It appears the stage is set. The decorations and rehearsals are done and the spectators ready for another round of war games in the Niger Delta. War drums are beating, the combatants with painted faces and AK 47s have re-emerged from the creeks as threats and posturing from the federal authorities take a more menacing tone every day. Service chiefs are mobilised to the region, troops remobilised and re-posted to the region even as oil and gas installations are being vandalised and blown up, and the travel advice from the diplomatic missions is a STAY AWAY (Red alert) from the region. Welcome, to yet another cycle of militancy and violence in the Niger Delta.
Once again we are faced with the very notion of near collapse of the relative peace in the Niger Delta. We are gravely concerned about the resurgence of violence along the littoral states resulting in the killing of more than 30 persons within the last three months. The recent spate of violence across the country especially in the Niger Delta at this time is creating a lot of tension in the communities. The wanton destruction of lives and property cannot in any way be equated with atonement for any grievance we may want to address as currently canvassed by the new insurrectionist groups in the region. Rising cases of murder, piracy in the creeks, cult related killings, kidnappings, gas & oil pipeline explosions and attacks on citizens both military and civilian is dishonouring the dignity of the victims, their families and are an incalculable loss to the nation as a whole.
These developments give civil society organisations a lot of concern as over 15 years work has been put to sustain peaceful resolution of conflict within the region, appear to be wasted effort. We do recognise and accept that the underlying causes of the militancy in the region have not been addressed. Retrogression into the recent past where armed confrontation led to waste of human lives cannot be a solution at this time or any other time for that matter. We have observed the military/paramilitary operations and activities around and in some communities within the Niger Delta.
We have never shied away from calling attention to these deviations from global best practice and rule of engagements. The intimidation of terrified members of host communities by both the armed groups and military put the communities in the middle of the conflict, causing widespread displacement of households, leading to all sorts of human right abuses. However, this should not be read as an approval of the atrocities of a few individuals who have no regard for the communities they endanger.
In order to prevent the continued dangers, including loss of life of hapless members of the communities in the line of fire from both agitators and the Nigerian Military, we call for caution on the part of all stakeholders. Reactionary violence has never been a sustainable solution to lasting peace anywhere in the world. The relative peace enjoyed just after the general elections in April 2015 was as a result of the peace initiatives of concerned Nigerians who saw the need for dialogue.
We therefore appeal to the Chiefs of communities, youth leaders, leaders of thought, security agencies and the political leadership including the Federal Government to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in speedily addressing the conflict, which if not properly tackled at this embryonic stage, can degenerate into a large-scale bloodshed. To the perpetrators of the violence, we also urge that they sheath their sword and embrace peace. “Remember, he who throws a stone in the market place, may end up hurting his relatives”.
Against this backdrop, we propose the following:
TO THE AGITATORS
- Sheath your swords and embrace peaceful resolution of conflict
- Remember the pipelines run along the communities and can easily destroy the environment and lead to grave consequences including further destruction of the already endangered human ecosystem of the Niger Delta
- Political actors at all levels of governance in the Niger Delta States should galvanise their efforts to ensuring peace and security so as to create the needed atmosphere for socio-economic and political revival and prosperity in the region.
- Peers and political allies to channel their efforts into ensuring peace and security by creating the needed atmosphere for socio-economic cum political revival in the region.
TO THE LEADERS OF THE NIGER DELTA REGION
- Dialogue with the youths and find a way to lasting peace in your community.
- Lead the path to peace by working with the government in peace efforts
- Do the right thing by ensuring the dividends of democracy get to the local communities
- Practice transparency and accountability on management of state resources.
- Act as role models by ensuring that the dividends of democracy and extractives are allocated to collective needs rather than personal interests.
TO THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT AND SECURITY AGENCIES
- Convene a meeting involving stakeholders drawn from both the civil society, community leadership and the state actors including representations of women and gender experts in line with the UNSCR 1325 to discuss the way forward as a matter of urgency.
- Adopt a sustainable long-term approach of peacebuilding and conflict transformation in the Niger Delta that does not merely focus on reducing the symptoms of social restiveness.
- Review the strategy of invasion by the military and paramilitary agencies currently going on in most Niger Delta communities in order not to further escalate the conflict.
- There is an urgent need for multi-governmental security collaboration among the Federal, States and local governments, as well as the communities in the Niger Delta region for the adoption and implementation of a more efficient and effective security blueprint in the region,
- Tone down the narrative of “show of force” and explore alternative ways of dealing with the conflict.
- Ensure legal and financial support for the take-off of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, desired by the vast majority of persons in the locale.
- Holistic implementation of the Ledum Mittee Technical Report as well as review the decision to expunge the Host Community fund clause in the PIB pending in the National Assembly.
The federal authorities must understand that it will take more than security solutions to pacify the Niger Delta. They must recognise the need for socio-economic and infrastructural development, alternative livelihood solutions, diversification of the economy of the region and the urgent need for a coherent Niger Delta Developmental Action Plan.
The Media should step up efforts in always mirroring all security goings-on and human rights breaches in the region, as well as timely dissemination of such information to the general public and relevant agencies of government, except those considered ‘classified’.
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY & DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
We urge the international community and other development partners to lend their technical and institutional support in the speedy resolution of the cascading conflicts in the region today.
Partner with the Federal authorities to establish a socio-economic/rapid infrastructural development plan (marshal plan) in the Niger Delta region.
THE CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
- Join hands to change the discourse of peace negotiations, steering away from individual demands and (re)focusing on collective demands.
- Continue to highlight the developmental, environmental, livelihood, security, electoral (inconclusive elections) and governance challenges in the region
- Continue to defend the fundamental rights of the people and be a watch dog against human rights abuses as well as supporting participatory governance approaches.
- Be a voice of reason and moderation in the midst of all the anger, despair and war mongering by the different actors
We are confident that with these measures put in place, a lasting solution will in the long run bring both the people of the Niger Delta region and her neighbours stability and economic prosperity.
Inemo Samiama- SDN
Ken Henshaw – Social Action
Anyakwee Nsirimovu – Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Patrick Naagbanton – CEHRD
Fr. Edward Obi, MSP- NACGOND
Robinson kuroghobogha- Chairman BANGOF
Andy Ogbuigwe – Accord For Development
Ibiba Don Pedro – National Point
Sofiri King Peter-Side
Nnimmo Bassey – HOMEF
Nenibarini Zabbey – CEHRD
Mimi Ogbanga – CEDSI
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor – FENRAD
Tamunoala Bright – Youth Awareness Project
Patrick Chiekwe -FOCONE.
Constance Meju – National Point
Ledum Mitee –
Nike Olaoye – Pronatura
Otive Igbuzor – Centre LSD
Inatimi Odio – FACE Initiative
Godson Jim Dorgu- Macjim Foundation
Okoho Umo – Peace Point Action
Ibaba Samuel Ibaba – Centre for Niger Delta Studies
Irimagha Thelma – Gender and Development Action (GADA)
Legborsi Saro Pyagbara – MOSSOP
Emem Okon – Kebetkache Women Organisation
Maryam Isoun – Niger Delta Wetland Centre
Fidelis Allen – Centre for Conflict and Ethnic Studies, UNIPORT
Patterson Ogon –