NIGER DELTA MILITANTS: TERRORISTS OR FREEDOM FIGHTERS?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGMB9Z4t5Xc

The old adage states that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” In Nigeria’s Niger Delta the armed gangs who have mounted a years’ long armed campaign against the Nigerian federal government have so far been tagged “militants” despite a sustained campaign of vandalism against oil installations and kidnapping which has badly disrupted Nigeria ‘s oil production and contributed to spiralling global oil prices.

Despite their activities, the armed gangs responsible for these attacks have not been dubbed “terrorists”. In today’s post September 11 dichotomy, being labelled a terrorist organisation is a death knell and would cripple their struggle. Perhaps the gangs have been able to avoid the terrorist yoke because there is genuine sympathy for their cause in Nigeria and abroad.

OIL, “BLACK GOLD” AND THE NIGER DELTA GRIEVANCES

While daily oil drilling and gas flaring causes oil spills which pollute their water supplies, kill their crops, poison their lungs, disrupt their daily life and stunt their children’s development, the residents of the Delta have little to show for the “black gold” and billions of dollars of oil revenue pumped from their lands. The spectacular sums of money derived from the Niger Delta are evident in the lavish six lane highways and skyscrapers in Abuja and Lagos that were built with the blood and sacrifice of Niger Delta lands and communities.

THE DERIVATION FORMULA

Under Nigeria ‘s constitution, mineral resources (including oil) belong to the federal government. However the principle of derivation states that a certain percentage of oil revenues produced by a state is returned to the state from which the oil was obtained. This is meant to “compensate” the state from which the oil was obtained. When substantial amounts of oil first started being pumped in southern Nigeria in the late 1960s, 50% of revenues from oil were remitted back to the state of origin. However the increasingly powerful federal government and military regimes gradually decreased the derivation percentage until it fell to a miserly 2%. It was eventually raised to 13% by the time civilian democratic rule returned in 1999. The oil-producing states of Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom, received twice as much oil revenue as the other states of the federation. Yet those four states are no better off (and in many cases are worse off) than their counterparts elsewhere that survive on a fraction of the revenue.

THE DELTA: A HISTORY OF REVOLT AND INJUSTICE

Niger Delta agitation for a fairer distribution of oil revenues is nothing new. As far back as February 1966, a former police officer from the Delta named Jasper Adaka Boro was leading a rebellion on behalf of the Niger Delta. Boro recruited 40 men into an organisation known as the Niger Delta Volunteer Force. Boro gave his men training in the use of firearms and explosives in the creeks and bushes. On February 23, 1966 the men attacked a police station at Yenagoa, raided the armoury and kidnapped some officers including the police officer in command of the station. They also blew up oil pipelines, engaged the police in a gunfight and declared the Niger Delta an independent republic. The revolt was suppressed and Boro and his men were sentenced to death (the sentence was not carried out).

KEN SARO-WIWA AND MOSOP

In the 1990s Ken Saro-Wiwa attempted a more peaceful agitation for compensation for environmental damage caused by oil drilling and a greater slice of oil revenues. Saro-Wiwa’s charisma and appeal for greater autonomy struck a dangerous nerve with Nigeria’s then military regime which brooked no opposition and was hyper-sensitive to any threat or challenge (real and imagined) to its control of oil resources. Saro-Wiwa and his followers were sentenced to death by a Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal and hanged.

THE MODERN DAY STRUGGLE

With Nigeria returning to civilian democratic rule in 1999, the latent frustrations that were brutally suppressed by past military regimes were released as increasingly confident Niger Delta youths began an armed campaign and demand for greater control of the oil resources from their land.

Unlike armed resistance movements in other countries, the Niger Delta gangs are not one organization operating under a common leadership with unified ideology. There is no central chain of command like the IRA had or clearly defined political ideal. Rather the gangs are a loose eclectic mix of several aggrieved armed factions like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force. The gangs’ modus operandi is reminiscent of other armed groups and guerrilla armies around the world. They operate and place themselves in the midst of heavily populated civilian areas, making it difficult to distinguish fighter and civilian. They also take advantage of their superior knowledge of dangerous and inhospitable home terrain.

