The expanding theatres of militancy in the country are fast becoming a threat to the unity and continuing peaceful existence of Nigeria. Reports emanating from different parts of the country in recent weeks indicate the need for prompt action to stem a slide into anarchy.
Beyond the snake of the insurgency in the North-East, which the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has only scorched, and not killed, the trickles of militancy undermining the national economy with the blowing up oil pipelines in the Niger Delta states are fast becoming a deluge.
From the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which is fast taking on the toga of a reverend gentleman when compared with the ongoing bombing campaigns of the more virulent group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the militancy in that part of the country is growing in geometrical proportions. Nigeria now has to contend with more and more new militant groups such as the Niger Delta Red Squad, which appears to be operating from the Ohaji Egbema axis of Imo State and is threatening to blow up the Imo State Government House and the State secretariat; ground oil companies and destroy all government assets in the state. The group has already claimed responsibility for the blowing up of two Shell oil pipelines in the state.
Even beyond the Niger Delta, some communities around Ikorodu, Lagos State, identified as Igbolomu, Elepete and Ishawo, were invaded by unidentified militants who killed no fewer than 30 persons at the weekend. The invaders are suspected to be pipeline vandals who are moving westwards and were protesting the killing of two of their members by security agents. Some reports said the communities were attacked because some local residents were suspected to have disclosed the location of the militants to the police.
Parts of the Imushin and Elepete communities had been attacked a week earlier with about 15 reportedly killed. Yet another attack on some communities sandwiched between Lagos and Ogun States about three days after the first attack had reportedly claimed 13 lives. About 100 militants were reported to have launched the attacks. Sometime ago, nine security agents were reported to have been killed in the Arepo area by militants who broke pipelines.
About nine officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) were also reported to have been killed by pipeline vandals in a border area between Lagos and Ogun States identified as Konu some months ago. Some engineering staff of the NNPC had also been killed in similar attacks in the past.
The attacks on the Lagos/Ogun State communities and the attempts by the military to fish out the militants responsible for the bombing campaigns in the Niger Delta have visited untold hardship on the residents of all the affected communities and dislocated many of them from their homes, especially the Gbaramatu Kingdom, where the arrowheads of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are believed to hail from.
It is quite unfortunate that rather than abating, restiveness is escalating in the Niger Delta areas and also expanding to other areas that were not part of the initial theatres of conflicts in the area.
This increasing restiveness in oil producing communities and bombings of oil facilities do not augur well for the stability and progress of the country. With the crash of oil prices at the international crude oil market and its attendant implications for accruals into the Federation Account and the amount of money available for distribution to the three tiers of government, these are times that call for sober reflections and a strong resolve by all Nigerians to get the country out of the woods.
Let it not be that in the quests for self-determination and for each geo-political zone to get the best that they can out of the present political arrangement without any thought at all for the country, the agitators find out that there is really no country at all to actually fight against, and no gains to be made from such an enterprise.
The vagaries of these times and the gargantuan problems confronting Nigeria cannot be addressed by these incessant killings and bombing campaigns. They can only go a long way in worsening the problems, which will not be in the best interest of anyone in the country. This, instead, is the time for the traditional authorities and leaders of thought in each of the troubled communities to cooperate with the Federal and State governments in their efforts to restore peace and normalcy in all parts of the country. Anything other than this can only lead to crisis and bloodshed, the outcome of which no one can predict.
The spread of militancy in the country calls for a more pragmatic approach to this problem. Nigeria cannot to afford the ongoing multiplication of trouble spots in the country. It has become obvious that a military approach only cannot totally end the insurgency and militancy in the country. It will be wiser to dialogue with the arrowheads of the conflicts using the formal, informal and traditional institutions in the affected areas, to improve the chances of a peaceful resolution of the crises.
This option has become even more imperative now as the current handling of the problem appears to be fuelling an upsurge in the number of militant groups, each possibly trying to capture some of the carrots that may come their way if the government eventually adopts the controversial “carrot and stick” approach.
The government has a responsibility to make the people understand the dangers that militants pose to the country. It should do everything within its power to end the debilitating insurgency and militancy in the country.