By Kunle Oyatomi
Whatâ€™s happening in the Niger Delta seems to have a new disturbing dimension.
Statistics that are emerging of extensive damage done to oil facilities in the Niger Delta in the last couple of weeks since the presidential amnesty was offered is totally unacceptable.
It is disturbing that in spite of the successes claimed against the militants by the Joint Task Force (JTF), the regularities with which the militants succeed in damaging oil facilities and pipelines tell quite a different story.
If both amnesty and the JTF cannot stop the militants from negatively affecting the industry to the extent that in the last six months or so, they have successfully shut in about half a million barrels oil production a day, then one wonders whether or not the instruments of JTF and the Amnesty are producing the desired effect.
As for the Amnesty itself, good as the idea may appear on paper, it would seem that the militants have no confidence that government will be faithful to its intentions.
This is borne out of the fact that the core apparatus of the militants in spite of accepting the amnesty in principle choose at the same time to intensify a sabotage of the oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
A couple of days ago, MEND accused the JTF of arresting and detaining some so called repentant militants who had come to give up on their arms struggle.
According to MEND, there were about 16 of them. But the JTF is insisting that the people it has arrested were hoodlums who were on their way to destroy oilÂ facilities.
Whatever the truth of this claim, something stands out clear: between MEND and the JTF, there is no love lust.
This situation of mutual suspicion and hostility is totally unhelpful for the peace process.
If we must make progress on this issue of Niger Delta, then we should step beyond the concept of amnesty and the JTF because both, it would seem, are someway off the target.
What government should be looking at critically is that action from it which will inspire confidence in the militants, not simply to give upÂ their arms but essentially to give up the arms struggle.
Those who have cared to listen intensely to the militants would at least have gotten the impression that the restive young men are asking for the area bearing oil for this country to be developed.
They are angry, indeed mad with rage to see the massive developments going on in Abuja and parts of the North which contrast so horribly with the misery and poverty in the Niger Delta from where the oil money is obtained to develop there other parts of the country.
At least, MEND is saying, â€˜give us the kind of development that you have in Abuja and we would be satisfiedâ€™.
In response to this, the government is creating institutions like the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) through which to channel this development in the Niger Delta. On top of that, it has created a ministry for the region which at best is a bureaucracy.
The militants are furious, not only by these instruments created but the fact that the core leadership of these institutions are people they appear not to trust.
Giving this dilemma therefore, the federal government has to open another front in the search for peace.
It may be a difficult suggestion to take but the earlier federal governmentâ€™s strategists and the hawks in the administration accept the fact that you cannot secure peace through war, and that promises make sense only where there are concrete evidence on ground, the sooner we will be getting a solution to the crisis.
To lose 590,000 barrels of crude oil a day is enormous and could seriously impact on the already diseased economy of Nigeria.
Everything short of war must be done to get the militants to stop sabotaging the oil facilities. Another round of shooting will worsen matters.
Experiences in Iraq, in Veteran and all other troubledÂ spots of the world point to the fact that the best aÂ war can achieve is destruction, destruction, and destruction.
Until the guns are silent, you cannot win the peace. And if the guns go silent, you can only win the peace through sincere negotiation.
If that sincerity is missing on both sides, Nigeria will be the worst for it.