Their shadowy nature is an asset and a hindrance. While their mystique makes their detection and suppression difficult for the Nigerian security forces, it has also made them faceless and prevented them from making political progress. They lack a single articulate spokesperson who can speak for their cause such as a Gerry Adams or Yasser Arafat. The multi-headed militant hydra is not easy for outsiders to understand. This is where they are in dangerous territory.

The gangs’ activities has brought the issue of the Niger Delta to the world’s attention and has made it a major political issue within Nigeria. However while the public are vaguely aware of the Niger Delta issue, the gangs have been abysmal at articulating their demands. The Delta militants have failed miserably to turn publicity gains into political gains. Several years into their campaign, the derivation formula remains pegged at 13% and there not nearer to achieving any of their objectives.

Despite the disruption to oil supplies, the Delta violence benefits the government in a financially perverse way. Continued attacks on oil installations by the militants disrupts the global oil market and drives prices higher. Higher oil prices equals more money for the federal government. The federal government is therefore able to sustain a localized low intensity conflict for years without an existential threat to Nigeria or its control over other areas of the country.

The hidden danger is that if the status quo does not change, the gangs will be tempted to become increasingly daring and amplify their violence. This could emerge by way of a spectacular mass casualty attack or by extending their operations to non-riverine areas and major population centres like Lagos and Abuja. Should they do so, the Nigerian army’s hands are tied. If they retaliate with massive force, they will incur heavy civilian casualties and exacerbate the crisis. The IRA and Palestinian groups used the intensification of violence as a political tool. Originally operating almost exclusively within Northern Ireland, the IRA took its bombing campaign to the streets of England in cities like Birmingham and London and in two separate failed attacks, nearly succeeded in assassinating the entire leadership of the English government. The Palestinians of Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades similarly decided to take their struggle from the alley ways of the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza into the streets of Israel . They carried out suicide bombings inside Israel as a way of bringing their grievances to the doorstep of every single Israeli.

The militants’ cause has also been hijacked by criminal gangs who kidnap the wives and infant children of civilian officials. Being tainted and associated with such elements makes the militants appear like bandits. The militants quite simply do not have enough firepower, numbers or political stroke to achieve their demands by armed struggle alone. Now that they have the federal government’s attention, they need to make the evolution that the ANC, IRA, and PLO made from armed rebels to political parties. The militants require a political wing and a skilled orator to present a human face for their struggle. If they rely on brawn alone…they will disappear like Boro and Saro-Wiwa.

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32 responses

  1. Suleiman G. Purokayo | Reply

    sometimes an average Nigerian wonders if these nigerdeltans are terorists or freedom fighters. In Nothern Nigeria, we know that the fisrt devfelopment plan 1962- was financed with norths rich agriculutral funds. We are sick that these Niger Delta guys have ursue personal benefits than the pupolace.

    1. You are very stupid for this nonsense, myopic, ill-informed epileptic malady infested
      information of yours, how much of your groundnut peanut change was actually used
      for the development of the nation, Was cocoa not generating more funds than ‘epa’?
      For how many years have you greedy dirty bastards who cannot stand on your own been
      sucking on the breast of the south-south et west? Leave oil alone and go back to milking
      cows, haba! if you love oil so much, then pray your god to put oil in your back yard so
      that you will stop thinking of how to rob your neighbor of what belongs to him, and come
      to think of it, all your young men have migrated to south, where there is peace and
      greener pasture, if there is problem in the south, we need not look to far, we know it is
      our jealous and frustrated aboki neighbor.

  2. THESE ARE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, ONE THING EVERYONE HAS TO REALISE IS THAT, WHEN EVER THERE’S SOMETHING GOING WRONG, A FORCE WILL COME TO GAIN IT’S FREEDOM TO BE RIGHT….

    “I HAVE A DREAM” THAT ONE DAY NIGERIA WILL BE FREE FROM BAD LEADERS, OPPRESSION, DISCRIMINATION AND BAD GOVERNMENT…. WE WILL BE FREE TO RULE WITH WISE AND GOOD IDEAS THAT WILL TURN BLESSED NIGERIA INTO A PARADISE….

    “FREEDOM FIGHTERS, KEEP FIGHTING….”

