Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Skirmishes in Niger Delta

Nigerian Compass
14 September 2011

THE fragile peace in Niger Delta was rattled last week by three occurrences that spoke volumes as the volatile region witnessed a harvest of protests.
The most threatening was when traffic on Mbiama area of the
Patani-Port Harcourt Road
, a section of the
East-West Road
was brought to a standstill for over five hours on Tuesday as thousands of ex-militants barricaded the area to protest against their exclusion from the post amnesty programme. Chanting solidarity songs, they ensured there was no vehicular movement, threatening to deal with motorists and pedestrians who dared them.

The protesters began their demonstration at about 5am blocking access to Port Harcourt (Rivers State), Warri (Delta) and Yenagoa (Bayelsa) till about 10am. The security agencies, obviously rattled, deployed petrol vans, helicopters and armoured tanks to the scene of the protest.

The same day, hundreds of Ijaw women from Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West council of Delta State, disrupted a multi-billion naira gas pipeline project in the creeks for several hours. As early as 8am, the angry protesters took over the gas pipeline being laid across Chanomi Creeks by a contracting company working for Chevron, to press home their demands for the provision of potable water and regular electricity supply. The protesters accused the Federal Government and major oil companies doing business in the area, of marginalization, that the communities were still drinking impure water from river and had never been connected to any source of power supply.

Later in the week, a group protested at Udu, near Warri. Their grouse included marginalisation by the Delta State government, alleging that for all the years that oil has been drilled from their land, they had nothing to show as an oil producing community.

The good news is that though torrents of venom were released during the protests, none turned violent; which scored some poignant points firstly that all is not well in the region at the moment; but more importantly, that there are some very basic issues that must be speedily addressed. The issues at stake fall squarely within the domain of the various state governments and the interventionist agencies, particularly, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

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