically connected to the rulers embezzle most of the oil wealth. Therefore, it is possible for some of the soldiers to rationalize that they have no business fighting against the armed youths after all, the wealth is not shared across the board for all Nigerians. In other words, a military action in the Niger Delta could generate a moral debate among the solders as to the efficacy and justification for fighting to protect oil facilities when most Nigerians are suffering The possibility for rationalization of the need to fight can create serious national security problems for the country. Indeed, why should a soldier go fight and die to enable very few people to embezzle the wealth which could have used to improve the standard of living of every Nigerian.

    Conclusion

    Based on the discussion above, it is obvious that the military option is not a viable means for resolving the Niger Delta matter. It is indeed militarily not possible to secure and protect oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta. Anytime the militants feel threatened by JTF operations, they would increase their efforts to destroy and disrupt oil production. The oil companies are fully aware that the military cannot secure the environment for them to continue their exploratory activities if the militants decide to raise the ante. Most Nigerians who support military action are not aware that the militants are engaged in classical guerrilla warfare tactics. This makes it exceedingly difficult for the JTF to get to them. Due to the guerrilla tactics, the JTF bombardment and occupations of some towns and villages have no bearing on the security of the innumerable oil and gas facilities located all over the Niger Delta. This further means that the JTF occupation of Gbaramatu communities has no significant effect on the ability of the militants to operate.

    Evidently, while the JTF holds the ground, like in Gbaramatu, the militants continue to blow up the pipelines, thereby, countering the notion of military victory.

    It is only civilians which have nothing to do with the militancy that suffer from the bombardment and occupation. Consequently, Nigerians who jubilated and encouraged further military action are doing so based on a false sense of military success since they are not fully aware of the trickiness of the situation.

    If Nigerian leaders really want to understand the reality of the situation, the president, ministers, military generals, the ACF members who support military action and members of the National Assembly should take boat trips to the riverine areas of the Niger Delta where oil and gas facilities are located. It is the only way they can fully comprehend the nature and complexity of oil and gas operations, the difficulty of the terrain and the impossibility of the military forces to successfully accomplish the goal of securing oil and gas facilities. At the present time, most of the generals who support action are doing so because they do not understand the logistical nightmare that the captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals and privates encounter while stationed in a place like Obioku. Sen. David Mark understands the situation and is able to say so candidly because he is no longer an active member of the military establishment and does not need to create false impressions.

    Consequently, a military option, as some Nigerians want, would only lead to a drastic reduction in the capability of the oil companies to produce oil. Already, production levels have dropped, hence, Nigeria is no longer the largest producer of oil in Africa. Further military action will only lead to further reduction in the quantity of oil being produced because the JTF will never be able to secure the oil facilities. Therefore, the so called victory in Gbaramatu is merely a public relations gimmick by the JTF to put a positive face on a hopeless situation. It is obvious that the military option is not viable, despite the pretentious commentary about the successes of the JTF. Moreover, a military option would result in a Darfur-like scenario since the only way the military can create impact in the riverine areas is through aerial bombardment. Aerial bombardment would be catastrophic to the civilian population but would do little damage on the capability of the militants to destroy oil and gas facilities.

    By supporting military action, the National Assembly puts a seal of constitutional justification for the JTF to carry out actions that could seriously violate human rights of innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the militancy. Evidently, the leaders of the National Assembly could be legally liable if the JTF violates human rights in the future because they have given a green light to the military to attack communities in the guise of fighting the militants. They should not forget that the leader of Sudan was charged with crimes against humanity for the genocide in Darfur because of the allegation that the government was tactically in support of the genocidal activities of the Janjaweed militia.

    The only solution to the Niger Delta problem is a concerted effort on the part of the Federal Government to deal with the substantive issues through peaceful negotiations. In this regard, the president should withdraw the JTF, put more meat by offering life-changing options in the amnesty program to make it digestable for the real fighters to accept the deal, implement the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee and be more sensitive about locating oil-related projects in non-oil producing regions of the country while ignoring the oil region.

advertisement
IMAGES IN THE NEWS