Buhari, militants and the Niger Delta question

Buhari, militants and the Niger Delta question
December 30 10:45 2016

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma 

Fresh from emerging victorious against another group of terrorists, President Muhammadu Buhari warned Niger Delta militants who are destroying oil installations and sabotaging the country’s economy to abandon violence and embrace dialogue with the federal government in order to get their grievances amicably addressed.

Speaking at the State House in Abuja when residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), led by the city’s minister, Muhammed Bello, paid him a Christmas homage, the president said negotiation was the best option for the militants, whose main grouse against the Nigerian state centres around how the nation’s main resource, oil, is managed, instead of picking up arms against their fatherland. ‎

The President said: “I want you to talk to people to be patient with the government. We are always thinking about our country and we are thinking about our people. I assure you that the country and the people of the country are always uppermost in our minds. With our performance in the North-east, Nigerians know that this government is serious. For our friends in the Niger Delta area, we will persuade them that they should please sit down with us and agree to manage our resources, rather than think of fighting it out.”

Of course, the President’s warning could not have come at a better time than now when the military has dealt with a seeming more organised, brutal and fearless group known as the Boko Haram, which terrorised the North-east and other parts of the North for many years.

Like the Boko Haram, the terrorists in the Niger-Delta region have engaged themselves in some serious acts of carnage, maiming and killing innocent Nigerian soldiers and sabotaged the nation’s economy, which is mainly dependent on oil found in the region.

While the international price of the oil had seen a decline in recent times, the militants made it impossible for Nigeria to export enough oil to meet its quota at the market. This situation, undoubtedly, adversely affected our economy, rendered the governments ineffective and greatly assisted in pushing the country’s economy into a state of recession.

Thus, while the benefit of dialogue cannot be discarded, it must be said that the Niger-Delta militants have, for too long, weakened the nation’s economy and made Nigerians poorer.

This situation, the government must not allow to persist. Actions, including the use of force, must be employed to checkmate the illegal activities of the militants.

As they say, what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. If force was deemed necessary to root out the Boko Haram insurgents in order to ensure peace in the North-east, force should be used against the criminals in the Niger-Delta and save the nation’s economy from collapse.

After all, it seems that the militants, even after many years of attempts by the federal government to embrace and comfort them, see no virtue in dialogue.