  3. hi guys i am here by declearing to soport the niger delta freedom fighter,keep on fighting and i believed we the niger delta is going to achive our aim, thanks
    from EMEKE

  4. if nigeria is praticing a truth federalism then our case is justicfic

  5. we are fighting a wrong course, lets face it bitterly,it is either for freedom nor our present slavery where the few that can hold weapon makes it big in there pockets while the others are taged cocoyams. i am not a cocoyam,i refuse to be i will rather fight for freedom than to talk and not act. i love mends, and i like what you did with CNN. i will like 2 be a contributing INSTRUMENT for MENDS.The price of oil is depreciating, scientists are fighting hard to elominate fuel, what is our agenda. GREAT MENDS!!!!!!!!!! LET ME REASON WITH TO MAKE THIS REGION A BETTER PLACE.

    DANPAUL OWOYE AGBOLO

  6. IT IS SAD THAT WE HAVE TOO MANY AREA MEN ( OMO OTA )AS OFFICE HOLDERS.HOW CAN AN AREA MAN LEAD US RIGHT? WHAT INFLUENCE WILL HE IMPACT ON THE CITIZENRY AT LARGE? IS IT NOT TO BUILD MORE AREA BOYS WHO WILL GROW TO BE AREA MEN? THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE FAMILY WHICH IS THE FIRST STGE OF SOCIALISATION.

    DAN PAUL OWOYE AGBOLO

  7. IT IS SAD THAT WE HAVE TOO MANY AREA MEN ( OMO OTA )AS OFFICE HOLDERS.HOW CAN AN AREA MAN LEAD US RIGHT? WHAT INFLUENCE WILL HE IMPACT ON THE CITIZENRY AT LARGE? IS IT NOT TO BUILD MORE AREA BOYS WHO WILL GROW TO BE AREA MEN? THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE FAMILY WHICH IS THE FIRST STGE OF SOCIALISATION

  8. if i were the president i would have eliminate the militancy sponsors.OR if i were the CODS/COAS i would have taken action even if the govt resist

  9. many the govt ask what they want

  10. i think they are doing job government should listen to them.

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  12. please you guys must not keep silence until niger delta is given their rights as oil communities in 9ja.keep the gun red all the time.

  13. we need equal right and justice.that all or no peace.

  14. freedom fighters or not, this people have been deprived of the benefits of true fedralism. We see them as MILITANTS now pls dont be surprisedthey gain support from world terrorists like OSAMA BIN LADIN then nigeria will be the first African Iraq (Area Scatter!!!)

  15. HELLO NIGERIANS,
    To my own point of view, the only solution to Nigeria’s problem is what we REVOLUTION. It’s now glaring that our Leaders in the country are not ready to listen and succum to what millions of Nigerian want.
    Therefore, I will like to suggest a lasting solution to NIGER/DELTA and NIGERIA as a country’s problem.
    1. The Youth of Nigeria should find a way of DEMOLISHING/BOMBING both NIgeria National Assemly and House of Representative when they helding thier vital meeting becuase those people are very greedy.
    2. The NIGER/DELTA should also summon thier Federal,State and Local representative to account for every kobo spent. Anybody held liable should be executed.
    These advise might sound impossible, but if we Ordinary Nigerians could forsee the future,we will realise that THE RICH WILL CONTINUE TO BE RICH WHILE THE POOR WILL BE POORER. IN STICH IN TIME SAVES NINE!
    Uneven distribution if wealth is not fear.
    EQUITY PRINCIPLE IS THE ANSWER.i.e FEARNESS, KINDNESS AND JUSTICE.

    LONG LIVE NIGER/DELTA
    LONG LIVE NIGERIA

  16. my brothers i very please with wat u gugs are doing, cove bombing in lagos shows that we are go some where in this fight. i will like to advice that we shoold try to seek the recognision of the world powers like the US to recolonise us for a period of time reason is that the will come develop us ,train us tecnolgically both in economy,in the military politce ,agriculture,and so on.this will completely prevent the north from re-surfacing. let me be frank with u my brothers the north dont want the development of the region.they are the one that do the so call bunkry. during my NYSC, a norther who never knew then that i was a Niger delta said that he want the wicked nigeria goverment to wipe away poeple of the region.He was saying this emphatically. i all most fight his but i just control me temper. see their parent has told them all this. don’t think this don’t have sence they send reoprt to the north on a daily basis.that is while they are with their small radio. please my brothers let be united to get our future today. let make posterity remember us for this fight.try to shun selfish desire if ever there is.let me flash ur mind back to the civil war, there was a slogan Nigeria use after the war “NO VICTORY NO VANQUISH” after that statement our bank accounts where frozen, we where deprive from holding good positions which lead to what we are seeing today.so amnesty is just another “NO VICTORY NO VANQUISH”. Now look at they are taking of the fake amnesty they removing our school PETROLEUM TRAINING INSTITUTE IN EFFURUN DELTA STATE TO THE NORTH. So what did you see in that. do they have the region in mind the answer is no. UP NIGER DELTA.

