Columns & Opinion

Military In Niger Delta: Oil, Sorrow, Blood And Deaths

By Erasmus, Ikhide

NIGERIA’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, has finally let the cat out of the bag – bringing to the fore what the entire world already know about the disastrous engagement of the military and it’s uncanny lust for oil bunkering – and the associated incessant bloodbath in the oil rich Niger Delta. “17 soldiers were killed while trying to end illegal oil bunkering in Delta,” General Musa said in a live broadcast aired on Arise Television a few days ago.

Granted, the barbaric killing of the nation’s 17 long suffering soldiers, is condemnable and stands condemned. The killing scene viewed from amateurish video clips of lacerated and dismembered bodies of the soldiers, showed the heartlessness of the insane beasts who carried out the slaughtering of soldiers under the guise of communal clash between Okuoma and Okoloba; a people that have lived together and intermarried for centuries.

Without mincing words the attack on Nigerian security forces remains condemnable and unacceptable, at the same time, no security agency/ies should engage in jungle justice, in the manner in which the Nigerian army has so far conducted itself; by raiding and razing down the entire community of Okuoma to dust. The self indicting conduct of the Nigerian army by first posting the burning community via video clips on its official X (Twitter) handle, which it later deleted, revealed an army battling with crisis of moral burden; and at war with itself.

By the way, what’s the constitutional duties of the Nigerian army aside protection of the territorial boundaries of the country? Who will tell President Bola Amhed Tinubu to send the military packing from Niger Delta oil region? How effectively and efficiently have they been around the nation’s 1,400 unprotected porous borders in Nigeria? What is the business of military personnel in oil rich Niger Delta apart from what former Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, now Minister of Federal Capital Territory, said about them; that they’re the actual oil bunkerers in the Niger Delta?

Annoyingly – and to the Nigerian army’s aloofness – while enmeshed in oil bunkering, the country has become a killing field in the hands of terrorists. So far, under President Tinubu’s administration, 6,931 Nigerians have been killed by various terrorist groups. The death toll is apparently higher than 8,356 wasted under President Buhari’s 8 years in office and far worse than President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2,059, all in 10 months according to reliable report.

Nigeria has 86 legal access points and over 1,400 illicit ones, indicating some of the world’s most porous borders. Numerous transnational crimes flourish along Nigeria’s borders with other neighbouring countries due to the border’s porosity. The government has been abdicating its constitutional mandate to protect lives and property of her citizens by not restricting entry and exit into the nation’s roughly 4,500-kilometre land borders with the Republics of Niger, Cameroun, Chad, and Benin to reduce cross-border crimes. If Mexico can have its nearly 2,000 kilometre wall all together built and intact, Nigeria can’t explain away why the nation has become killing field.

The laws that established the nation’s three armed forces – Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Navy – unequivocally stated that the Nigeria federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of (a) defending Nigeria from external aggression. How Okuoma and Okoloba communal clash translates to external aggression for the Nigerian army remained a puzzle for APC/Tinubu’s administration, to resolve?

This is part of the confusion and the tragedy of President Tinubu’s administration and one of the main issues with the excessive use of military force. The Defence Headquarters has no business bringing the killers of Nigerian soldiers in Okuama to “justice.” It is the job of the Nigeria Police Force, to provide internal security while Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is constitutional mandated to secure oil wells and protect pipelines across the country. To investigate, arrest, and prosecute with the aid of the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Delta state, or possibly the Attorney General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice. This is the magisterial and pristine ethos of democracy.

President Tinubu’s disguise endorsement of Nigerian army occupation of Okuoma community is essentially a carte blanche to kill innocent civilians in that area of Nigeria just like what Olusegun Obasanjo did in Odi and Zaki Biam. Let the Defence Headquarters know that individual officers carrying out these unlawful orders are going to be held liable as per “Nuremberg principles.” The military can’t go and commit genocide in Delta State on the order of President Tinubu, because the case of General Victor Malu is still fresh in our memories.

That orgy of March 14, 2024 massacre of soldiers, where over 200 Okuoma community youths were reportedly killed by the Nigerian army in the community Town Hall premises, must not be allowed to repeat itself. The following day’s raiding and complete razing down of the entire Okuoma community, by Nigerian army because of the tragic killing of 17 soldiers, can’t justify the mass murder of women, children, aged men; and even the alleged rape. Ironically, the actual perpetrators of the dastardly acts have since fled the community, leaving those who are either too old, too weak, too sick, too young, or too innocent to flee. Till now, the hapless people are still crying, gnashing their teeth; while blood continues to flow endlessly around the Forcados River axis.

The last we heard of the Nigerian army is that, they’ll be erecting a military base on the desolate Okuoma community as a sign of dominance and absolute conquest. That in itself is also a sign of Nigerian army’s weakness and ineffectiveness. Physical military bases in modern days security architecture engineering is analog and archaic, and it is a shame to the Nigerian military industrial complex. Crime tracking is beyond signposting fierce-looking soldiers, holding long rifles at checkpoints on the roads, forcefully extorting and extracting bribes from innocent commuters, as we’re witnessing on a daily basis in Nigeria towns and cities. These acts of barbarous, cruel, savage and ferocious militarism is not part of democratic credentials.

A serious minded Nigerian army should by now be leveraging on the usage of geotagging as an effective tool in combating security challenges, which can be used by assigning a geotag to a digital photograph or video; a posting on social media, phone calls, etc; by geotagging the location of the individuals and pinpointed them instantaneously. It also helps in location-based monitoring and tracking; identifying high-risk areas and hotspots, enhancing situational awareness and response, facilitating targeted interventions and resource allocation and improving incident reporting and analysis.

No doubt, the illegal military presence in the Niger Delta crude oil-bearing region has become the major source of agitation by oil producing communities of Nigeria for resource control or put in other words, fiscal federalism. The nation’s over dependence on oil as the only major source of revenue for the function of government has been the major cause of instability in the region, lack of meaningful progress and dysfunctional government we have in the country.

Now this: since the Nigerian army insists on sitting and living in the past, the world is also waiting anxiously for similar gestures: of building military bases in Sambisa Forest – the den of Boko Haram militia and other assortments of terrorist groups – and other parts of North East, that have become bedlam of terrorism.

Ikhide can be reached via:

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