Monday, February 13, 2012

Resurgence of criminal militancy in Niger Delta

12 February 2012

by Punch Editorial Board

After all that the Federal Government had done to stem the tide of militancy, it has therefore come as a surprise that another group of insurgents has emerged, purporting to be a reincarnation of MEND, the umbrella body under which the militants operated before the amnesty. There is absolutely no justification for the emergence of this new group. The government has bent over backwards to provide a soft landing for those who should ordinarily be treated as renegades and blackmailers taking advantage of weak institutions to commit crimes against the state. More than two years down the line, the region has witnessed a modest infrastructure development amid relative peace.

What will happen now? What these hoodlums who have already started bombing oil installations are doing is pure criminality, which must be met with the full weight of the law. If the situation is not dealt with decisively, other criminal groups might be encouraged to come out and blackmail the government, expecting to be heavily paid off.

Now, that the people of the Niger Delta have their best chance of leading safe, normal lives and creating an environment conducive to rapid development, they should not allow some idle hooligans to return them to the bloody past. Thankfully, the security agents have identified the ring leaders of the latest group of so-called militants. It is up to them to nip the renewed insurgency in the bud. They should not be allowed to grow wings and become a threat to the country's economic interests and the region's stability.

It is also time for the Amnesty Committee to wind down its business; the committee was not created to function in perpetuity. Those who are still being paid by the committee should be gradually disengaged and made to stand on their own. It is scandalous that more than two years after the amnesty programme was introduced, some people are still being paid allowances costing us billions of naira. It must end forthwith. While the government has promised to adopt an ineffectual carrot-and-stick approach to deal with situations of this nature, it should be taken that the amnesty was the carrot aspect. It is now time to wield the stick.

The development agencies, especially the Niger Delta Development Corporation and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, should harmonise their programmes for the development and security of the region

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