NIGERIA'S OIL WAR - A DISTRACTION?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

For some reason, the Financial Times recently attributed Nigeria's fuel shortage to "[a] showdown between President Umaru Yar’Adua and powerful Nigerian oligarchs over his moves to break their grip on the lucrative fuel importation business..." This is positive P.R. for Yar'Adua who is generally considered an inept President that has yet to produce on any of his promises. While I cannot speculate as to why this was the explanation given by such a widely read international publication, I, for one, was immediately curious and began to think critically about the current fuel shortage and resulting violence in the Niger Delta.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2006-12/25/xin_2012032510366851319833.jpg

YARDY 'FIGHTING' OIL CABALS
Nigeria is a net exporter of oil with 44% of its product going to the U.S. in 2008. Despite this reality, Nigerians frequently suffer from fuel scarcity and must sometimes line up for hours or buy product at the black market price. Civil society and ordinary individuals bemoaned the current fuel shortage and groups like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) took to the streets in protest. The government soon reached out to explain that the shortages stemmed from its attempts to fight the 'cabals' (or oil mafia, as some refer to those in control of illegal bunkering) and even the NLC gave some limited/temporary support of the government's efforts.

THE PEOPLE ARE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
It seems that to prove its commitment to rooting out the horrible oil cabals, the government chose to start dropping bombs in Delta State. The result is 1000 civilian deaths in the first 5 days of fighting in the state. As was the case with the Odi Massacre in 1999, Nigeria's military has used its weapons against the very people they are supposed to protect - Nigerian citizens. There are people who are trapped, unable to leave the area of the offensive and the fighting prevents medical doctors and other aid workers from reaching those unable to flee the area.

WHAT EXACTLY WILL MEND ACCOMPLISH?
MEND is not helping the situation either. It rejected an amnesty offer, continues to take hostages and its very presence in Delta State has put innocents at risk. For over a month, the group has been threatening war in the region, and most recently, it announced that it will target northerners involved in the oil industry stating,
"Our message to the Northern Sultans and Emirs is this: The period of exploiting the Niger Delta is coming to an end. It is not the birth right of your people to rule the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"The war is just beginning and by the time it ends, Nigeria will practice true federalism such as fiscal federalism which will benefit the entire populace. Let your people brace themselves to develop their resources and such a bold change will be remembered..."
MEND might have started out with best of intentions, but at this point in time, it is just as culpable as the corrupt government and system it claims to fight against. My own family members in another Niger Delta State, Rivers State, are nervous about the killing in Delta State. They fear that MEND will simply choose to return to Rivers State which will then bring down the wrath of JTF, as was the case in 2007 when parts of the state were under siege by dueling militants and the JTF. The fact that MEND just blew up a Chevron station a few hours ago only cements the reality that these fears are valid. , like many others, fear that this oil war will get out of hand. MEND and the JTF will probably not like what develops if this fighting goes on much longer. Neither will the Nigerian people.

A SAD DISTRACTION?
I strongly believe that just as the government has chosen to put on a show of proving that it will root out militants, it must show the people that it will root out those in control of illegal bunkering, and by that, I mean the domestic and international interests who directly impact and control fuel supply in the country.

Personally, I cannot help but wonder if this war with MEND, at this particular time, is not a diversionary tactic to confuse the issues. Yes, MEND's activities affect the nation's ability to meet its OPEC quotas - that the country lost its position as the "African King of Crude" to Angola is no secret, but the government cannot forget to focus on bukering and I definitely would like to hear more of the government's plans to deal with that issue. Furthermore, the simple creation of more schools, hospitals and roads in not just the Delta, but across the nation would do wonders to stem the growing national discontent that feeds the causes of groups like MEND while whittling away at what, if any, goodwill the people have for the federal government. But, of course, these changes can never happen as long as Nigeria's political elite, (Femi Otedola has been fingered by the Financial Times), elected officials and others invested in the status quo continue to benefit from what is the current chaos in Nigeria. Individuas and businesses alike are benefitting from the nation's lack of regular electricity, just as these same individuals make millions from stealing oil and shipping it off to China or whoever is williing to pay the highest to receive it.

The fact that the second anniversary of the President's inauguration is in less than 3 days cannot be ignored. As noted above, Yar'Adua is generally considered an inept president by many and it appears that on the eve of his anniversary, the President seeks to revamp his image and appear more forceful. However, this is the wrong time, and the wrong way to 're-brand' his image, particularly as it comes with the deaths of citizens, the suffering of the poor and a seeming stalling on progress in electoral reform (don't forget the recent Ekiti elections), electricity reform (still no word on improvements to the woeful power situation) and a host of other crucial issues that must be solved for Nigeria to consolidate its many assets and stake its claim as a powerful and successful nation. While no Nigerian President's job is ever easy, the entire world continues to watch and see what will happen with this distratcing oil war and indeed, what will become of Nigeria. The pressure will stay on, so this President must get it right. He only has 2 more years to do something.

