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Mend Attacks: Amnesty Office & The Price Of Cynicism By Ifeanyi Izeze

November 12, 2013

Though it has remained convenient for people in government particularly the Amnesty Office of the Presidency to continue to insist that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is only a “cyber tiger,” the escalating activities (attacks) of the militant group points in an opposite direction from where the government people want us to look.

Though it has remained convenient for people in government particularly the Amnesty Office of the Presidency to continue to insist that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is only a “cyber tiger,” the escalating activities (attacks) of the militant group points in an opposite direction from where the government people want us to look.

For when “cyber-beings” start attacking oil facilities on the terrestrial plane, it shows that either there was wrong notion about the ‘beings’ or that the people who should address the emerging problem, prefer to pretend it does not exist in the first instance.

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Catalogue of attacks on oil-related facilities and personnel in October this year alone only shows the Amnesty Office’s propaganda to divert attention from the issue is not working at all or maybe, not working well. How long can we continue to delude ourselves that there is no renewed crisis of militant attacks in the Niger Delta when confirmable facts all over the place show otherwise?

MEND in a press statement had claimed that several well-heads and feeder pipelines were damaged by the group’s ‘Hurricane Exodus’ in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta States between 20- 26 October, 2013. The question to the Amnesty Office in the Presidency is: were the claimed attacks fictitious? Or were they carried out in the cyber space?

In review of its activities in October alone, MEND in a statement had claimed: “The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which we earlier infiltrated with the full recruitment of a high level agent resulted in the successful sabotage from within on October 22, 2013. MEND now has agents inside every oil company.”

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In Rivers State on the same day the Warri Refinery was sabotaged, a Joint Task Force (JTF) escort gun boat was engaged in a shootout in the Andoni Local Government area. And MEND alleged that “contrary to the version given by the Nigerian Army spokesman, the soldiers were not ambushed but confronted and the attackers were not armed robbers but MEND fighters.”

In Brass, Bayelsa State, another boat belonging to the Joint Task Force (JTF) was attacked on  October 23, 2013 the same day two American sailors working for Edison Marine Supply services company, were abducted. MEND in a statement also claimed responsibility for the two assaults that claimed several lives saying: “In the early hours of Wednesday, October 23, 2013 , an armed auxiliary outfit (referred by the authorities as pirates), attacked a US flagged oil supply vessel and singled out the two (2) Americans on board.

This action was also to show their disdain and content for an on-going Joint Naval Exercise with foreign Navies in the Delta Region. We have informed their abductors that Mr. Henry Okah would have wanted the men released as soon as possible.”

The sister of Mr. Oronto Douglas, Special Advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research and Strategy was kidnapped by unknown gunmen. This same cyber-existing MEND claimed they stumbled into her kidnappers by accident and promised to secure her release which they did. And according to a press statement by the militant group, “Contrary to the claim the family made in a press statement that no ransom was paid, MEND can authoritatively confirm that the sum of 200,000 US Dollars was paid as ransom.”

In the recent past, a group of aggrieved ex-militants shot and killed 13 policemen escorting a prominent ex-militant general to the venue of the burial of his mother in Bayelsa State. Around the same time too, nine oil company workers were kidnapped in Bayelsa State.

If this group called MEND only exists on cyber space, how come the same office deemed it necessary to publicly appealed to them to refrain from their threat to attack mosques in retaliation to Boko Haram’s attacks on churches? And as the militant group rightly asked in their statement, “The appeal made by the Amnesty Office for the Chevron Tank Farm in Escravos to be spared from MEND’s threatened mortar attacks which were scheduled for October 01, 2013, was it made to cyber beings on cyberspace?”

There are definite matters of serious concern in the renewed militant attacks across the Niger Delta- from Delta through Bayelsa to Rivers states.
Whether MEND is genuinely concerned about the parlous state of the Niger Delta region or not is immaterial now. The cause of their continued grievances as stated show there is a genuine case that the region has been sold to a few people at the expense of the whole and that the amnesty programme was hijacked right from the onset and needed to be re-streamed to serve the general interest of the region. Can we please take the message even if we want to leave the messenger?

Which tangible infrastructure development project can anybody point at right from Delta to Akwa Ibom states through Bayelsa and Rivers and say this came as a result of the militant agitation before the amnesty? Even the trademark East-West Road has remained a reproach to the Jonathan government particularly the folks running the Niger Delta Ministry and NDDC. The things we see as government presence in the region are just what the various state governments of the region managed to build. Is it not a disgrace? Yet the so called ex-militant generals live lavish lifestyles in Abuja, Lagos, South Africa and Ghana. Shame to the Niger Delta!

At the onset of the Amnesty programme for ex-militants, Nigerians thought it was going to be a holistic plan to vigorously provide a face- lift to the Niger Delta region in addition to developing the human capital of the area, especially in view of the failure of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to justify their existence.
But as we have seen since its inception, the programme seems to have benefited only a few people. If the over $1 billion (dollars) dashed self -acclaimed warlords and their cronies in government had been used for infrastructural development and setting up industries to create jobs for the unemployed youths in the region, the effect would have been better felt in the region. Is it not glaring to the people in government that the programme has failed to address unemployment, under-development and pipeline vandalism and bunkering in the region? Just wait- now we are only talking of MEND, wait until some of these boys return from their trainings abroad, you will see what will happen. Now na we dey do ourselves abi no be so?

Despite the $3.8 million- a -year separate contracts to “Boyloaf” and Ateke Tom to have their men guard oil pipelines in addition to Tompolo’s $22.9 million a-year contract to do the same, crude oil theft has risen to over 400 percent from where it was at the point of the amnesty. What does this tell us as a nation? We have not added Asari Dokubo’s own contract amongst others. Is it not interesting that in spite of the huge contracts awarded  to a clique of ex-militant generals to protect oil pipelines, the flagrant destruction of oil pipelines and theft of oil has not only persisted in the Niger Delta but assumed dangerous dimensions?

Before now, we had several allegations that there were pockets of ex-militants deliberately left out of the amnesty programme either because of where they are from or the relationship of their “general” with the amnesty office. And these left- outs have continued to provide a pool of ‘well-experienced deviants” readily available for recruitment by anybody who wants to prove that the federal government’s amnesty programme may not have produced the intended goals after all.

Nigerians should actually be concerned with the new development in the Niger Delta. If the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants has been allowed to woefully fail, what is the guarantee that the proposed amnesty for repentant Boko Haram sect members in the North will not also fail and monies allotted to such programme applied to make a few influential people in that region super-rich also? We wait to see!

IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters