Mar 21, 2006

Ogoni: Federal Government Deploy Troops in Oil-Rich Region

The President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee, said that war was not the answer and urged the Federal Government to be cautious
On 11 March the Federal Government began a massive deployment of troops in the troubled oil-rich city of Warri, suggesting that negotiations between the government and the Niger Delta youth militants, holding three foreign oil workers hostage in the creeks, may have broken down.

The deployment of troops coincided with a visit by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, to the Warri naval base, NNS Delta.

The number of troops now being deployed could, however, not be ascertained as the military did not use the Warri naval base which is in the town to make the deployment for security reasons.

But the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee, said that war was not the answer and urged the Federal Government to be cautious.

Speaking with THISDAY, the Ogoni activist said the most enduring response would be a massive deployment of funds to the region for its rapid development in such a way that plenty of jobs that would take the militants off the gun would be created.

The Federal Government, however, appeared to have a different think as Adekeye on arriving Warri in a naval helicopter proceeded to address Naval officers an exercise which took several hours.

At the end of the briefing, Adekeye was evasive in his response to questions asked by newsmen and left hurriedly after answering only three queries.

Adekeye, who was accompanied by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral John Kpokpogri, and the Commanding Officer, Warri Naval Base, Captain Mufutau Ajibade, told newsmen that a military option could not be ruled out in deciding the situation in the creeks, but made it clear that it would be the last option if all others fail.

THISDAY gathered, however, that the Chief of Naval staff might have decided to personally witness the deployment of the troops to the creeks, hence his presence in Warri at the Sunday deployment.

It was reliably gathered from impeccable security sources that there might be an ultimate show down at Okorenkoko between the military and the militants within the next few days, unless the hostages still in captivity were released. But Mitee said as long as the Federal Government continues to shy away from addressing the "genuine agitations' of the people of the Niger Delta, the killing of soldiers, taking of foreign oil workers hostage and bombing of oil installations by militia groups in the Niger Delta will not end. Apart from the killing of 13 Nigerian soldiers by militants last week, and the kidnap of nine expatriate oil workers last month, the activities of the militants have over the past months cut Nigeria's crude oil exports by as much as 458,000 barrels per day.

The MOSOP president blamed the activities of the militants on the failure of the Federal Government and oil companies to respond to the "genuine agitations" of the people of the region.

"These are things we all warned of before; that if we do not give peaceful advocacy a chance to succeed, then this sort of situation becomes inevitable," said Mitee, declaring, "it is unacceptable for communities to live in abject poverty and next door are oil workers living in opulence in these days of the Internet and GSM."

He identified the frustration suffered by the army of unemployed youths in the Niger Delta, "government rhetoric" on developing the region, and its failure to implement any of its white papers on the numerous crises in the region, as largely contributory to the current wave of militancy in the region.

He regretted that the Federal Government was spending so much to secure national security without realising that injustice was the greatest threat to national security.

According to him, "people are already getting a little bit frustrated and I think that the reactions of government have not helped matters. People feel as if government is not responding to their agitations. After almost every serious crisis in the Niger Delta, one committee is set up, after that, people go to sleep. They keep harping on national security perhaps without realising that the injustice remains the greatest threat to national security.

"There needs to be a dividing line between criminal elements and genuine agitations. Government has always treated both issues as if they are the same. Once you now move in and take the thing as a purely law and order thing, without dealing with the communities, then the communities now sit back and feel that government is actually not after the criminals, but after the champions of their agitations," he stated

The activist said apart from the creation of at least 20, 000 jobs as a "shock measure" in each of the Niger Delta states, oil companies should also embark on the provision of social amenities such as electricity and potable water to the host communities, since, in his words "no flow station that has extended light to the villages has ever been reported shut because if you shut it you will be plunged into darkness."

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