Further Reading:
- War In the Niger Delta
- No Longer King of African Crude?
- The Global Food Crises, Nigeria & MEND
- Port Harcourt & Nigeria Under Siege
- Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground for Terrorism?

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Beauty said...

In his "I am a normal human being who can fall sick, recover, who can die, have feelings, who can be angered, who can laugh" interview last year in the FT, President Yar’Adua said "All the problems this country is facing can be traced to a breakdown of respect for the rule of law, regulations, procedures and due process in almost every aspect of our national life". A few months later trash publishers were arrested by the SSS. What message does that send out? Inconsistency or ignorance or both?

The FT report fingered Femi Otedola and Mike Adenuga in the Niger-Delta oil war because they continue to benefit from it? Rilwanu Lukman and Aliko Dangote were somehow omitted from the flawed reporting. Whose agenda was the writer pushing? Your excellent analysis of events included MEND´s stupidity but can we flog an idiot? Violence is not the way of out of this mess but what else have the so called millitants to loose?

Cee said...

I watched the testimonies (if you can call it that) of some Niger-deltan villagers. Many had lost children and husbands and wives and it was painful to watch.

Now what hurts me the most is that there is a truth that the presidency is refusing to acknoledge and that is, that it has NO clue how to deal with this issue. JTF, ND ministry, these things are a waste of time because clearly, they are not working. We can fault OBJ for eternity but the one thing he knew how to do was bring in effective minds. This government has absolutely no clue! Somehow Yardy thinks this is a problem that can be solved by ineffective comittees being set up here and there. It's not working. If he doesn't know what to do, then for goodness bloody sake, quit! Let people who have functioning minds run the country. I lost hope when I read the guardian interview, he did not mention people like Duke being his friends, he mentioned criminals. How can you rid the country of criminals if these are your friends? My mind cannot understand it. It's so exhausting and frustrating...honestly, I just want to give up on that country.

Adaeze said...

"Furthermore, the simple creation of more schools, hospitals and roads in not just the Delta, but across the nation would do wonders to stem the growing national discontent that feeds the causes of groups like MEND" - you are so right.
Ah, this is just so frustrating.

Let people who have functioning minds run the country - Cee said. I agree!They absolutely have no idea and to me Yar'adua is nothing but a rich muppet. Have they no shame. People are really suffering in the Niger-Delta. Their livelihoods have also been destroyed and their living conditions are awful. It's all an absurd situation. I am not a fan of MEND but like others said, what have they to lose. That's always the issue when you have militants, they go to extreme measures because they have no other way to do it because no one listens! Just killing them all is nver going to solve the problem. That's the way Nigeria's government always seem to be going whenever there is a problem. Just kill the people with a loud voice and pretend the problem's gone.
Like you said Solomonsydelle, the idea is to improve people's living conditions. I am 100% confident that if that was actually the case, these problems wouldnt occur. Nigeria's government should care about the welfare of their own people first. I am also worried if this conflict is going to get out of hand.

Onyeka said...

Sigh, where do I begin? Visiting here is almost becoming depressing.

First, I can honestly say that Yar'adua's government has proven to be a hundred times more disappointing than Obasanjo's (there's something I never thought I'd say). So far all I know the man for is setting up probes and committees, and committees to probe and more committees to probe the previous committees. It's stupid and pointless. All they seem to be doing is marking time.

As for this oil thing. I've only been to the Niger Delta region once in the past 15 years, but I what I saw wasn't encouraging. Our place in Delta state was some hundreds of kilometres from a recently discovered oil well. The weather was absurdly hot and a gas flare kept my room illuminated all night. Despite this inconvenience the only thing I'm aware of the oil company doing was bulding a borehole or something. The people there still lived in abject squallor, many of the roads were a mess, and electricity was rare.

To reduce the amount of money/support these oil companies have to give, they give out smaller lump sums to greedy village leaders and claim they've done their share.

It's all so absurd. Don't even get me started on MEND. I never approved of their tactics, but you know what they say about desperate measures. What I don't know is why the government just won't MAKE the oil companies do their share for the environment they're pillaging.
Only God knows how much Nigeria has sold its soul to these foreigners for monetary gain that doesn't trickle down to the masses.

I get the impression they've come to some hidden prior agreement that prevents them from truly acting out against these oil companies, so they have no choice but to focus on the militants completely.

