Hiring of Niger Delta Militants as Pipelines Security Guards: An Exercise in Futility!
Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko
Some of the Nigerian newspapers reported that the Nigerian Hon. Minister of Defence, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed outlined a major policy thrust of the Federal Government of Nigeria regarding the dangerously troubling militant activities taking place in Nigeria’s oil and gas rich Niger Delta region.
According to these reports, the Federal
Government and probably in consultation with the other two tiers of
governments at the State and Local Government levels have perfected plans
for “constructive engagement” with the Niger Delta militants.
Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Defence briefed the House of Representatives Committee on Defence that the Federal Government was considering engaging the services of the militants to police the oil pipelines and installations to check incessant vandalism.
However, this provoking proposition
immediately generated the following questions put to the Hon. Defence
Minister Yayale Ahmed as reported by ThisDAY newspaper, Wednesday,
21 May 2008:
These challenging questions undoubtedly have properly placed the proposition by the Hon. Defence Minister as a National Security issue of serious and grave concern. The answers to these tough questions will definitely be helpful for any objective analysis of the appropriateness and potency of the proposition or other wise.
However, from the political economy point of view, this proposal, designed as a roadmap to be used for “constructive engagement” with the Niger Delta militants can be faulted for a number of reasons. This piece examines some of these reasons and concerns.
First, we need to understand that there are four major dimensions to the Niger Delta belligerency: a) political, b) socio-economic, c) environmental and d) criminal. Therefore, solving one and ignoring the other three will not provide the proverbial lasting solution to the problems.
Therefore, to transform the restive militants who are very highly intoxicated with the opium of oil bunkering and other related illicit activities into a sort of officially recognized “Mai Guard” (i.e. Security Guards) of the oil and gas pipelines and other ancillary facilities sounds ridiculously and absolutely superficial to say the least. The federal government can do better than this cheap public relation blunder.
A government that prides itself as the promoter and guarantor of rule of law cannot be seen to be laundering criminality under any guise or cover for cheap public relations. If this is a strategic model from the Defence establishment, then the government should equally extend it to cover the entire gamut of our internal security problems.
For example, the government can equally mobilize all the marauding armed robbers in the country; kit them, legalize their illegally acquired sophisticated firearms and pay them salaries to police our highways and cities at all times. This may be cheaper than employing professional police and other security services.
On a serious note, one of the best ways to provide gainful employment opportunities for the restive militant youths is to avail them qualitative life long job training opportunities within and outside their domains. For example, those who can still go back and join conventional schools must be given the incentives to return to school where they must be availed with the best resources to see them through conventional education.
However, those who may choose to be given vocational training should be given access to the best training opportunities. For instance, one of the best ways to do that is to seriously begin to implement the much-touted about Nigerian Local Content Policy. The skills acquisition and jobs placement components need urgent priority. Enough of all the conferences and jamborees on the so-called Nigerian Local Content Policy if it cannot be implemented and yet it has become one of those money guzzling Nigerian white elephant policies, programme and projects!
Nevertheless, on daily basis, we see and witness the international oil companies (IOCs) bringing loads of skilled youths (18-30 year olds) from abroad to take up welding, pipefitting, pipe painting and other vocational jobs in our oil and gas projects. The average monthly pay package for these foreign youth labourers is astounding!
Some of them earn higher salaries than professors in their home countries (Tax and levies free). I am not kidding. This is the truth. There is no reason whatsoever, our brother and sister in this oil and gas rich region cannot be beneficiaries of these job opportunities. Pipeline security guard is a good job; however, this should be left to the trained professional Armed forces and the Police. There must be no official recognition of private militias in Nigeria under any guise, please. This proposal is a slippery road to highly organized private armies that will be difficult to check!
The Armed Forces and the Police have been specially and professionally trained for national security duties. Protecting oil and gas pipelines and other installations; electricity power transmission lines and other installations; telecommunications towers and road bridges is an integral part of government’s national security responsibility.
Therefore, if there are no existing enabling laws that allow our Armed Forces and Police to guarantee the physical security and integrity of these highly desired and sensitive national economic infrastructures, then the federal government need to take urgent action to send the necessary bill to this effect to the National Assembly for passage into law.
Furthermore, funding for providing physical security; including special training; acquisition of special equipment such as land based electronic and space bound daily monitoring equipment of these infrastructures need to be shared concurrently between the government and the private owners of these facilities. This should be done through well-thought-out contributory funding arrangements that need to be part of any new bill to this effect.
Government can genuinely address the criminal component of the youth’s militancy in the Niger Delta if there is the political will to do so. Otherwise what is the basic function of government? What is the Chief Law Officer of the country doing? Why is the public paying the salaries of our rather ubiquitous security chiefs such as: the Inspector-General of Police (IGP); Director-General of the State Security Services (SSS); Director-General Military Intelligence (DMI); Director-General Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) if they cannot perform their statutory duties with measurable results?
Why are these security agencies only capable of catching imaginary Al-Qaeda suspects within our society and not the daily occurring daring armed robbers and oil bunkerers? Should the arrested so-called Al-Qaeda suspects also form a limited liability company and be shouldered with the task of being the country’s anti-terror special branch?
Furthermore, is the government surrendering Nigeria’s internal security and territorial integrity to superior organized criminals? Is the government saying that the situation is so hopeless that it cannot even fund Nigeria’s internal security and territorial integrity without recourse to seeking for international funding and or a maddening and now scandalous contraption called Police Equipment Fund (PEF)?
What is the value of our excess crude oil revenues accruing on daily basis if we cannot take care of our basic needs for security to life and property and jobs for the militant youths? This is the basic issue that need the urgent attention of the Defence and other relevant Ministries and agencies with statutory responsibilities of protecting our lives and properties.
The truth of the matter is that offering security jobs to the militants will not solve the problems at hand in the Niger Delta. A holistic approach, which requires integrating and domesticating the largely foreign-controlled “enclave” oil and gas economy, is what, is desirable. The militant youths need education, quality of life that comes with productive employment, training opportunities and an environment free from oil and gas related pollution etc.
Therefore transforming the militant youths into Security Corps or “Mai Guard” of the oil and gas pipelines and installations is ridiculous, laughable and undesirable. The alternative is to provide them with 21st Century skills for the 21st Century job markets; within and outside the oil and gas sector and industry.
Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko
Wednesday, 21 May 2008