  17. Olubusayo Adelaja | Reply

    Their cause is appropriate and understandable but killing of innocent civilians LIKE THEM is inexcusable. They could bomb cities, make the earth tremble, make oil prices higher, whatever, as long as they stop taking innocent lives.

    The govt. must make a change.

  18. progress akpochimora | Reply

    if this guys are fighting for the progress of niger delta and for the beter of nigeria thy should keep on fighting. becos we dey die for that country. i hugs them to figh for justice not selfish desire not for there pocket but for the future of niger delta. come on guys we dey suffer children are living like pig. lets say no to bad leaders there are ones killing us.the money was talking every day from our land. guys dont drop ur guns until something is benn don. until the so call goverment listing to us. UP NIGER DELTA CARRY ON GUYS FRREDOM

  19. seibokuro kemebradikumor Newton | Reply

    Since the federal Government is keeping silence on the issue of giving what belongs to us the NIGER DELTANS,the i will urge them to keep flying their walking stick.Because that is the only way the government will listen to the cry of the masses.
    HAA… IZON

  20. guys, i wnna joint u guys 4 dat way

  21. Elvis Nwachukwu | Reply

    The Niger Delta should be independence they should control the oil in its totality and the govt.should buy from them how many niger delta people has oil well or oil bloc.
    I am ready to fight for their course just name the date we move on

  22. The solution to Nigeria problem is that we should try a revolution that is we should make sure that we kill all retired military officers and the police in politics and kill all old politicians and involve 90% of youths in the governance.I wonder if Rilwan Lukeman is the only person who is qualified to handle that portfolio in Nigeria why this recycling of leaders look at Aneni a criminal what is he doing in ports authority,look at Bode George why that little jail term upon all this is a toiling with our intelligence.so the Niger Delta is right on their struggle because all these old men are taking us for a ride.
    Example look at the Ghana Govt 60% of Ghana youths are in the Parliament.
    I will support any revolution,let Nigeria take a clue from Ghana and forget western world for now.
    How many Niger Delta indegenes has oil bloc?
    It is time for us to react and chase all those crazy bald heads out of Governance.

  23. We write and we talk but noting is changing and the truth is nothing would change for a very long time.Freedom Fighters or Militants i think they are justified for taking and using a more violent approach.this is due to the fact that the Niger Delta people did not resort to violence over night,they used peaceful approach such as family and communal protest,letters to the oil companies,ligations and blockades but they where neglected.(A problem not attended to but suppressed is a problem postponed)C.B.N.Ogbogbo.Relating this issue to the above quotation,the Niger Delta people tried voicing their feelings of frustrations out but where suppressed and neglected by both the Nigerian government and the oil companies who work hand in hand to oppress the Niger Delta people and when they could take it no more the resulted to violence which did not only captivate the Nigerian government but the whole world at large.

  24. I MR E. ONYIBE The president elect Niger Delta Freedom Fighters Organisation in germany. I will never sign any apeal begging or pleading for the release of my members in detaintion. instead i aim to become relevant in the struggle. and I would work on the projects that will help to alleviate the condition in Niger Delta people and human right in Nigeria. Human right is natural concession granted to creatures but that is not the end of the story. for the creature has a duty to serve. that is to say one can.t take of right without mentioning responsibility.
    If we are to accept the biblical story of creation of man.the almighty bestowed upon Adam and Eve the right to exsit and utilize the amenities of heaven. but he place some restriction on them. thus rightis not absolute but relative. right should be implied compromise and tolerance of one another. for right to be enjoyed maximally. it is important that some compromis be made. there should be the observance of drown as where ones right begins that of others stop and it is obvious that there must be some control in order to safeguard right. for when right is not placed under control. it became the monopoly of a few,
    THANKS E . ONYIBE The president elect Niger Delta Freedom Fighters Organisation in Germany

