THE attack on Atlas Cove should worry those who thought amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta would stop militancy and criminality. It is a long distance from the Niger Delta to Lagos, where the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, struck on Sunday night.
What informed this attack at the height of the amnesty is a mystery.Â There is obviously more to the Niger Delta than an amnesty the militants have partially rejected.
Attacks on oil facilities have gone on for more than three years. They were restricted to the Niger Delta, the immediate environment of MENDâ€™s protests. The attacks were seen as Niger Delta problems.
A year ago, MEND dismissed the notion that anywhere was outside its reach when it attacked Bonga, the off shore facility which daily delivers about 200,000 barrels of crude. It was a major victory for MEND, which questioned the security of the nationâ€™s oil facilities. Bonga is 120 nautical miles, about 220 kilometres, off-shore. Militants were deemed incapable of accessing it. Billions of Naira had been poured into securing the nationâ€™s waterways from attacks of this nature. This strategy failed.
MEND then made the point that it had high disruptive capacity. With the stretch of its activities to Lagos, it has created room for worries on several points. MEND has begun export of the violence outside the Niger Delta. Nobody is sure of the next target. The security agencies, which spend their time harassing ordinary people, were caught unawares.
Where was the joint task force? Where was the Navy? How did MEND gain access to Atlas Cove? Was it the Lagos arm of MEND that attacked Atlas Cove or MEND travelled all the way from its bases in the creek to attack Lagos? Whatever happened to claims that bombardments of militant camps in the creeks have crippled militancy?
How safe are our other strategic national assets, wherever they may be? Was Atlas Cove, with its importance to the nationâ€™s energy needs, adequately protected? This attack is a blemish on our security agencies. Where were they?
Amnesty failed, so quickly after government found out that the military option could not solve the problems in the Niger Delta. Has government really engaged those behind militancy in the area? What is governmentâ€™s next move?
Concerns about the Niger Delta centre on how restiveness in the region adversely affects the economy. The plight of people remains a minimal consideration.
We do not support criminality. It is equally criminal for government to allow the living conditions of its people to plummet to sub-human levels because it places premium only on oil revenue.Â However, MEND is taking the matter too far for any reasonable settlements. MEND and its backers should seek peaceful ways of getting the regionâ€™s dues.
On its part, government cannot address criminality in the Niger Delta while ignoring the celebrated injustices on residents of the area. Amnesty failed by glossing over these injustices.