Friday, February 17, 2006

Beyond Firefighting in the Niger-Delta

It appears the Nigerian government may have commenced on a military campaign against the militia operating in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of the country. The Nigerian Times, CyBlug and Chippla's Weblog all have postings describing and discussing the conflict that occurred earlier this week.

Responding to Nigerian Times' post caption: "Fire Cannot Put Out Fire", of course fire can be used to fight fire. Seasoned firefighters routinely use the "backburn" technique - to suppress large wildfires, and the salvo of attack on militia-dominated regions is analogous to using this technique, which in experienced hands is quite effective but can easily get out of hand if not done right.

The Niger-Delta militia stands no chance against the military might of the federal government. The fact is "waging and winning a military campaign" against some rag-tag bunch of inexperienced locals is not an achievement any serious-minded nation should be proud of.

History has shown that it's the ordinary civilians that suffer the most during these conflicts, thus the government offensive is necessary and well in order as long as the targets are the militia. Beside, there is need to maintain law and order, as well as ensure adequate security for the billions of investments in the delta.

Back to the fire analogy- ideally there is life after a fire disaster; the norm is to rebuild after devastation. Can the Nigerian government "rebuild after the firefight"?
"Oil has been the bane of several things in Nigeria. It played a role in the country’s civil war of 1967-1970. But it also had its positives—bringing in much needed foreign exchange that was used to build modern infrastructure in Lagos and other cities in the 1970s, among others. While some Nigerians benefited from oil, those who lived on the (rural) land from which the oil was being extracted saw practically no change in their primitive lifestyles since oil was discovered."-- Dr. Chippla Vandu, Chippla's Weblog.
I pray the policy makers in Abuja see the sense in this. It is just shameful and unacceptable that the Niger-Delta is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Nigeria. Given the millions of barrels of crude oil sucked out of this area since the last 4-5 decades, it has little or nothing to show for being the "national power house". It is just shameful and unacceptable that the the Niger-Delta is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Nigeria.

The level of poverty, environmental degradation, and dearth of development in the region is an indication that just firefighting, has it's been done now, and in the past, will not work. The Niger-Delta deserves to be developed, in fact it MUST be developed.

Photo: ODIOMA, NIGERIA. A villager walks through the ruins of the southern Nigerian community of Odioma, a fishing and trading centre, and a historic centre for the Ijaw people in the oil-rich Niger Delta. It was burned to the ground on 19 February 2005 by government troops hunting a local militia leader accused of ordering the murder of 12 people from a neighbouring village during a dispute over the ownership of the proposed site for a new oil well. DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images /