  25. we are here

  26. MR. OJOTO T.W. THANKGOD | Reply

    OJOTO SAYS; THE ORIGINAL REASON FOR MILITANCY
    IS UNIQUE & WORTH EMBRACING, JUST LIKE THE WAY
    OUR LATE GREAT WARRIOR MAJOR ISACC JASPER ADAKA
    BORO STARTED IT. ON THAT CONTENT IT WAS MORE OF
    A STRUGGLE FOR CREATION OF AN INDEGNEOUS “IJAW”
    STATE. ONE OF THE REASONS OF MILITANCY IS THAT
    WE WANT THE CREATION OF “TORU IBE” STATE & SOME
    OTHER STATE WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF FEDERAL
    INSTITUTIONS IN IJAW AREAS IN THE NIGER DELTA.
    ALSO, INFRASTRUCTURAL WORKS SHOULD BE CARRIED
    OUT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN OUR AREAS JUST
    LIKE IN THE NORTHERN, EASTERN & WESTERN PARTS
    OF THE COUNTRY. WE WANT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
    TO EMPLOY OUR YOUTHS ALSO IN VARIOUS OFFICES &
    MINISTRIES AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. THE FEDERAL
    GOVT SHOULD HENCE FORTH RECOGNIZE US AS THE 3RD
    OR 4TH LARGEST ETHNIC GROUP AND ALSO INCLUDE US
    AS THE FORTH PERSON IN THE NIGERIAN THREE
    IMAGES ADVERT THAT USED TO BE. I REMAIN MR.
    OJOTO T.W. THANKGOD (THE POLITICAL HISTORIAN).
    I WISH TO EXPRESS MORE OF MY IDEAS LATER.

  27. the Ijews should be Compesated because thy are the people who fight for every Niger Deltans both home an Abrod .reasons because thy are the hand that feed nation

  28. MEND guys should never stop fighting untill they achieve their goals. Any reasonable and wise person from that country should saw the way the Government is suppresing the Niger Deltans. Adaka Boro saw this vision way back in mid 1960′s. Look at a bushy and forest area like Abuja had became one of the most beautiful city in the world which was built from the crude oil revenue they generated from Niger Delta. Who can tolerate that mess this time. If there is any way MEND can blow off those pipe lines and refineries in their area I am very much in support of that. Even the western world governments supposed to help this millitants to negotiate a peaceful deal from Nigerian goverment unless their oil companies will be blown off the sea with a bomb. Honestly, these people of Niger Delta deserves free education, free health insurance, low cost houses for low income families, good roads and public transportations (by land and sea)with a cheap fare. They supposed to have equal, or higher budget than Abuja every year.
    All the oil nation in the middle east had a free house for low income families and more buildings were under construction for their future and younger generations. This year (2011) Saudi government had started to build more 500,000 free apartment buildings for the low income people, increase more funds for their children, elderly and those who were unable to work. They also increased their minimum wage almost closer to that of Western world and many more benefits that I couldn’t remember. All these incentives was given to the citizens as a price for not joining other Arab nations like to stage a demostration or riot of any kind in the Saudi Arabian soil. Nigeria should hurry up and do something for Niger delta people or else they will face another civil war which will be more disasterous than Biafran war.

  29. My prayer is that let peace rain among we nigerians

  30. TEIMENE OKERE EDWIN | Reply

    I love the struggle of my niger delta(izon)i which i have the procedure to follow,but one day i most fight for izon and stand as a here so help brothers in thesame shoe and Amen

  31. Niger delta freedom fighters hv sufficient and substiantial reasons for presenting the cause of their.undoubtedly,oil drilling drastically causes pollution of all types.were these citizens whose environment is degraded to what is considered hazardous,but to the benefit of the nation,not deserve compensation?unlike the religious violence by northern extraction,has no tangible and presentable reason of bombing and killing innocent people of a different religious sect from their own,in the name of jettisoning western behavioural life style.we are all nigerians why do we continue infernal destruction of our fellows?let’s embrace unity as a nation not based on ethnic lines

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