There had been disturbing news and reports emanating from the Niger Delta oil basin of Nigeria in recent times. On Monday March 15, 2010, a car bomb explosion was reported around Warri while two state governors and other dignitaries were visiting the area. From the photograph in one of the National Dailies, this was not Xmas firecracker explosion! The use of car bomb is a new dimension in the Niger Delta and indeed Nigeria and may be interpreted as an escalation of the level of violence. I am not too sure the correlation is that simple. Earlier in the last number of weeks, there have been reports of pipeline and oil facilities bombing in what appear to be sporadic but farther from the relative calm that had been established since the amnesty deal between the Federal government of Nigeria and the various militant groups in the Niger Delta were brokered. It is interesting that in all the recent violent activities, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was always quick to claim responsibility for the attacks.
What can one make of this disturbing trend? Is this a breakdown of the amnesty deal? For sure, this renewed resort to violence must be seen in the context of the current political leadership stalemate and haphazard solution that was deployed to meet everyone half way without solving the problem at hand. The political and community leadership of the region while accepting that the constitutional provision for filling any vacancy created by an incapacitated president be followed, they are divided on the person of Dr Goodluck Jonathan or his commitment to continue the amnesty program started by the incapacitated President Umaru Yar’ Adua. A faction of the militants may be sending a message to Jonathan to quickly demonstrate his commitment to the continuation of the amnesty program. At a recent meeting of the Acting President and the state governors, it was reported that his home governor was the most vociferous of the group opposed to him establishing his authority on the country’s governance.
Other factions of the militant or youth organization may be grand standing to the other side of the succession crises of Nigeria and putting them on notice of what may be in the offing if they continue with a blatant rape of the country’s constitution. If these groups are loyal to the Acting President, then they may intend to draw the attention of the anti Jonathan group in the so called South-South region of Nigeria or the greater Niger Delta area.
There are other reasons that could have led to the resumption of violence. Some of the militant groups may have felt left out or short changed in the dividing of the amnesty money! Like any other things in Nigeria that have government arrowhead it is possible that the process of compensating the militants became slow or stalled. Usually, this is where moneys disappear into thin air!
While the above could be the some of the immediate causes of the return to violence, there are other plausible explanations. As would be expected, there were splinter groups that never bought into the amnesty idea in the first instance. There are also other militants deployed by politicians and community leaders to continue the state of heightened tension to mark their territory or areas of influence.
Some most plausible conclusions that one can reach from these events include:
1. The arms surrender exercise was, at its best, incomplete to say it mildly.
2. The use of car bombs may mean diversification of the tools of destruction available to the militants. It could also mean the diminishing of shaped, mobile pre-assembled arms and ammunitions available for the operational use of the militants. Thye now have to assemble the easier to find dynamite and other high explosives themselves.
3. The resort to car bombs may also mean the supply of custom made arms and ammunition especially from the Far East of the World may be dwindling either because of diplomatic pressure from the government of Nigeria or the supplier nations are putting the suppliers under closer scrutiny.
I believe there will be sporadic explosions and violence for any of the reasons above just to remind us all of the state of the agitations in the Niger Delta.
Despite the realities above, I do not think the level of violence will increase or is increasing in the Niger Delta.
It may be possible that the targets are increasing beyond oil and gas facilities to now include political gathering and other human denominated target areas. This will be unfortunately and sad for the industry, the government, and the polity of the Niger Delta and Nigeria.
By. Adebayo O. Akinpelu