The whole thing is... just a mess.

sokari said...

The politics of oil and repression in Nigeria is highly complex with a plethora of players including the Western media all having their own interests at stake. I personally believe that any focus on MEND or any other militant group is the wrong approach. A military exercise will never solve this issue as Israel / Palestine has shown. Unless the objective is to destroy the region and kill every last militant, whilst displacing what would be come hundred of thousands like the Sri Lankan government. Even there I expect the Tamils to regroup in the next few years and begin again.

Unfortunately Nigeria is essentially a military state whose solution to everything is to send in troops against its own people. This has been done for the past 15 years across the ND region but all that has achieved is a militarised response from indigenous replacing the non-violence of the 90s.

SS @ I know this is not directly addressing the points you raise but I think if we are to discuss this war and thats what is is - we need to address all aspects of it. I also believe there are unspoken "alliances" between the main players who are all benefiting from the oil bunkering. And lets remember oil bunkering has been going on for years before MEND etc were formed.

Needless to say it is the ordinary people mostly women, elderly and children who are the victims of all of these acts of violence but of course it is not in the mind of the government or any of the players to consider anyone outside themselves. The stakes are too high - corruption greed selfishness and lack of imagination by all the players including the militants. Other points we need to think about is where DOES the power lie in the Nigerian State? What is the ethnicity of those soldiers deployed in the ND? or the Nigerian military for that matter? Why is that so? Why is it that the same cartel has ruled Nigeria since the 1966 coup? On what basis to they maintain their power base? I believe if we begin to try to answer these questions we will begin to better understand the complexities of what is happening and has been happening over the past 40 years.

Having said that it is absolutely criminal that the source of the country's wealth is so utterly utterly underdeveloped and has been so completely destroyed environmentally. This is a crime of monumental proportions and people have the right to stand up and scream about this injustice.

STAN said...

That FT report is highly suspect.All i can say about Yaradua even as he marks his two years is that he is two more years away from (at this pace) becoming Nigeria's most inept and incompetent leader. And please am tired of hearing that he seeks to fight a cartel. He doesn't have the balls. period.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Beauty: When I read that FT report, I couldn't help but ask the same question - "Whose agenda was the writer pushing?" Even the interview they did with Yardy some time ago wasn't as tough/hard pressing as it should have been. It will be interesting to learn why and someone will definitely find a plausible explanation for the 'love' Yardy gets from FT.

MEND's stupidity, like you said, is frustrating. And now, they claim that their 'advice' is being sought by some Scottish militant group. *blank stare*

All the parties involved in this wahala need to back up and consider where their greed and intolerable ego is leading the country. Whispers have started that this is the beginning of the end for Naija, but, we shall see...

Thanks so much for getting the discussion started. As always, your input is much appreciated!

@ Cee: "the presidency ... has NO clue how to deal with this issue. "Thank you! Considering this President's inability to handle smaller issues, i.e. corruption in high up places, I can boldly say that my confidence in this military approach to dealing with MEND is far from high.

"How can you rid the country of criminals if these are your friends? My mind cannot understand it. It's so exhausting and frustrating...honestly, I just want to give up on that country."First off, please don't give up on Naija. We all get frustrated. It took me a week to publish this post. I wrote it 7 times and each time, I knew I wasn't doing this issue justice. I had to dig into the frustration I felt to finally write something worthy of posting and sharing.

My point is that your frustration is necessary. It should influence your decisions and the information you choose to share with others about the country. Hopefully, if and when you are in a position to do better, you will.

Take it easy and thank you for stopping by. BTW, no need to be so anonymous around here. =)

@ Adaeze: I noticed you referred to Yardy as a muppet, not even a puppet, lol! That slight distinction is very significant.

I agree with you that "[j]ust killing them all is nver going to solve the problem."[sic] In fact, the key to such militancy is that the opposition force will grow amongst the people because the government is seen as a bully, unless concrete changes are made in the approach to fishing the militants out.

One need only look to Iraq and see the drop in American deaths to learn that modern military fighting is much more complex than dropping bombs and killing civilians. It takes time for governments to get it, but this administration does not have the time to waste - it cannot continue to kill civilians, no matter what the ultimate objective is.

Anyway, my sista, so good to see you around these parts and I thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope that your family is well.

@ Onyeka: I truly appreciate that you would take the time to not only read this post, but comment as well. Especially considering that you are right - the issues are indeed depressing. It took me forever to write this post because let me be honest, even I am experiencing Naija-fatigue.

But, we cannot forget that some people are not fortunate enough to experience Naija-fatigue cos their existence is maddening when nothing works, you know. At least, that's how I manage to keep yarning about the issues sha.

