Oct 09, 2008

Ogoni: Technical Committee Crucial to Delta Security

Sample ImageChaired by Mr. Ledum Mitee, the Niger Delta Technical Committee is working to resolve the crisis of the Niger Delta, a new article sets the background to the Committee’s work. 

Below is an article written by Ochereome Nnanna and published by The Vanguard: 

The establishment of the Ledum Mitee-led Niger Delta Technical Committee by the Federal Government is possibly the most outstanding step ever taken toward addressing the issues of development and security in the troubled Niger Delta region of Nigeria 

We have seen federal responses to demands from the zone come and go without producing the desired results.  

We witnessed the establishment of the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida regime. It turned out to be another “settlement” or concession to shut the mouths of the “noisy” elite.  

Then, on assumption of office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo met the beginning of the armed rebellion, this time by Ijaw militants.  

After levelling Odi in a fruitless and quixotic impulse to re-enact his civil war “heroism”, he created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Subsequently he and the oil companies starved the Commission of its lawfully vested funds.  

The upshot was the gathering of greater venom by the rebellion and the forceful assumption of the prime spot by the Niger Delta issue both in national and international affairs. Each attempt made in the past created a lot of heat but little combustion. The reason was simple. They were merely cosmetic whitewashing of the very issue upon which the economic and political stability of the nation largely depends.  

After the nation toyed with numerous conferences, seminars and “summits”, the Umar Yar’ Adua regime finally decided to settle for the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta. Wisely enough, after briefly naming former Finance Minister, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu as its Chairman, the Presidency decided that the Committee should choose its own helmsman. 

The over 40-member Committee drawn from the nine constituent states of the Niger Delta is replete with men and women of great achievement. But in their wisdom, they chose a veteran of the Niger Delta struggle, Mr. Ledum Mitee, to chair the Committee.  

Mitee, you will recall, was the only one among the Ogoni MOSOP leaders (including Saro-Wiwa) who escaped the hangman following their death sentence by the Justice Ibrahim Auta’s Judicial Panel in 1995. He was reportedly saved as a result of personal intervention by a former Attorney General of the Federation (now late) in whose chambers Mitee once worked.  

Mitee has therefore, like an old broom, seen all sides of the struggle. He is above the nit-picking truculence of overnight television militants who are obviously pushing personal, group and ethnic agenda. These do not understand that the Niger Delta problem, like June 12, is neither ethnic nor narrow.  

There are too many stakeholders involved who must be carried along without sacrificing the primary objective of concentrating major focus on the core theatre of oil and gas drilling activities, especially the swampy creeks where development challenges are particularly daunting.  

It is increasingly clear to both the Nigerian state and the militant agitators that there can be no military solution to the Niger Delta problem. The militants cannot secede from Nigeria and Nigeria cannot successfully “Biafranise” its military operation in the zone as Obasanjo had vainly hoped, mainly because of the terrain and other sensitive considerations.  

The only option left is for both sides to abandon their pretensions and pipedreams and confront reality. And part of the reality being confronted is evident in the Committee’s proactive accommodation of the views of Nigerians from within and outside the core theatre of the conflict. Nigeria must generate a national consensus in order to move as one body to redress the neglect it has historically inflicted on the goose that lays the golden egg.  

Our recent history teaches us that it takes national consensus (or something masquerading in that behalf) for localised hurts to be assuaged. When the decision to concede the presidency to the South West as a means of dousing the June 12 crisis was made, very little opposition came up to confront it even though some strategic sectional card was evident in it.  

It was obvious that that was the only viable peaceful way out of the crisis. Once that was done (no matter how shoddily) June 12 became just another day in history. Even the platforms that promoted it and the political parties and politicians (Alliance for Democracy) that emerged as a result of it were quickly rendered irrelevant.  

Similarly, it took a national consensus for Nigeria to decide that an additional state should be created for the South East Zone at the Obasanjo conference of 2005. If the new state is to become part of a future amended constitution, it will be as a result of the faithful implementation of the consensus. 

The Niger Delta problem is not going to be any different. This is why the ethnic jingoists and warlords who have turned the Niger Delta into an instrument of blackmail and profiteering must be put in their rightful places, as the nation moves fix the developmental fortunes of the Niger Delta, permanently.