BY¬†OLU ADEKUNLE SNR
At the fringes of the Sahara in the northeastern zone of Nigeria we have the unrepentant Boko Haram insurgents who have relented in their drive to achieve their vile goals through bloodshed in a manner hereto unimagined in Nigeria. The Federal Government has since locked horns with them militarily and every other day, we are treated to shocking news of casualties from both sides in a fashion that stirs both the flesh and the spirit.
While we battle the odds in the northeast, the hydra headed monster of terrorism has once again reared its head in the south, particularly along our coast lines where the activities of pirates has taken on a new dimension.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Nigerians and the world were to wake up to the news that an American flag carrying ship was hijacked by Nigerian pirates within the confines of our territorial waters with two American nationals being kidnapped in the process. Both the Nigerian and American governments are said to be involved in frantic attempts to secure the release of the hostages.
Not too long after that incident, we were to hear our Minister of Petroleum Deazani Alison-Madueke lament¬† on the issue of terrorism in far away London at a function tagged Powerlist 2014 where she alongside 25 other Africans were being honoured for transforming the continent. In her keynote address, she dwelt on the issue of oil theft in Nigeria and aptly described the trend as another face of terrorism against the country. According to the Minister, It is estimated that oil theft in the Niger Delta region is costing the country about N400 billion annually. Indicted in this allegation were both Nigerians and foreigners alike.
Though none of it is really news in Nigeria given the spate of militancy and attendant violence in the southern coastal lines especially in the south-south region over the years, it does call for another look at the issue of national security and the implications of treating the matter with kids gloves.
At the moment, many whose businesses rely on shipping and other marine related commercial activities are beginning to express re-newed skepticism with regards the safety of doing business along Nigeria‚Äôs coast. The question hangs conspicuously in the air as many wonder what the Amnesty initiative has achieved if militants under whatever guise still exhibit impunity by threatening the safety of lives and property on the high seas as well as wantonly vandalizing commercial infrastructure such as pipelines which adversely affects the national economy.
In truth, the activities of the miscreants along our coasts, creeks and the high seas is beginning to serve as a source of concern and embarrassment for many including the governments of¬† some of our coastal states. At the end of the day, it seems we are faced with a battle on two fronts (the northern and southern geographical extremes) and I doubt this will not augur well for our collective interests at the end of the day.
While I commend the Federal Government on its efforts in checking the excesses of militants in the south- south through both diplomatic and military means, it must as a matter of urgency address the situation by bringing the few (so called militants) who remain and who are responsible to book no matter whose ox is gored. We cannot keep on paying lip service to the issue while it is glaring that it is inimical to our economic progress.
These criminals who have been glorified with the appellation ‚Äòpirates‚Äô should also bear in mind the dangers of allowing the situation go the way of the Somali gangs of criminals who terrorized that country‚Äôs territorial waters to their own detriment. By the time we allow foreign countries to take the initiative on the matter, it will portend no good for anyone.
While on the issue, it is pertinent to call to question the terms of reference of those ex-militants who are paid billions of Naira to secure our investments in the creeks and along the coasts. It seems they have been compromised somewhat. If indeed they have not been, then it is safe to assume that they are not competent in the discharge of their mandate. Perhaps the time has come for government to review binding contracts with the aim of outright termination. We cannot progress on the platform of undue sentiments rather we should face the realities on ground and deal decisively with aspects that are found wanting.
I fully agree with Diezani Allison-Madueke that the crime against Nigeria must be resisted and her recommendation that we should simultaneously deploy in-country resources to fight this menace of terrorism. Should we all result to crime or terrorism as the case maybe, Nigeria will soon become ‚Äòno-man‚Äôs land‚Äô.
I had in an earlier piece prescribed the setting up of a specialized task force tagged the Nigerian Coast Guards in the fashion of what developed countries have in place. The outfit will be charged with enforcing laws, ensuring safety and security across the length of our coastal waters as well as inland water ways. It should be made up of personnel drawn from virtually all existing military and para-military forces. I believe this will be a much better arrangement than entering into contracts with ex-militants whose competence is doubtful and whose loyalties are not at the moment guaranteed.
In all, it‚Äôs a question of political will which President Jonathan has amply exhibited in some dicey moments of his tenure so far. We have the resources and I believe it is never too late to grab the bull by he horns. We cannot afford these untoward distractions by a handful of rogues who perpetrate crimes from the assumed safety of the creeks.
OLU ADEKUNLE SNR-SOCIAL COMMENTATOR