We are heartened by indications that the dialogue initiated by the Federal Government with stakeholders in the Niger Delta with a view to ending the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta is yielding some frutiful results. This should encourage all sides to continue the search for peaceful solutions.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the umbrella of ex-Niger Delta militants which the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua engaged to secure the cessation of hostilities in 2008, in exchange for the famous amnesty programme, has reportedly tabled its terms for further fruitful dialogue towards an amicable solution, though the Presidency has not officially confirmed any “agreement” with it.
It is, however, beyond argument that the Federal Government has been favourably disposed to dialogue, going by President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent pronouncements. We consider this a positive development. We do not consider that any form of military engagement, either by the state or the armed agitators, can produce any positive outcome. It will only worsen the situation of things. Apart from complicating the pollution of the environment and crippling oil outputs, more importantly, it will plunge the ordinary citizens into greater misery. These must be avoided at all costs.
It takes two to tango. The militants, especially the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) who have been attacking oil pipelines and oil wells for nearly one year now, should harken to the voices of reason and suspend the attacks. They should join the dialogue.
On the other hand, the Federal Government must explore all avenues for lasting peace. The net of dialogue should be widened to every credible group within the zone, not just the war mongers. The non-violent groups also matter, may be even more.
The government must adjust its mindset to the fact that though the state has the right to exploit the oil for the good of all Nigerians, the people of the Niger Delta are major stakeholders and should be given their due. Unless this is done, the impulse to resort to armed disruption of the oil industry will always crop up from time to time.
The Federal Government must see itself as a father to all Nigerians. It should be willing to give a listening ear to complaints and address them with wisdom before people can contemplate resort ing to armed rebellion.
We must debunk the impression that the Nigerian state only responds to the language of force. The military should only be deployed when peaceful solutions have broken down irretrievably.
With economic recession staring us in the face, we cannot afford war in the Niger Delta. We must pull back from the brink of armed conflict because it will never help any one.