Like you, I have family in the region and when you get phone calls from home and people are complaining, it breaks my heart. Anyway, let me not get too preachy. My next post will be a little depressing but that's just because it will focus on the realities of the Nigerian Proclamation 2 years on. But just for you, I promise an uplifting post after that. =)

Thank you so much for swinging by my sista.

Anonymous said...

In addition to your post, there is the argument that the youths in the ND makes it difficult 4 any change agent 2 come help

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ sokari: Thank you for pointing out the many other flux factors that contribute to the Delta crisis and oil wahala in Nigeria. I agree that I should have included these issues in this post, but to tell you the truth, I felt that I needed to keep this post as short as possible.

Considering your very good suggestion, however, I will take some time to seek out a good article that includes these other factors and link to it, as a reference point for readers. Especially those that might fail to recognize the gravity of these matters. In fact, you have probably written a couple articles on this issue, no? Will send you a message on Twitter and seek your advice.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your suggestions.

@ STAN: Over the weekend, I hung out with a group of Nigerians and the general consensus was that, just as you so eloquently said, Yardy "does not have the balls". Now, I unfortunately do not care if he has the balls or not, because he needs to get some, proverbially speaking.

Anyway, thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

@ Yosh: I agree, all the players are contributing to the problem, not just MEND or JTF. The wahala is just too much.

But, that being said, there are solutions to this problem, but like Cee said, if all the friends of the President are the enemies of the people, then....

Anonymous said...

It is obvious only God's intervention will help us out in the Niger Delta region.

The militants are not really fighting for the Niger Delta people. If they are, why are they killing and maiming helpless Niger Deltans? What sense does the killing of a child in the presence of the mother make to the Niger Delta struggle?

Of course we all know that the government is only interested in the oil. They don't really care if the whole Niger Deltans are destroyed, as long as the oil is left intact.

The situation is a pitiable one. It is not story. There is trouble in the region right now. Lives are been lost, and so much damage are being done. Abuja has no clue what the reality in Warri and environs really is.

N.I.M.M.O said...

The question to ask is whether Nigeria is at war.

If yes, who is fighting who?

If no, then what the hell are wee doing with gunboats and tanks in the delta?

We are not telling ourselves the whole truth. That is the problem.

How many more people have to die?

Naughty Eyes said...

I tire jo... SSD, this whole thing pisses me off so bad...
I refused to return to Port Harcourt after the set of sieges that went on there before. I just couldn't fathom the fact that the town I grew up in had suddenly turned to a war-zone. Having to walk with our hands in the air was the ultimate straw that broke this camel's back.
Yardy, MEND, the so-called cartels... everyone is going about this the wrong way by shifting the blame and losing focus all at one and the same time.
We're sitting on a powder keg. Too bad it's taken Yardy 2 years to realise that.
I tire jo...

Beauty said...

S. May I finger Sokari´s many other flux factors that contribute to the Delta crisis and oil wahala in Nigeria. There laid my arguments for AFRICOM. At the time many commentators suggested that I worked for the CIA. You see, the Bush I, Clinton & Bush II era was about American greed. There was no chance of equal partnerships but now that we have a friendly administration (shame Susan Rice is US Ambassador to the UN), it is all about change.

Those benefiting from illegal bunkering are not going anywhere because $Billions are at stake. Just watch the oil futures play yo-yo. But if you had an all powerful and responsible intel with technology, those thieves can be idd. That job can still be outsourced to AFRICOM. What are the benefits? Information and Education! That, not GOD can help Nigeria now.

In the meanwhile, let us watch our kith and kin suffer the horrors of war that has not been seen for decades while the trauma for future militancy develop. Nigeria, what´s new?

sokari said...

Annoymnous - with all due respect waiting for God is not an option - if s/he were to intervene then with all the prayers floating around Nigeria we would be a country of peace and prosperity!

Whenever one discusses Nigeria with Nigerians its invariably "nothing will change" position which is so defeatist. Its this very nihilistic approach that stops change from taking place. Personally I believe that in 5 years we will be looking at a very different Nigeria where we dont have to continue living under a Hausa Fulani feudal empire- unless of course thats your choice!

Adaeze said...

@SS -Lol sorry I actually meant PUPPET!

Wow, a lot of great interesting comments here..

9ja_Kuti said...

interesting comments

9ja_Kuti said...

@ SSD and ALL, do you guys have or need a copy of the UWAIS REPORT. i have a link to where you can download the pdf.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sokari u r an interesting guy. i like ur hausa-fulani paranoia. even though it is anachronistic. no one believes in that kind of argument any more. hope u will cotton on to that and come up with smth more cogent

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